Othello enters, holding a candle. Desdemona is sleeping in her bed. Othello claims that the soul is the cause of what he's about to do. He will not shed her blood. He'll put out the light - the candle - and then the light - Desdemona's life. But while he can restore the candle's flame, there is no undoing his act once he kills Desdemona. He kisses her. The kiss almost makes him want to stop what he is doing. He kisses her again. Desdemona wakes. Othello asks her to confess because he is about to kill her, and wants her soul to be prepared for judgment. Desdemona, fearful, asks for heaven's mercy. She fears him, she says, though she knows no reason why other than the look in Othello's eyes. Othello accuses her of giving his handkerchief to Cassio. Desdemona insists that she didn't - Othello can send for Cassio and ask him. Othello again asks her to confess because her denials cannot stop him. Desdemona insists that she never gave Cassio the handkerchief, and Othello demands that she stop lying since he saw it in his hand. Further, he has confessed that he has slept with Desdemona. Desdemona cannot believe that he would say so. He has, Othello says, and so Iago has killed him. Desdemona weeps. Othello, enraged that she is mourning for Cassio, attacks her. Desdemona begs to be allowed to live, at least for a night, or half-an-hour, or to say a prayer - but Othello refuses, and smothers her with a pillow. Desdemona cries out. Emilia bangs at the door, shouting. Seeing that she is not yet dead, Othello stabs Desdemona. Emilia is still banging at the door. Desdemona is dead. Othello closes the curtains around her bed, and lets Emilia in.
Emilia tells Othello that there's been a murder - Cassio's killed Roderigo. Asked if Cassio is dead, Emilia tells Othello that he is still alive, and Othello regrets that his revenge is now "out of tune." Emilia hears Desdemona crying "murder" and opens the bed curtains. Emilia asks Desdemona who has done this; Desdemona responds that she did it to herself, and dies (again). Othello at first tells Emilia that it's the truth - but at once repents: he killed Desdemona, and she's gone to hell a liar. Emilia calls Othello a devil. He answers that Desdemona was a whore. Iago has told him, he says, that she slept with Cassio. Emilia asks: "My husband?" Othello repeats that it was her husband, an honest man, who told him; otherwise, he says, he would not have given up Desdemona for the world. Emilia repeats her question, several times, and Othello insists it was her husband, "honest, honest, Iago." Emilia tells him that it's Iago who's the liar and that Othello's a fool. She cries out: "Murder!"
Montano, Graziano, and Iago enter. Emilia demands to know if Iago told Othello that Desdemona was unfaithful. He admits he did. The men see Desdemona dead, and Emilia tells them that it's Iago who spurred Othello to the deed; Othello admits that it's true. Iago tells his wife to go home, but she refuses. Othello cries out but defends himself: Desdemona, he tells Graziano, was foul. Graziano remarks that he's glad her father's dead now, because he would otherwise commit suicide at this sight. Othello relates how Cassio confessed his act, and how Desdemona gave him her handkerchief. Hearing that, Emilia shouts that she will speak the truth, no matter what Iago tells her to do. Iago draws his sword at her. Emilia tells Othello what has happened: she found the handkerchief and gave it to Iago, who had begged for it. Othello cries "villain," and charges at Iago but is disarmed by Montano. Iago stabs Emilia and runs out. Emilia asks to be laid beside Desdemona. Montano and Graziano run out to capture Iago. Emilia, sitting beside Desdemona, sings her willow song. Saying once more that Desdemona loved Othello, Emilia dies. Othello takes up a weapon, which he has hid in the room. Graziano enters. Othello speaks of how his military triumphs are nothing now; he cannot control his fate and is prepared to kill himself. He looks at Desdemona and imagines how she will go to heaven, while he will be roasted in sulfur by devils.
Lodovico and Montano enter, with Iago, held by guards, and Cassio, in his stretcher. Othello says that if Iago is actually a devil, then he cannot be killed. He stabs Iago and is disarmed. Iago remarks that he bleeds but isn't killed. Othello confesses that he conspired in Cassio's murder and asks Cassio's forgiveness. Iago, in turn, refuses to answer any questions; from now on, he says, he will not speak a word. Lodovico reveals two letters he's found in Roderigo's pocket: one instructing him to kill Cassio, and the other one, written by Roderigo, revealing how Iago set up the fight that got Cassio fired. Asked by Othello where he found the handkerchief, Cassio answers that he found it in his bedroom and that Iago has confessed that it was he who left it there.
Lodovico instructs Othello to come with him to Venice, where he will be imprisoned until his case can be heard, and announces that Cassio will rule in Cyprus. As for Iago, he will be subject to the worst tortures imaginable. Othello asks for a couple of words before they depart. He asks the men, when they relate what has happened in their letters to Venice, to describe him exactly as he is: as a man undone by jealousy, who, like a foolish Indian, threw away the most valuable thing he had. He asks them also to relate one more story: in Aleppo, when a Turk attacked a Venetian and slandered Venice, Othello took him by the throat and stabbed him "thus" - at "thus," Othello stabs himself. Othello, wanting to die with one more kiss, kisses Desdemona and falls dead beside her. Lodovico instructs Iago to look at the bodies piled on the bed - his work - and orders the curtains to be drawn. Lodovico commands that Graziano will inherit Othello's wealth, and that Cassio will be in charge of the torture of Iago. He himself will return to Venice and inform the Duke and senators of what has happened in Cyprus.
Browse all Studyworld Studynotes|
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Scenes 1.1 and 1.2
Scenes 2.1 and 2.2
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3