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Review: Othello Act 4

By immasam Jul 11, 2011 3507 Words
Enc. 1102.217
Literary Review Shakespeare

“Othello”

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. The conversation is interrupted by Lodovico, kinsman of Brabantio, Desdemona's father. Lodovico brings news from the Duke in Venice: Othello has been called back to the city, and Cassio is to replace him as command in Cyprus. While Othello reads the letter from the Duke, Lodovico talks with Desdemona, who showed up in the meantime, and asks her how Cassio is doing. Desdemona explains how Cassio and Othello had a falling out, and declares she hopes they can work it out. “A most unhappy one. I would do much t’atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio” (Shakespeare 1319). Othello, overhearing Desdemona's loving comments toward Cassio, gets enraged and hits Desdemona.

Desdemona can't figure out why her husband would strike her and in public when she's done nothing to deserve it. Lodovico insists Othello make amends with the poor girl, because he made her cry. Othello insists she can cry crocodile tears and he won't care, as she changes faces so easily. Othello then declares he'll head back to Venice, and Cassio shall have his post, unknown to everyone that he will soon be dead. Desdemona leaves, hurt and confused and Othello stalks out behind her. Lodovico is shocked that Othello would injure his wife and behave so boorishly in public. He wonders whether Othello has been put into a passion by the Duke's letters, but Iago suggests this poor form is Othello all the time now. Iago demurs on giving details about Othello's failings, saying, with seeming humility, that it's not up to him to reveal the evils he's seen. This leaves Lodovico free to imagine worse evils.

Act IV scene I: Opinion

There is much discontent on Othello’s side in this scene. He is constantly being burdened by Iago and his schemes to make him miserable so much in fact, that he actually has a fit and has a seizure. Iago is on top of his game in this scene actually talking to Cassio, pretty much right in front of Othello, and having Othello believe he is talking ill of his wife, Desdemona. Everything right down to the whore, Bianca coming over with Othello’s handkerchief in hand, to incriminate Cassio unknowingly was enough to send Othello into another fit! The idea of Othello talking about how he is going to kill his wife so calmly is most disturbing. At this point in the game, Iago need not instigate the issue any further, but he does. When Desdemona’s cousin, Lodovico comes in town to deliver a message for Othello, he asks Desdemona how everyone is doing and she tells him all the truth she knows. She explains the falling out between Cassio and her husband, and talks about her love for Cassio and when Othello hears this and hits her, Iago seizes another chance to obscure someone’s view on the situation. He idly explains to Lodovico that this has been the norm lately for Othello, and leaves him to ponder about how bad things really are. The death sentences have already been sent out for Desdemona and Cassio, but now Othello is returning to Venice, so I have no idea what Iago has in store for everyone while he is away. Act IV scene 1: Vocabulary

1. Dotage – Excessive fondness; foolish
2. Belie – To show to be false; contradict
3. Fulsome – Disgusting; sickening; repulsive
4. Instruction – A direction; order
5. Forbear – To refrain or abstain from; desist from
6. Anon – In short time; soon
7. Fleers – To grin or laugh coarsely or mockingly
8. Gibes – To utter mocking or scoffing words; jeer
9. Spleen – Ill humor, peevish temper, or spite
10. Unbookish – Not acquainted with books more than real life 11. Caitiff – A base despicable person
12. Bauble – A jester’s scepter
13. Fitchew – The European polecat
14. Censure – Strong or vehement expression of disapproval

