Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 726
Study Questions 1. What function do the musicians and clown serve?
2. How does Iago’s duplicity become evident when he speaks to Cassio?
3. What does Emilia’s remark about the rift between Othello and Cassio suggest about their relationship?
4. Identify and explain two examples of irony found in Act III, Scene 3.
5. Explain how Iago manages to arouse Othello’s suspicion in the conversation between Cassio and Desdemona.
6. How does Iago use Othello’s racial differences against him?
7. How is the dropping of the handkerchief ironic?
8. What literary device is used to ease some of the dramatic tension that has been established?
9. How is the conversation about jealousy between Emilia and Desdemona ironic?
10. Explain the significance of the handkerchief to Othello.
Answers 1. The musicians and the clown serve as comic relief after the dramatic events of Act II. The musicians’ serenade depicts an Elizabethan custom of awakening people of rank with music on special occasions. The clown’s comment on the musicians’ instruments provides bawdy humor for the audience and commentary on the health conditions of sixteenth century Naples.
2. Iago pretends to be acting on Iago’s behalf when he tells him he will keep Othello away while Cassio and Desdemona speak. His real motive is to set up the circumstance in which Othello can find Cassio and Desdemona together for Iago to use as additional “ocular proof” of their infidelity.
3. When Emilia says that Iago is as upset by the rift between Cassio and Othello “as if the cause were his,” she demonstrates how she too has been fooled by Iago’s pretense. Emilia is also unaware that Iago is not what he presents himself to be.
4. Dramatic irony in which characters are not aware of the full impact of their words can be found in Emilia’s statement that Iago is as upset as if he were the cause of the rift between Othello and him. She lacks the awareness that Iago did in fact instigate Roderigo to provoke the incident leading to Cassio’s dismissal. In addition, Desdemona’s statement “that’s an honest fellow” points out her lack of awareness that Iago is anything but honest.
5. Through a series of thoughts in half statements, innuendos, and facial gestures, Iago prompts Othello to think that Iago knows more than he is saying. As a result, Othello asks him to reveal his thoughts as vile as they may be. This is exactly what Iago wants in order to win Othello’s trust even more.
6. First Iago points out that Othello’s exotic nature isolates him from knowing Venetian culture as well as he himself does. He tells Othello that Venetian women are deceptive and uses Desdemona’s elopement to support the fact that “she did deceive her father marrying you.” He also plays upon Othello’s cultural belief in magic when he reminds Othello that Brabantio thought his daughter was bewitched or she would never have forsaken all for Othello.
7. Irony of situation involves the occurrence of events that are opposite of the expectation of the character, audience, or reader. When Emilia picks up the handkerchief after it falls, Iago snatches it quickly when he comes in. This unforeseen event provides Iago with the object needed to eliminate Othello’s uncertainty regarding Desdemona’s infidelity with Cassio.
8. The pun, which depends on the multiple meanings of words, is used to create comic relief in the discussion between Desdemona and the clown. The word lie is used by Desdemona to ask where Cassio lodges, but the clown responds as if she were calling Cassio a liar. The comic use...
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of the pun is also ironic because Iago’s whole scheme depends on the many lies he tells.
9. Their conversation about jealousy is ironic because it follows Iago’s attempts to provoke that emotion in Othello. It is also ironic because neither of them is aware of the depth to which Iago has played upon that emotion with Othello.
10. The handkerchief was given to him by his dying mother who instructed him to give it to his wife. Othello believes that the handkerchief is imbued with special powers to insure a happy marriage. The loss of the handkerchief “were such perdition / As nothing could match.” This belief becomes an obsession with Othello when he learns that Cassio has it, and the handkerchief becomes the object of his undoing.