Act IV, Scenes 1-3 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. How does Othello react to Iago’s images of infidelity?

2. Why does Iago speak to Cassio about Bianca?

3. Explain how the handkerchief has increased in significance.

4. How has Othello changed up to this point in the play?

5. Explain the difference in the relationship between Desdemona and Othello compared to when they first arrived in Cyprus.

6. Why is Emilia’s belief about what is causing Othello’s behavior ironic?

7. What clue does Emilia offer about Iago’s own jealousy?

8. Why is Roderigo annoyed at Iago?

9. What is the dramatic significance of the “willow” song?

10. To what does Emilia attribute the fact that women betray their husbands?

1. When Iago suggests that Desdemona and Cassio “kiss in private” and lie naked together, Othello falls into a trance.

2. Iago carefully contrives to have Othello eavesdrop on a conversation between Cassio and him. When Iago elicits responses from Cassio about Bianca, Othello thinks he is speaking disparagingly about Desdemona. Iago does this to convince Othello more conclusively of their secret love.

3. When Bianca enters, she jealously berates Cassio for having given her “some minx’s token” and instructs him to “give it to your hobbyhorse.” Of course Othello believes the hobbyhorse to be Desdemona and is indeed convinced of the clandestine affair between the two.

4. Before Iago began to instill ideas into Othello’s head, Othello did not suspect Desdemona of any wrongdoing. In fact, jealousy is not part of his inherent nature. Iago has so goaded him that he now talks of killing Desdemona for what he believes is an act of adultery.

5. When they first arrived in Cyprus, each was overjoyed to see the other, and they talked in terms of endearing love. After Iago’s instigation, Othello became so unlike himself that he was easily angered and even struck Desdemona in the presence of Lodovico and others.

6. Emilia affirms Desdemona’s innocence to Othello and tells him to remove any thoughts of her infidelity “if any wretch have put this in your head.” This is ironic because the very cause she suggests for his behavior is the truth. What makes this even more ironic is the fact that the “wretch” she speaks about is her husband.

7. When Emilia suggests that “some eternal villain, / Some busy and insinuatory rogue” devised a plot, Iago tells her “Fie there is no such man!” She continues, and he tells her to keep quiet. However, she alludes to “some such squire he was / That turned your wit the seamy side without / And make you to suspect me with the Moor.”

8. He is tired of being promised access to Desdemona and never receiving it at Iago’s whims. Iago has solicited jewels from Roderigo, promising to give them to Desdemona as gifts. Consequently, Roderigo threatens to ask for the jewels back, give up his pursuit, and confess the scheme.

9. The melancholy nature of the song foreshadows the final scene of the play, and it creates an atmosphere of foreboding.

10. Emilia believes that when men “slack their duties / … pour our treasures into foreign laps; / … break out in peevish jealousies” they don’t think that women are capable of resentment and have feelings. Therefore, women are pushed to the point of betrayal by their own husbands’ insensitivities to them.

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