Act 4 scene 2: Summary

When entering this scene, Othello is questioning Emilia about the subject of his wife’s affection towards Cassio. Emilia goes as far as saying, “Lay down my soul at stake. If you think other, remove your thought; it doth abuse your bossom” (Shakespeare 1321). By this Emilia puts her own life on the line to stand by her word that these accusations of his wife, Desdemona cheating on him on absurd. She explains to Othello that he need not be worried, that there is only innocence between the two. Othello instructs Emilia to go and fetch Desdemona, for more questioning, dismissing her claims as just simple woman nonsense. Worriedly, Desdemona enters to find Othello falling into tears at her. He accuses her of being disloyal, but Desdemona denies this and tries to argue otherwise. She suggests his fury is is simply due to the letter he received earlier that day calling him back to Venice. Desdemona figures this is upsetting him because perhaps he thinks the summons to leave Cyprus, and her, was partly to do with her angry father back in Venice. Even with this said, and even with Desdemona finishing her statement by putting emphasis on her innocence in that situation, Othello still mourns this unknown loss to Desdemona. He explains he can bear many sufferings, but none can compare to this abuse on his heart. Desdemona begs him to tell her what she has done wrong, and Othello calls her a whore. Desdemona swears on her soul that she has never touched anybody but him, but he doesn't believe her. Emilia walks in on this little arguement, so Othello takes to abusing her, too. He praises her for being the gatekeeper to Hell, and tells her that she'd do best to keep the events of this night to herself. Othello then exits making quite an unsettling expression of himself. Emilia questions Desdemona worriedly about Othello's behavior, wondering what's happened to her husband’s mind. She then declares that she has no lord, nor does she have tears to cry, and no answer is appropriate about what is going on with Othello except an answer that could be told in tears. Desdemona bids Emilia to lay her wedding sheets on the quarreling lovers' bed tonight, and asks to have Iago come and talk to her. Alone, she resents bearing all this abuse, mostly because she's done nothing wrong. Emilia returns with Iago, and Desdemona says she can't even begin to convey what Othello called her. Emilia does this for her. She then lists off that Othello called Desdemona a whore and all sorts of other cruel names. She also reminds Desdemona that she turned down all sorts of nice, rich Venetian boys, even her father, and her friends, and her country… all to marry Othello. She also suggests that it could only be some really vile person, seeking his own self-interest that plied Othello with lies about Desdemona's faithfulness in order to make him jealous. She talks on this matter for a while, and Iago tells her to speak quietly, but Emilia notes that it was a very similar scheme, lies from a lying liar, that made Iago believe Othello had been with her too. Iago tells Emilia to shut up already. Desdemona begs Iago to tell her what to do, or go talk to Othello on her behalf, to cure him of his wrong-mindedness. She can't believe this is happening to her – as she truly loves Othello. She can't even imagine going behind his back to be with somebody else. Iago tells Desdemona not to worry; Othello is probably just upset about state business. He points out that the messengers from Venice are waiting to eat with the women, which is clearly more important than Othello's inexplicable and murderous rage. Iago promises everything is going to be alright and Desdemona and Emilia leave Iago alone. Roderigo comes in to yell at Iago for not yet setting him up with Desdemona but still spending all of his money. Roderigo's finally starting to wise up to the fact that Iago is just using him for his cash, and in fact never really cared about him. Roderigo, who seems rather broke at the moment, wants to know what happened to all the expensive jewelry he gave Iago to give to Desdemona. Iago kept promising that Desdemona was getting the gifts and wanted to give something up in return, but he has yet to see any special favors of Othello's wife. Roderigo then throws down the gauntlet; he declares that he'll go and see Desdemona himself. If she returns his jewels, he'll repent ever having tried to court a married woman. But if she has no jewels to return, then Roderigo will take it out on Iago. Iago, hearing Roderigo threaten him, declares him a much smarter man than he'd ever taken him for. Iago insists he's actually been working on the situation and that Roderigo will be all up in Desdemona's jewels come tomorrow night. All Roderigo has to do is listen to Iago's plan. Iago informs Roderigo that Othello's been called back to Venice, and Cassio is to replace him in Cyprus. Iago also starts in with random lies, claiming Othello is headed to Mauritania with Desdemona. If Roderigo were to get rid of Cassio, then Othello couldn't leave Cyprus this will in turn give him access to Desdemona. Iago quite expertly calms Roderigo down and convinces him that he needs to kill Cassio that very night, probably while Cassio is having dinner with his harlot, Bianca who, it seems, forgave him for the whole handkerchief thing. Iago promises he'll be right behind him to help with the murdering. Iago declares all of this should go down sometime between midnight and one in the morning. Iago is clear: murdering Cassio is the only way to get to Desdemona. Roderigo points out that this plan really doesn't make any sense. Somehow Roderigo is appeased when Iago promises he'll explain it all later.

Act IV scene II: Summary

To start the scene off with at least one person trying to stick up for the innocent Desdemona is refreshing. Every scene thus far has been all about butchering her character, her loyalty, and just making her life miserable. The scene where Othello smacks her is completely unbelievable. He has simply gone off the deep end. This whole time they were trying their best to stay with one another, and if only she had just stayed behind, there would be no way this all could’ve happened. The irony is just jumping all over this play. I cannot believe how gullible poor Roderigo still is!! He even caught iago in another lie and just let him explain his plan like a simpleton. To be in the wars back in the days of Shakespeare didn’t require common sense I suppose. It’s also a bit unsettling that Desdemona’s word at this point means absolutely nothing to Othello. The woman he was infatuated with, the woman he was willing to be imprisoned over, now is just going to be another crime of passion. I cannot believe he doesn’t see all she has sacrificed for him. Then again I guess we can see the same thing today on shows like Maury and Jerry Springer, so nothing really changes in these matters.

