Teacher’s comments: Good essay, but focus more on the text. (this was a passage based essay. Can you tell?)
In Act 5, Scene 2, the most tense and terrifying scene in Othello takes place: Desdemona’s murder. In this brief scene before her death, Desdemona pleads and cries for her husband to spare her life as she ‘never did offend [Othello] in her life’. Sadly, it is too late. Since Act 3, Scene 3, Othello has been plotting his revenge on her and Cassio for their ‘unauthorized’ adultery. In this scene, Shakespeare presents Othello as a man that cannot even understand English as his wife pleads with him to call Cassio to sort this whole fiasco out. ‘Othello-inflexible in his resolution, obdurate in his revenge’ (Samuel Johnson, 1765) is the man the audience and Desdemona fell in love with at the beginning of Act 1, Scene 2. He and Desdemon’s relationship has detriioated so far that any sort of communication is dead even if Othello still ‘Desdemon’ deeply enough to allow her last prayers for forgiveness before her death.
The audience has to resist the urge to leap out of their seats to save Desdeoma. With every line spoken by Othello, his tone changes from somber to angry. Whilst his poor pathetic wife wakes first with a startle and then into cold, black fear. The audience, like Desdeomna did not understand Othello’s ‘talk of killing’. Technically, Iago still had not provided the ‘ocular proof’ needed to indite both Desdemona and Cassio. Othello sounds almost robotic as his somberly repeats, ‘amen’ as if every word that Desdeoma speaks is a prayer.
‘Lord have mercy on [them]!’ Shakespeare uses the most religious diction and phrases as Desdemona and Othello hurl ever closer to death. Phrases such as ‘heaven and grace’, ‘spirit’, ‘have mercy’ and ‘peace be still’ chill the audience’s hearts and Othello ignores his wife’s ever more fearful pleads. In this scene Shakespeare plays on Desdemona’s submissive role while expounding Othello’s dominant role. He is the preist, and thus this is her confession. What makes this play even more painful and ironic is that throughout this scene, Desdeomona is clueless as to why her husband has ‘some bloody passion [shaking] his very frame’.
What’s even more ironic is Iago’s ultimate role in this scene the is not present in. A third person has slipped into their bed, and only Othello recongnizes his appearance at the very end of the play. Here, his snarky title of ‘Honest Iago’ seems fitting to describe the Moor’s downfall. Even then, ‘guiltiness [he] knows not.’ Iago has been instrumental in setting up this scene from the beginning. His initial plan to embarrass Othello in front of his superiors because of his marriage to Desdemona ultimately failed. But then he realized, what is Othello without Desdemona; a shadow of his former self. He wooed Othello into his trust and ‘poisoned’ his speech and manner with his madness.
Sadly by Act 5, Scene 2, the audience has given up on both Othello and Desdemona’s love. I began to question ‘How well do they know each other? How knowlegable is their love?’ Altough Desdeomona is guiltless in this scene, the audience cannot help but wonder if she had a hand in her own death. Watching Act 3, Scene 3 when she used ‘the best of [her] devices’ on Othello for Cassio’s sake after he repeated questioned her for handerkerchief would make me want to scream ‘Goats and monkeys!’ She obviously didn’t know that dramatic irony that she was assisting by talking so highly of Cassio but I wondered if she even cared to understand just how tortured her ‘cuckhold’ is. Othello was not in the mood to speak to her, least of all about Cassio. Could not she have seen that?
Othello is even worse in his understanding of Desdemona. She is a Venecian lady, and he a simple Moor. He is always in awe of her beauty, her poise, her language. Her mere presence changes him completely. I was personally disappointed when he bid ‘aideu, aideu’ to all of his trust of Desdemona. ‘She had eyes and choose [you].’ Without any ‘ocular proof’ how could you believe in anything different? He after his transformation into ‘Oth-Iago’ in Act 3, Scene 3 leaves the audience speechless.
He slapped her in company of her cousin, and insulted her to the ‘simple bawd’ of her maid, Emilia. His love for Desdeoma it seems to be based totally off ignorance, and Shakespeare shares this tragic information through this scene. His main plot device, envy, rules out even the most cherished love of Desdemona. He present Othello and Desdemona as a couple who have been destroyed by envy, miscommunication and envy both within and outside of their marriage.
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