Review: Othello Act 4

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Enc. 1102.217
Literary Review Shakespeare


Act IV Scene 1: Summary

Enter Iago and Othello with Iago almost forcing the Moor to imagine his wife and Cassio together intimately. Iago then begins to ask about the loss of the handkerchief, as if to add fuel to the fire, saying that if Desdemona could in fact give away the handkerchief so freely what else could she give away just as easily. Othello had completely forgotten all about the matter with the handkerchief until Iago had so graciously reminded him. Then to make matters worse, Iago flat out lies to Othello claiming that Cassio and Desdemona have in fact slept together. That he heard this from Cassio himself. After listening to this Othello immediately gets so infuriated that he falls into a trance, but it’s explained that it’s more like a seizure. While Iago takes this as a chance to gloat about his wickedness, Cassio enters and wonders what the matter with Othello is. Iago explains that Othello is only having a fit. In fact, “this is his second fit; he had one yesterday” (Shakespeare 1314). Cassio, after listening to more lies from Iago, suggests that perhaps they should tend to Othello, but Iago thinks it best to just let Othello have this fit of sorts wear off on its own. Pretty much have Othello suffer. He tells Cassio to hang around for a bit because he needs to speak with him as soon as Othello is well and leaves.

Othello slowly pulls himself back to a state of consciousness and Iago asks him if his head still hurts. Othello still very much affected about the thought of his wife and her unknown faithful standings, interprets this to mean Iago is suggesting any man’s head would hurt if they were just deceived by their wife. Iago then comforts Othello explaining to him things like this happen all the time and that he will in fact get through it. Othello then declares Iago to be very wise. Iago not straying away from his goal to ruin Othello’s life, tells him to hide back a ways so that he can over hear a conversation between him and Cassio. A conversation in which Iago plans to incriminate Cassio by the way in which it will seem he talks about Desdemona so lightly. Othello agrees and is almost pleased with this idea. After Othello backs away, Iago divulges this particular plan to us, the audience, explaining that he’ll talk in veiled terms to Cassio about a prostitute, Bianca, whom Cassio takes very lightly. Iago believes when Othello listens to this conversation, he is bound to think Cassio is making light of his wife, Desdemona. Iago will underhandedly have given proof to Othello, yet again. When Cassio comes back, Iago brings up Bianca. Cassio, of course, laughs about how much the woman loves him, how desperate she is, and how easily beguiled she has been by his false intentions of marriage. This conversation is overheard by Othello, who apparently missed the key word "Bianca." Othello indeed thinks they are talking about his wife, Desdemona. As if by some wicked convenience, Bianca comes in and throws Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's face. Bianca is furious that Cassio has given her something that obviously came from another woman, a woman who is indeed after him as much as she. Bianca walks out in a huff and Cassio follows her.

Othello is completely convinced by this little scene, and furious that Desdemona would give Cassio their special handkerchief, especially since his mother's dying bequest ended up in the hands of a common prostitute. He rages for a bit, and finally gets to talk of action. Othello first threatens to chop Desdemona up into little bits. Then, he asks Iago to get him some poison, so that he might kill her that very night. He won't chat with her about her offenses, as he's sure she'd be able to talk him out of her murder. Othello thinks this murder plan is most just. Iago reveals he still intends to take out Cassio. He assures Othello he'll report back before midnight....
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