Act IV, Scene 1
Iago is trying to calm Othello down, who is absolutely certain that Desdemona and Cassio kissed. Iago doesn’t seem the harm in a kiss or even laying naked together if nothing happened. This, understandably enrages Othello. It’s hypocritical to give into temptation just enough to not actually sin.
Iago tries a new approach by explaining that if he gives his wife a gift, it is hers to do with what she wants. She could even give it to someone else if she wanted. Othello asks if she could do the same with her honor, since that is also hers. Iago brushes that argument aside. They are not the same thing. Honor comes and goes. Othello wishes he could just forget about the handkerchief.
Iago doesn’t understand the obsession with the handkerchief. If he had seen or heard Cassio say something about the handkerchief…He can’t finishes the thought before Othello pounces, demanding to know what Cassio said. Iago “reluctantly” tells him that Cassio said he slept with the woman that gave him the handkerchief.
This sends Othello into such a huge rage that he falls into a trance. Iago is pumped that his plan is working.
Cassio comes in and offers to help. Iago insists that it is best to leave Othello be until he comes out of it on his own. As Othello starts to wake up, Iago tells Cassio to leave, but stay close because Iago wants to speak with him. When Othello wakes up, Iago proposes a new plan. He will talk to Cassio about the details of his affair. Othello will conceal himself and watch Cassio’s face. Together they will get to the truth of the matter.
Iago plans to talk to Cassio about Bianca. She’s a housewife that sells her body to afford food. She’s smitten with Cassio and he can’t help but smile when he talks about her.
Iago and Cassio start talking about how Desdemona is his path back into Othello’s good graces. Iago quietly mentions that if it were up to Bianca, it would already be done. Cassio immediately starts laughing and tells Iago how ridiculous it is that she thinks he would marry her. He’s a customer. He’s promised her nothing, but still she follows him, hangs on him, and beckons him to bed. Othello hears all this, but thinks the “she” being discussed is Desdemona.
Bianca busts in to scold Cassio for giving him another woman’s handkerchief. He tries to calm her, but she will hear none of it. She demands that he come to dinner that night and storms off. Cassio goes to follow her before she starts railing in the streets about him.
Othello’s mind is made up: Desdemona and Cassio must die. He wants to poison Desdemona that very day. Iago tells him not to poison her, but strangle her in the bed she contaminated. That seems fair to Othello. Iago will take care of Cassio.
Desdemona approaches with a delegate, Lodovico, from Venice. As Othello reads the letter send by the Duke and Senators, Desdemona discusses the news with Lodovico. She explains that there is a quarrel between Othello and Cassio, but she knows that Lodovico can help make it right. Othello makes an angry comment. Lodovico assures Desdemona it must be because of the letter. Lodovico explains that the Senators want Othello to return to Venice and have Cassio replace him. Desdemona says she is glad. Othello doesn’t believe her. While she is trying to figure out what is wrong, Othello slaps her.
Everyone is shocked. Desdemona begins to cry and Othello doesn’t care. Desdemona leaves, but Lodovico wants Othello to call her back. Othello tells her to come back and she does. Othello asks Lodovico what he wants to do with her. Lodovico is confused and Othello rages about her being an “obedient” woman. He agrees to return to Venice. Desdemona leaves. Othello agrees to have Cassio take his place and bids them all to come to dinner later. He leaves.
Lodovico is shocked that Othello has changed so much. Iago can’t (won’t) explain it. He tells Lodovico to observe Othello himself and see the change.
Act IV, Scene 2
Othello questions Emilia about Desdemona’s behavior. She insists that Desdemona never did anything improper with Cassio, they never whispered, or were even ever alone together. Emilia swears on her life that Desdemona is honest and curses the man who put these thoughts in Othello’s head. Othello tells Emilia to fetch Desdemona. He marvels at how sneaky Desdemona is.
Desdemona comes in and Othello orders Emilia to guard the door and warn them if anyone comes. Othello repeatedly questions Desdemona about her honesty. She insists she has been loyal. She wonders if he is mad at her because he thinks her father played a part in recalling him to Venice. She insists that if her father is angry at Othello, then he is angry at her too.
Othello laments how he could handle any other difficulty in his life but this. Desdemona still doesn’t know what she did to make him to angry at her. He tells her that she is a whore and a strumpet. She insists that she isn’t and swears that she is virtuous. Othello doesn’t believe her.
He calls in Emilia, pays her for keeping guard, and leaves. Emilia tries to comfort Desdemona and find out what happened. Desdemona can’t wrap her head around what is going on. She tells Emilia to put the wedding sheets on her bed for tonight. Emilia leaves.
She returns with Iago who also tries to comfort Desdemona. They explain that Othello called her a whore. She asks Iago what she has done to deserve this title or if Othello is just teasing her. Emilia thinks some jerk must be putting all of this in Othello’s head. Iago has no idea how she reached that conclusion. He thinks Othello is just upset about matters of state and this will all blow over. Othello is probably just joking. Iago sends the women off to dinner and tells Desdemona not to worry.
Roderigo comes in to confront Iago. He has had just about enough of Iago’s nonsense. He keeps giving him jewels to give to Desdemona and is told that Desdemona receives them well and gives promises of affection. And yet, Roderigo still has nothing. He is going to go to Desdemona, get his jewels back, and leave. Iago is happy to finally see Roderigo ready to fight for what he wants. He needed to see this before they continued on with the next part of their plan. Iago explains that Cassio is to take Othello’s place here and Othello will be taking Desdemona even further away. This can’t happen. Roderigo needs to kill Cassio. He agrees and Iago tells him where to find Cassio that night (at Bianca’s house).
