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Literature Study GuidesOthelloAct 4 Scene 2 Summary

Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 4, Scene 2

Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 4, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's play Othello.

Othello | Act 4, Scene 2 | 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 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, who 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 money, 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.


Othello's questioning of Emilia and Desdemona suggests he's open to an alternate explanation, but this does not prove to be the case. Othello 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 will crumble. 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 this chilling moment, the audience understands what Desdemona does not: things will not be well. Emilia angrily denounces whoever is behind the lies that have led Othello to his jealous rage; she doesn't know it, but she's railing against her own husband.

At this point we might wonder why the usually observant Emilia doesn't suspect her own husband. Is she unwilling to do this or unable? Ironically, it's Iago, in his soliloquies, who has forced us to think about the way characters practice not only deception but self-deception.

The scene ends with another angry outburst from Roderigo, who continues to be frustrated at his lack of progress in winning Desdemona from the Moor. Iago's rhetorical skill is on display as he rallies Roderigo into staying so that he may use him further. Iago talks him into killing Cassio so that Othello and Desdemona will have to stay in Cyprus.

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