Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Othello Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 June 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Othello/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, December 20). Othello Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 19, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Othello/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Othello Study Guide." December 20, 2016. Accessed June 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Othello/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "Othello Study Guide," December 20, 2016, accessed June 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Othello/.

Othello | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

Share
Share

Summary

In her bedroom at the castle, Desdemona sleeps. A candle burns. Othello enters, and speaks of his love for her but also what he plans to do. He will not shed her blood, he says, but he must kill her or else "she'll betray more men." He kisses her, and when she wakes up, he encourages her to confess her sins to God. He tells her is going to kill her and again brings up the matter of the handkerchief, but she pleads with him, saying, "I never did/Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio/But with such general warranty of heaven/As I might love: I never gave him token." But he refuses to believe her, and smothers her.

Emilia comes in, and discovers Desdemona nearly dead. Desdemona professes her love for Othello, and tries to take the blame for her death; after proclaiming her guilt, she dies. Then Othello tells Emilia he killed Desdemona because Desdemona and Cassio were lovers, which Emilia knows is a lie. She realizes her husband is the one who has been lying to Othello, and she cries out "murder!" Iago, Montano, and Graziano come running, and when they arrive, Emilia begins to accuse her husband. As Emilia speaks, Othello finally realizes the truth, and tries to attack Iago. In the confusion, Iago stabs Emilia and deals her a fatal wound. He tries to get away but is caught. Othello again attacks him, wounding him.

Iago, when pressed, refuses to explain why he did the evil things he did. Othello admits his fault, and asks them all to think of him as "one that loved not wisely, but too well." Then he stabs himself, falls upon the bed, and dies kissing Desdemona: "I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this,/Killing myself, to die upon a kiss."

Lodovico chastises Iago, and he puts Graziano in charge of Othello's possessions. He tells Montano to make sure Iago is tortured, and says he will bring the sad news to Venice.

Analysis

This scene begins with Desdemona asleep, having said her prayers (as she says later in the scene) and lit a candle near her bed—perhaps in anticipation of Othello's arrival. She has, after all, prepared the bed for a "wedding night," having had the wedding sheets put on as she anticipates being able to have an uninterrupted night with Othello. In one reading of the timeline of the play, Othello and Desdemona have not yet consummated their marriage. Only about two days have gone by since their wedding, and on both nights, Othello has been summoned by duty. If they have not consummated their marriage, Desdemona's words "Kill me tomorrow: let me live tonight!" take on a greater meaning.

As Othello enters, he uses the lit candle as a metaphor in which he compares blowing out a candle to snuffing out Desdemona's life: "Put out the light, and then put out the light," he says, describing first the physical act of blowing out the candle and then the symbolic act of snuffing out the "light" of Desdemona: her life. But, with a patience and eloquence at odds with the frantic state he was in just a short time previous, he takes his time to develop this thought: he can relight a candle, but he cannot give back a life. He even goes on to use a flower metaphor to express the same idea: "When I have plucked the rose,/I cannot give it vital growth again." Yet despite what seem like reservations, in the end he decides to go through with the murder.

A few interesting inconsistencies in the play are highlighted in this scene. One is Othello's explanation of where the fateful handkerchief came from. Previously, Othello claimed that it came to his mother from a "charmer" (Act 3, Scene 4). In this scene he states, "It was a handkerchief, an antique token/My father gave my mother." Another is the contradictory timeline of the play. While the play's events seem to take place over a few days, Othello claims here that "she with Cassio hath the act of shame/A thousand times committed."

To close the play, Lodovico dispenses with the practical considerations (dealing with Othello's possessions and bringing word to the Duke), and he brings the audience's attention to the bodies on the bed. "Look on the tragic loading of this bed," he says, addressing Iago but forcing the audience to direct attention there as well. There are three dead bodies on the bed: Desdemona's, because she was smothered there; Emilia's, because she begged "lay me by my mistress' side" as she died; and Othello's, because he died kissing Desdemona. This final image shows that Iago's net has tightened all the way, trapping his victims inside.

The main themes of the play resurface in its final scene. Desdemona's love for Othello motivates her to try to shield him from blame for her death. Iago's reputation for honesty, his honor, proves to be an issue through the end of the play. From the moment Othello reveals that Iago is the one who told him Cassio and Desdemona were having an affair, it begins to dawn on Emilia that her husband is at the bottom of the whole scheme. Othello calls him "honest, honest Iago," while Emilia replies "He lies to th' heart!" and Lodovico calls him both "hellish villain" and "viper." Iago's betrayal of his honesty, and his devilishness, resurface in the final scene of the play.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Othello? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!

Ask a homework question - tutors are online