Othello Act 5 Scene 2
William Shakespeare was an English Renaissance writer who lived between the years 1564-1616. Throughout his life he wrote 38 plays, ten of them falling under the category of tragedy. Of these plays, one that stands out as possibly being his most notable tragedy is Othello. Othello tells the story of a Moorish general in the Venetian army’s downfall in both his personal and his professional life. After coming to the conclusion that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with his newly appointed lieutenant, Othello struggles with what he should do. Although he believes that killing her is the right thing to do, it leads to a situation resulting in his ultimate demise.
The play starts with us learning that Othello has appointed Michael Cassio to be his new lieutenant in the Venetian army, leaving Iago angry with the decision. Feeling as though he deserved the promotion, he begins plotting a revenge plan with his partner Roderigo who is in love with Desdemona. The plan is to convince Othello that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio, hopefully driving him to kill the two alleged lovers. However, Othello is ordered to fight a battle in Cyprus, bringing Desdemona with him. Iago decides to go to Cyprus with Roderigo as well in hopes to put his plan into action.
Iago’s plan to convince Othello is fairly simple, yet deceptively genius at the same time. He begins by subtly planting the idea in Othello’s head, and letting his imagination run wild. Iago realizes, however, that he will need to present physical evidence to Othello in order to for him to kill Desdemona. He manages to plant her handkerchief that Othello gave her as a symbol of their love in Cassio’s bed. The evidence of the handkerchief causes Othello to make his final decision: Desdemona must be killed. Iago also decides to put the other end of his plan into motion and convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio.
The scene that follows is where my scene comes into play. Othello enters the room that Desdemona is sleeping in with only a candle and his own thoughts. While watching her sleep, he begins reassuring himself aloud that he is doing the right thing by killing her. While admiring her beauty, in particular the smoothness and glow of her skin, he snaps back to reality, saying, “Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men,” (Shakespeare 5.2, line 6). Here he is reassuring himself that if he didn’t kill her now that she will only go on to deceive more men. However, there is a hint of uncertain feelings towards his wife, possibly still a hint of love.
The next few lines also point towards uncertainty in Othello’s decision to kill Desdemona. For example, he says, “But once put out thy light, thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature, I know not where is that Promethean heat that can thy light relume,” (Shakespeare 5.2. lines 10-14). At this point in the passage he appears to be second-guessing whether or not this is a good idea. He’s worried that if he kills his wife he is going to regret it afterwards, but by then it would be too late to do anything. When he mentions “that Promethean heat,” he means that he is not familiar with any supernatural enchantment to bring her back from the grave, and realizes the finality of his decision.
As Othello continues his rant to himself, he compares killing Desdemona to plucking a rose from the ground. Similar to the Promethean heat, there is no reversing this act, and the rose will without a doubt wither and die. I think that comparing his wife to a rose says something about his feelings for her. He could have referred to any other flower in the world, but instead he chooses a rose, a universal symbol of love. On the other hand, he may have made this reference in a negative manner. For example, as beautiful as a rose is, its stem is covered in thorns making it dangerous to hold. Similarly, as beautiful as Desdemona is, Othello believes she to be untrustworthy and therefore dangerous to love. In his eyes, loving and holding on to her will only bring him pain in the end, and so it may be the right decision after all to “pluck thy rose.”
As my passage comes to a conclusion, Othello begins softly kissing her as she sleeps, making his decision even harder. “Oh, balmy breath, that dost almost persuade justice to break her sword,” meaning that the touch of her kiss almost made him dismiss the idea of killing her once and for all (Shakespeare 5.2. line 17-18). In my opinion, at this point he is only looking for reasons not to kill her even though he knows that he must. He mentions “justice” breaking her sword which is evidence that he is aware that justice must be served, but that “she” too may have been convinced otherwise.
Although Othello may have been questioning what he should do about Desdemona, his eventual decision was unfortunately the wrong one. As much as he believed he was doing the right thing by killing her, he had his reservations that he soon discovered to be correct. After learning that Desdemona had never betrayed him with Cassio, stricken with grief Othello kills himself to be with her in the after life.
In Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 147,” the speaker talks about love as though it is a disease that he has contracted. In the beginning of the sonnet, the speaker is talking about how he knows what he is doing is wrong, but by the end of it he has accepted that he is “past cure.” I think that Othello exemplifies the ideas in this sonnet because similar to the speaker, he is sick with love over his Desdemona. If I were to picture him as the speaker, I could relate almost every line to Othello’s tragic downfall.
After Othello first suspects the affair, it bothers him so much that we realize how in love with Desdemona he truly is. However, when he is fully convinced the affair exists, he vows to kill his wife.