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'Othello' Act 4, Scene 1 Summary


Act 4 Scene 1

Iago is talking to Othello about the handkerchief, he tells him that Cassio had it and that Cassio told him that he had ‘lie’d’ with her; “with her, on her, what you will”. Othello is enraged and says he wants Cassio hanged in order to force a confession out of him. Othello falls down in a trance. Iago is pleased that Othello has fallen for his lies.

Othello appears to be out cold as Cassio appears on the scene. Iago tells him that this is Othello’s second fit of epilepsy. Othello stirs and Iago tells Cassio to withdraw while he comes round. Iago tells Othello that Cassio was with him, but did not confess a thing.

Iago advises Othello to hide while he summons Cassio to speak with him. Iago tells Othello that he will try to draw a confession from Cassio; he tells him to listen very carefully to what he says and watch his every gesture for a revelation of his cheating.

Iago talks to Cassio about Bianca helping his cause, as opposed to Desdemona, to which Cassio laughs. Iago uses ambiguity in his questioning to encourage Othello to believe Cassio is bedding his wife. Cassio flatly refuses to entertain the idea of marrying Bianca which further arouses Othello fears.

Bianca enters with the handkerchief, she throws it at Cassio Bianca is terribly upset saying that Cassio got the handkerchief from another woman and that woman was in his chamber. Othello identifies it as his napkin. Iago urges Cassio to go after Bianca and he does.

Othello says “How shall I murder him Iago?” convinced of his guilt. Iago inflames the situation by saying that Desdemona gave Cassio her handkerchief and then he passed it on to his whore, showing how little he feels for Desdemona.

Othello is angry with Cassio for doing that to his wife but Iago says he should forget his feelings for Desdemona to which he replies: “Ay let her rot and perish, and be damned tonight, for she shall not live. No, my heart is turned to stone”.

Othello keeps remembering his love for Desdemona “And then of so gentle a condition” but Iago is there to remind him of what she has done and to inflame his anger further, Othello then says; “I will chop her into messes”. Othello then asks Iago to get poison for him. Iago says; “Do it not with poison. Strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated.” Othello agrees. Iago says that he will murder Cassio.

A trumpet sounds Lodovico, Desdemona and attendants enter. Lodovico gives Othello a letter from the Duke in Venice. Lodovico asks after Cassio, Desdemona explains that there is a rift between him and her husband. Lodovico says “is there a division ‘twixt my lord and Cassio?” She says; “A most unhappy one. I would do much T’atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio”. Othello is angered by this, Desdemona is confused.

Lodovico reveals that the letter commands Othello to return to Venice “Deputing Cassio in his government”. Othello is angry and strikes Desdemona, much to Lodovico’s surprise. Desdemona leaves. Lodovico tells Othello to call her back, she comes back but Othello tells her to go home and Othello agrees that he will return to Venice.

Lodovico questions Othello’s position of responsibility and sanity. He asks Iago whether this behaviour is normal for him. Iago refuses to comment but urges him to watch Othello and assess his actions for himself.

Looking for the next scene? Please visit our contents page, where you can find a full list of all scene by scene guides to Shakespeare’s Othello. This scene by scene guide is designed to read alongside the play and act as a companion to the original text.

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