Act IV scene II: Vocabulary

1. Procreants – Pertaining to procreation
2. Cherubin – A cherub
3. Shambles – To walk or go awkwardly; shuffle
4. Callet – To rail or scold
5. Cozening – to cheat, deceive, or trick
6. Halter – A rope with a noose for hanging criminals; gallows 7. Daffest – A prostitute
8. Votarist – A person who is bound by solemn religious vow, as a monk or nun

Act IV scene III: Summary

The scene starts off with Othello talking to Lodovico, Emilia, and Desdemona. Othello suggests they take a walk and for Desdemona to go straight to bed dismissing all her attendants. This includes Emilia. He promises her that he will be back soon. The two, Desdemona and Emilia, chat for a while as to why Othello is being such a nuisance on their marriage. Emilia notes that Othello looked to be in better spirits, but she's shocked that he told Desdemona to get rid of her. Desdemona just shrugs it off, not wanting to risk upsetting Othello any further. Emilia says she wishes Desdemona had never seen the man. But Desdemona responds that she loves Othello, so much that she would rather be with him, even when he's being totally strange, than live without him. “My love doth so approve him that even his stubbornness, his cheeks, his frowns - prithee, upin me - have grace and favor in them” (Shakespeare 1329). Desdemona is in a strange mood that foreshadows her coming death. She tells Emilia that if she should die before her maid, she wishes to be buried wrapped in her wedding sheets. She then sings a song she learned from a maid of her mother's, who had been forsaken by her lover. She admits it was an old song, but it did well to bear out the maid's fate, as she died singing it. Emilia tries to change the subject by noting how handsome Lodovico is, but Desdemona is stuck on this weird, mourning mood. She begins to sing the song about the willow, which is bad news, as willows are symbolic of disappointed love. So this song is essentially about a woman who excuses her awful lover because she loves him so much. The woman in the song doesn't blame him at all, but when she calls him a disloyal lover, he declares that the more women he gets with, the more likely she is to seek out other men. Desdemona sadly laments exclaiming “these men, these men!” She and Emilia then converse about whether women are ever as awful to their men as men are to their women. Emilia is certain this is the case, especially when it comes to cheating. Desdemona asks whether Emilia would ever cheat on Iago, and Emilia, much older and more cynical, tells her that plenty of women cheat. She says you could justify cheating in lots of different ways. Desdemona declares she couldn't imagine ever doing such a thing, which leads Emilia to a bit of a rant. Emilia argues that women have the same need for sexual affairs. Since men change their women sportingly, women should have the same option. She continues. Some men deserve to be cheated on; it's the husband's fault, not the wife's, if a woman has an affair. After all, she'd only be following the lead of her faithless husband. Desdemona bids Emilia farewell after listening to this sad speech from a sad woman whose husband obviously hates her and is now vindictively sleeping with other women.

Act IV scene III: Opinion

The beginning of this scene isn’t the friendliest. Othello is still treating Desdemona like any other abusive husband, barking orders, and her too afraid to object. It’s pretty comical listening to Emilia try and salvage the situation with talks of her failing marriage. Who’s to say that she isn’t cheating on Iago with other men, or that he isn’t out gallivanting with other women? The only time we see him in the play is when it’s convenient to the plot. I’d like to think he spends his off time in whore houses to feel like he is being righteous to his wife’s supposed disloyalty. Anyhow, I cannot believe Emilia is still going to sit there and act like she played no part in this chaos, knowingly having a hand in its demise. For her not to be able to put “two and two” together just says nothing at all about the common sense of the women of that time. Desdemona doesn’t appear to be jumping on the man-hating bandwagon, but letting herself sit right in the middle of it all and torturing herself isn’t the best alternative either. She appears to be readying herself for the worse though talking about stories with mourning lovers dying from a broken heart. I guess it’s a good thing she’s preparing herself, because there’s only one act left!

Act IV scene III: Vocabulary

1. Incontinent – Lacking in moderation or self-control, especially of sexual desire. 2. Lawn – A thin or sheer linen or cotton fabric, either plain or printed. 3. Exhibition – To behave so foolishly in public that one excites notice or ridicule 4. Vantage – Superiority or benefit accruing from such a postion, state, etc. 5. Scant – Limited; meager; not large

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