Othello Act V, Scenes 1-2 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act V, Scenes 1-2 Summary and Analysis

Act V, Scene 1
New Character:

Gratiano: Venetian nobleman; brother to Brabantio

On a street in Cyprus, Iago tells Roderigo to hide and attack Cassio as he walks by. However, when Cassio enters, Roderigo’s attempt fails, and Cassio wounds him. Iago sneaks up behind Cassio and stabs him in the leg. Othello enters, hears Cassio’s cries, and concludes that Iago has kept his word and killed Cassio. Lodovico and Gratiano enter at the confusion and comment on the cries for help coming from the street. Iago appears and asks them who is crying for help. Cassio then appears, is recognized, and says that whoever stabbed him is in the area. Roderigo cries for help and Iago immediately stabs him to death.

Bianca then enters the disturbance, and Iago suggests that she is part of the plot. Iago calls for a litter to bear off the dead Roderigo and wounded Cassio. Emilia now enters and wants to know what has just happened. Iago tells her that Cassio was attacked by Roderigo and others who escaped. He comments that this is the consequence of whoring. Next, he asks Emilia to find out where Cassio dined that evening. When Bianca admits that he was with her, Iago says that she will have some explaining to do.

The opening of this scene provides the action to which all of Iago’s scheming has been a prelude. Iago physically sets Roderigo in a position “behind this bulk” to attack Cassio, and he promises to be nearby. In an aside he comments that he has “rubbed this young quat almost to the senses / And he grows angry” in a tone of contempt for Roderigo who he has manipulated all along. When Iago says “Now whether he kill Cassio, / Or Cassio kill him, or each do kill the other, / Every way makes my gain” he demonstrates how little he values human life and how self serving he is. Cassio enters and Roderigo’s attempt to kill him fails, and Cassio in turn wounds Roderigo. Iago’s subsequent wounding of Cassio leads Othello to believe that Iago kept his word in his vow to kill Cassio, so he calls him “brave … honest … and just.” The irony of this statement is that Othello still doesn’t see the evil in Iago. The melee is disturbing enough to bring out Lodovico and Gratiano who comment on the dangerousness of the situation. Iago appears and seems to show concern for Cassio’s wound, and when Roderigo appears, Cassio stabs him. The others believe that Iago acts out of revenge for his friend, but Iago’s true motive in killing Roderigo is that he served his purpose and would certainly tell all if he lived.

When Bianca comes to see what is going on, Iago implicates her in the plot to kill Cassio. His derogatory attitude is expressed when he says that he suspects “this trash / To be party to the injury.” This is another attempt to divert any suspicion away from himself. In a further ruse to appear beyond reproach he conducts an investigation into Cassio’s whereabouts and asks where Cassio had dined. Bianca asserts that he dined with her, and Cassio charges her to go with him. The events of this scene occur rapidly to bring the play to its final dramatic scene.

Act V, Scene 2

Othello enters his bedchamber and sees Desdemona sleeping. As he beholds her beauty, he almost changes his mind about killing her. He kisses her, and when she awakens, he asks her if she has prayed, accuses her of infidelity, and asks her about the handkerchief. She explains she never loved Cassio in the way Othello suggests, and she never gave him her handkerchief. Subsequently, Othello calls her a liar and says he saw Cassio with the handkerchief. Desdemona says that he must have found it, and Othello should ask him, to which Othello responds that Cassio is dead. When Desdemona expresses grief over this, Othello smothers her. Emilia enters with news that Cassio killed Roderigo. When Othello learns that Cassio is not dead, he realizes that something is not right. Desdemona cries out, dies, and Othello admits killing her. When Emilia asks...

(The entire section is 2,139 words.)