How is Othello a character to be sympathized with? Which scenes show this?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Othello seems especially like a character to be sympathized with in the scene in which he murders Desdemona and in which he kills himself. The soliloquy he speaks before Desdemona wakes up contains some of Shakespeare's most beautiful lines.

Put out the light, and then put out the light.
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me; but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck'd the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again...      Act 5, Scene 2

We can imagine Othello looking at a torch or candle when he says, "Put out the light." This is it. This is what the whole play has been leading up to. A man is going to murder the woman he loves. Then when he says, "...and then put out the light," we can imagine him turning to look at Desdemona. This sets up the poetic analogy on which Shakespeare will elaborate. Desdemona life is like a light, but he cannot relight it once he has snuffed it out. Twice Othello looks at the light and then twice looks at Desdemona. We can appreciate his inner conflict. There is drama and poetry just in his body language. He looks at the light preparatory to putting it out in order to commit his wife's murder. Then he pauses and looks at his wife asleep. Then he looks back at the light and says that he can restore it if he should want to. And then he looks back and Desdemona and reflects that once he has put out her light there is nothing he can do to bring her back to life. 

Then we see Othello completely crushed when he realizes that he has been duped by Iago into murdering his adored wife. Before Emilia tells him the truth, he uses this beautiful imagery:

Nay, had she been true,
If heaven would make me such another world
Of one entire and perfect chrysolite,
I'ld not have sold her for it

His speech just preparatory to his stabbing himself with his dagger is touching.

I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;

It is particularly in Act V, Scene 2 that we sympathize Othello. He has committed an irrevocable act, and it is entirely appropriate that he should kill himself since he has nothing left to live for. He is a noble man in an ignoble world. He cannot even hope to be reunited with Desdemona in an afterlife.

Where should Othello go?
Now, how dost thou look now? O ill-starr'd wench!
Pale as thy smock! When we shall meet at compt,
This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven,
And fiends will snatch at it.