What does Othello's final speech reveal about his character flaws and nature in Othello?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Othello is a play full of clever rhetoric, and Act V is no different.  In fact, Act V mirrors Act I in terms of Othello's verbal fireworks.  His monologues in both acts may sound self-effacing, but they are subtle attempts to dupe his male audiences to justify his reckless actions.

First, a review.  In Act I, Othello uses his words to win Desdemona's hand in marriage.  She fell in love with Othello's stories of when he was a slave in Africa.  Later, after he had eloped with Desdemona, Othello uses his words to win a victory over her father, Brabantio, in the Duke's senate courtroom.  There, he uses clever pathos to convince the Duke of his "pure intentions."

In Acts II-IV, Othello loses his voice once he falls for Iago's lies.  He becomes a misogynistic monster who berates his innocent wife.  His jealousy renders him a jealous mute who can mutter little more than "O!  O!  O!"  But in Act V, before he is about to kill himself, Othello's oratory returns:

I beg you, in your letters,
When you shall tell about these unlucky deeds,
Speak of me as I am; nothing farfetched,
And don’t write anything in malice. Then you must speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but, being aggravated,
Confused in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the low Judas, threw a pearl away
That was richer than all his tribe; of one whose sad eyes,
Albeit unused to a crying spell,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees drop
Their medicinal gum. Write this down;
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk
Beat a Venetian and double-crossed the state,
I took the circumcised dog by the throat
And killed him like this.

His own stylized eulogy is focused on one topic: himself.  Nowhere do we here any contrition or apology to women.  Once again, Othello is worried more about his legacy as a male than he is about his acts of murder.  In audience and purpose, Othello is making clear that he wants to be remembered in the minds of men for deeds done for the state.

Othello utters a bold-faced lie when he says, "Then you must speak Of one that loved not wisely, but too well; Of one not easily jealous..."  In reality, Othello did not love well, and he was insanely jealous of his wife.  Iago's lies were but what Othello suspected all along.  Othello worried more about his reputation than he did about his wife's fidelity.  He was paranoid all along of becoming a cuckold, a man whose wife lays her eggs in another's nest.  When these jealousies were confirmed, Othello becomes a epileptic monster, easy to manipulate.  Her death was nothing more than an honor killing.

So, Othello's clever final monologue is but male posturing to a bunch of military men.  His speech does not offer any real apology toward his victims or offer solutions to avoid honor killings in the future.  As such, his words and suicide are but weak attempts to validate his violence and misogyny.