Act IV, Scene 3
Lodovico and Othello decide to go for a walk after dinner. Othello tells Desdemona to go to bed, dismiss Emilia, and wait for him there. She agrees.
Emilia comments that Othello seems to be acting gentler than he did before, but is aprhensive when she learns that Desdemona is to be left alone with Othello. Desdemona seems to see this as an ominous night. She alludes to her possible death by telling the story of her mother’s maid who was killed by her mad husband. Desdemona sings the song that the maid sang.
Before Emilia leaves, they discuss women who cheat on their husbands. Desdemona wonders how a woman could even do that. While both women agree they couldn’t do it, Emilia seems to understand how it could happen.
Act V, Scene 1
(Not a lot of substance is actually said in this scene, so the summary will be much shorter than the actual text)
Iago encourages Roderigo to kill Cassio as he comes out of Bianca’s house. Roderigo doesn’t really want to, but it must be done. Iago hides himself. Roderigo tries to stab Cassio, but misses. Cassio stabs Roderigo. Iago sneaks up behind Cassio, stabs him in the leg, and runs off. Cassio and Roderigo start calling for help. Othello hears it and knows that Iago kept his word. He is resolute now on killing Desdemona.
Lodovico and Gratiano hear the commotion and start heading toward the cries. Iago enters, also searching for the wounded men. When Iago finally locates the men, he secretly stabs Roderigo who, realizing the betrayal curses him. They start trying to bandage and save Cassio. Cassio explains that he doesn’t know who stabbed him. Bianca comes out and his quite upset. Gratiano recognizes Roderigo. Iago starts turning blame towards Bianca. Cassio tries to dispute it, but he’s dying. They two men get whisked away to the surgeon.
Emilia comes in and is shocked when she hears what happened. She starts berating the “strumpet”, Bianca. Iago tells Bianca he will get the whole story out of her. He sends Emilia off to the citadel to tell Othello and Desdemona what happened.
Act V, Scene 2
Othello sees Desdemona sleeping and reflects on what he is about to do. He won’t draw any blood or scar her beautiful skin, but she has to die. He does love her and kisses her one last time. He will continue to love her after he kills her.
Desdemona wakes up and wonders what Othello is doing. He tells her to reconcile herself with god because he will not kill her soul. She doesn’t understand why he is talking of killing. He keeps trying to get her to confess, but she doesn’t know what she did. He finally explains the whole thing. She slept with Cassio and he knows that because she gave him the handkerchief. She swears she didn’t give it to him and begs Othello to ask Cassio himself. Othello tells her that Cassio confessed to sleeping with her. She doesn’t believe it and asks to hear it from Cassio herself. Othello tells her that is impossible because Cassio is dead. Iago killed him. She starts to weep. This makes Othello angry and she begs for her life. Othello kills her.
Emilia starts pounding on the door asking to see Othello. He wants to make sure Desdemona is dead first. Emilia is insistent and eventually Othello lets her in. Emilia starts telling him about a murder. She explains that Cassio killed Roderigo. Othello seems taken aback that both Roderigo and Cassio are dead. Emilia starts to explain that Cassio isn’t dead when Desdemona starts talking. Oops! She’s not quite dead yet. Emilia asks who did this and Desdemona said she did it to herself.
Othello makes sure Emilia notes that Desdemona did not blame Othello. Emilia agrees that is what was said and promises to tell others that fact. Othello sees this as evidence that Desdemona was a liar because he DID kill her. Emilia sees this as proof that Desdemona was a good wife, but Othello sees it as proof she was a liar. He tells Emilia that Iago told him everything about Desdemona and Cassio’s affair. Emilia can’t believe that Iago was the one behind it and condemns him for doing so. She cries out for help.
Montano, Lodovico, Gratiano, and Iago all come in. Emilia immediately asks Iago if he told Othello Desdemona cheated on him. Iago says he only said what he thought and let Othello reach his own conclusions. This is not good enough for Emilia and she lays Desdmona’s death at Iago’s feet. Othello explains to the shocked men that he did kill Desdemona because she cheated on him with Cassio. Emilia can’t take it anymore and starts screaming about what a good woman Desdemona was. Iago tells her to be quiet but she refuses. Othello briefly falls on the bed, but then explains the whole handkerchief thing. Iago scrambles to get Emilia to be quiet, even threatening to stab her. She tells Othello that she found the handkerchief and gave it to Iago. Othello lunges at Iago, who stabs Emilia and runs off. Emilia asks to lie beside Desdemona.
Montano and Gratiano disarm Othello and go to get Iago. Othello can’t believe what he has done. Emilia sings the song that Desdemona sang earlier as she dies. Othello starts telling Gratiano, who is gaurding the door, that he’s going to kill himself. Gratiano isn’t too worried about it because Othello doesn’t have a weapon. Othello tells him to come in because he does have a weapon. He starts talking about how he doesn’t deserve to live. Lodovico and Montano bring in an imprisoned Iago. They also bring in Cassio on a chair.
Othello wounds Iago, but won’t give him the satisfaction of death. Othello explains that everything he did was out of a sense of honor. He asks for Cassio’s forgiveness. Iago apparently confessed his part in the whole plot, but now refuses to speak any more. Roderigo had some secret letters in his pocket detailing what Iago was supposed to do for him and that Roderigo was tasked with killing Cassio. Everyone keeps being shocked that Iago was so evil (but at a certain point it should just be assumed he did the worst thing possible). Othello asks the men to explain his story justly and then kills himself.
The final piece of the play is Lodovico dealing with a bit of cleanup, which is just not a very dramatic way to end the play to be honest.