Give your opinion on Othello's action and character in lines 23–85 from act 5, scene 2 of Othello. Include his view of justice, his mood, and so on.

In act 5, scene 2 of Othello, Othello tries to convince himself that he is being impartial and just, even merciful, to Desdemona, reluctantly killing her because she deserves to die. However, her distress when she believes Cassio to be dead enrages Othello by introducing the personal note of jealousy into the scene.

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At this point in the play, Othello has persuaded himself that he is an instrument of divine justice and that he is even showing mercy to Desdemona. He begins by asking if she has prayed. When she does not understand the significance of the question, he adds:

I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No; heaven forfend! I would not kill thy soul.

Othello's state of mind here is complex. He is acting out of personal jealousy, yet he continually attempts to assume the manner (and presumably also the mindset) of an impartial judge who is punishing Desdemona for her sins, but doing so reluctantly, with a heavy heart, for the general good rather than out of personal resentment. He is generously giving her every opportunity to save her soul before she is executed. He uses the language of both religion and law ("Take heed of perjury; thou art on thy deathbed") to bolster this view of himself. Throughout the scene, he gives the impression that he is talking to himself more than to his wife and, since her infidelities are all in his mind, this is arguably the case.

Desdemona's distress when he tells her that Cassio is dead enrages Othello, since it seems to confirm his suspicions and also introduces a personal note into the scene. This upsets his notion that he is dispensing justice in an impartial manner rather than settling a personal score.

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