Literature Study GuidesOthelloAct 5 Scene 1 Summary

Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Othello | Act 5, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Meanwhile, in a Cyprus street Iago gives Roderigo a weapon and tells him to wait for Cassio, then kill him. Iago retreats to wait under cover of darkness as Roderigo attempts, and fails, to kill Cassio. Instead, Roderigo is wounded by Cassio. Hidden by the dark, Iago darts into the midst of this action, wounds Cassio, and exits. Othello hears Cassio's cry and believes Iago has done what he said he would do; Othello runs off to complete his part of the plan. Then Graziano and Lodovico enter, looking for the source of all the commotion. Iago also enters, and pretends he is just coming by for the first time. He acts concerned about Cassio, and then murders Roderigo, as if in retaliation for the attack on Cassio. Bianca arrives and is worried about Cassio's wound. Iago tries to blame Bianca for the attack on Cassio. Then Lodovico, Graziano, and some others help take Cassio away to have his wound treated.

Analysis

This scene takes place in the dark, which is important because Iago wounds Cassio in the dark, but then can pretend to respond to Cassio's cries for help as if he has just arrived. Then, he can kill Roderigo out of justice for Cassio's injury (which Iago actually has caused). In the confusion, Iago can direct this fight, cleaning up the loose end of Roderigo, who has suddenly become an unnecessary complication in Iago's life.

It is interesting that until this fight, Iago's plans have gone off perfectly. He's controlled every detail. However, Roderigo's incompetence at killing Cassio, even with a weapon and coaching from Iago, forces Iago to think quickly of another way to achieve his ends and still keep his true nature concealed. After all, he has a reputation as an honest man, and he doesn't want to lose that. So, Iago quickly wounds Cassio and then kills Roderigo so he can't give away Iago's role in the trouble. While Iago comes out looking like an upstanding gentleman, this small breakdown of his plan foreshadows Emilia's revelation of his involvement and his eventual unmasking.

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