Act 5

Act 5: Scene 1

In the streets of Cyprus, Iago orders Roderigo to jump Cassio and kill him with his rapier. Roderigo asks Iago to be near in case he fails to deliver a deadly blow. Roderigo confesses to the audience that he is not very resolved in so murderous a deed, yet when he thinks of it in Iago’s terms (“’Tis but a man gone”), he feels better.

Iago, aside, asserts that he does not care whether Roderigo kills Cassio, or Cassio kills Roderigo, or both kill one another. He realizes now that Roderigo may be able to hold him accountable for all of the jewels and money that were supposed to have gone to Desdemona; for that reason, a dead Roderigo is better than a live one. He further reasons, however, that a live Cassio is no good to him at all, and that come what may, Cassio “must die” (5.1.24).

Cassio enters and is attacked by Roderigo. Cassio defends himself and wounds Roderigo, who cries out that he is slain. Iago emerges to stab Cassio in the leg; he then flees before he can be identified. Cassio cries out that he is maimed.

Othello hears Cassio’s cry and believes that Iago has kept “his word” to kill the Florentine. Othello, in an aside, admits to being inspired by this attack on Cassio. He takes the murderous lesson to heart and applies it to his situation: “Strumpet, I come,” (5.1.39) he says with reference to Desdemona, promising to stain her bed with blood. He exits without attending to Cassio.

Lodovico and Gratiano enter. They hear Cassio’s cries but, because the passageway is so dark, think it may be a trap. They wait for more help to come.

Iago enters with a light. He is hailed by Lodovico, Gratiano and Cassio. He hears Cassio speak of an attacker, spots Roderigo, who lies nearby, and stabs him to death. As Roderigo dies, he calls Iago an “inhuman dog.”

Bianca enters. Lodovico and Gratiano identify the corpse of Roderigo. Iago attempts to pin the assassination attempt on Bianca,...

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