Literature Study GuidesOthelloAct 4 Scene 2 Summary

Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Othello | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Othello, nearly insane with jealousy, aggressively questions Emilia about Desdemona and Cassio's relationship. Emilia vehemently denies any wrongdoing, but Othello doesn't believe her. He speaks cruelly to Desdemona, and he accuses her of being a "strumpet," although he also says he loves her. She is confused and sad, so she asks Emilia to fetch Iago. Iago plays the friend, and tries to cheer her up.

After Desdemona and Emilia leave, Roderigo arrives and angrily confronts Iago. He complains once again that he has given Iago wealth, and yet Iago has failed to get Desdemona for him. Iago, as he has done before, calms him down and presents a solution to the problem. He tells him that Othello and Desdemona will leave Cyprus shortly, and Cassio will be in charge. He suggests Roderigo kill Cassio.

Analysis

Othello's questioning of both Emilia and Desdemona would seem to suggest he's open to an alternate explanation, but this does not prove to be the case. In fact, although both argue quite eloquently for Desdemona's innocence, Othello obviously is unwilling to give up his belief—based all on lies and insinuations—that Desdemona is unfaithful. This may be because he loves her passionately and cannot bear the thought of her with another man, or it may be because he feels his reputation depends on her fidelity to him. It also may be that, without her undivided admiration, his own identity and sanity are crumbling. It has been clear from the beginning that her regard, respect, and devotion are a great part of what he finds lovable about her.

Desdemona continues to trust Iago, to her own destruction. At the end of his interaction with her in this scene, he says, "Go in and weep not. All things shall be well." In reality, he knows things will not be well. It is also notable that he sends her into her bedroom, where she will be murdered just a short time later.

Emilia angrily denounces whoever is behind the lies that have led Othello to his jealous rage; she doesn't know it, but she is railing against—in the most furious terms—her own husband: "I will be hanged if some eternal villain,/Some busy and insinuating rogue,/Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office,/Have not devised this slander" and "The Moor's abused by some most villainous knave,/Some base notorious knave, some scurvy fellow." This is the height of dramatic irony, because the audience knows she is talking about Iago, her husband, and she has actually assisted him with his evil plan without realizing it. Her words here also foreshadow the fact that she will be the one who brings Iago's plan down in the end, as she finally realizes later he is the very "scurvy fellow" she knew had to be at the bottom of it.

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