Explain how Othello and the others learn the truth about Iago. And why does Othello look down at Iago's feet in act 5?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Othello and the others learn the truth about Iago from Emilia when she tells them that Desdemona never gave her handkerchief to Cassio. Emilia reveals that, in fact, she herself found Desdemona's handkerchief and gave it to Iago, not knowing what he was going to do with it. She says,
...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Othello and the others learn the truth about Iago from Emilia when she tells them that Desdemona never gave her handkerchief to Cassio. Emilia reveals that, in fact, she herself found Desdemona's handkerchief and gave it to Iago, not knowing what he was going to do with it. She says,
No, alas, I found it
And I did give ’t my husband.
At this point, it is obvious that Iago planted the handkerchief to make it look like Cassio and Desdemona were having an affair. Although Iago calls his wife a liar and stabs her, it is too late. As Emilia is dying, she confirms to Othello that Desdemona was faithful to him:
Moor, she was chaste, she loved thee, cruel Moor.
So come my soul to bliss, as I speak true.

Othello is so horrified at what Iago has done that, remembering a fable that a devil has cloven feet, he looks down at Iago's feet to see if Iago is, indeed, a demon. Of course, as Othello says, he knows Iago is not really a devil, because he knows he can kill him. Othello states, right before he stabs Iago,
I look down towards his feet, but that’s a fable.
If that thou be’st a devil, I cannot kill thee.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Othello and the others learn the truth when Emilia tells them about the handkerchief:

"Oh, thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak'st of
I found by fortune and did give my husband;
For often, with a solemn earnestness,
More than indeed belonged to such a trifle,
He [Iago] begged of me to steal't." (V, ii) 

According to David Bevington's The Necessary Shakespeare (2nd ed.), Othello looks at Iago's feet to see if he had cloven feet like the devil. Now, that doesn't mean he really thought Iago might have cloven hooves - it's Shakespeare being metaphorical and demonstrating that Othello has finally learned that he's been led astray the entire time by Iago.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team