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'Othello' Act 5, Scene 2 Summary (Part 1)

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Act 5, Scene 2

Othello enters Desdemona’s bedchamber with a light; he draws back the curtain to reveal her in her bed asleep. Othello says that Desdemona must die or she will betray more men. He kisses her and is almost convinced not to carry out his vengeful act. She wakes up and asks him to come to bed. He asks her if she has prayed that night, she says she has but he tells her to atone for what she has done and ask god for forgiveness to prepare her soul for heaven. Desdemona realises that Othello intends to kill her but tells him that she is innocent; her only sin being in loving him, he says; “Ay, and for that thou diest”. She says that it is unnatural to kill someone for loving them.

Othello accuses Dedesmona of giving Cassio the handkerchief he gave to her. Desdemona says that she did not give the handkerchief to Cassio and to go and ask him. Othello urges her to confess her sin and again she tells him; “I never did offend you with my life, never loved Cassio…I never gave him token.” Othello tells her that he saw Cassio with the handkerchief with his own eyes. Desdemona says that he must have found it.

Othello tells Desdemona that Cassio confessed to the affair and that Iago has dispensed with him. Desdemona tells Othello; “Alas, he is betrayed, and I undone.” Othello calls her a strumpet as she weeps for Cassio openly in front of him. Desdemona pleads for her life asking to be banished as opposed to killed. Othello attacks her. He smothers his wife.

Emilia is calling through the bedroom door. She enters the room but has not seen behind the curtain. Othello asks her to wait a moment as he realises what he has done. Emilia asks to speak with Othello. Othello closes the curtains around the bed and leads Emilia away from the bed.

Emilia explains that Cassio has killed a young Venetian called Roderigo. Othello asks if Cassio has been killed too. She says that Cassio has been wounded. Desdemona cries; “O falsely, falsely murdered!” Othello pretends not to hear his wife but Emilia draws back the curtain as Desdemona says; “A guiltless death I die.” Emilia asks Desdemona who has killed her and when she avoids telling her it was Othello, Othello says she is lying and says that it is him that killed her. Emilia tells him that Desdemona is not a liar that she was protecting him; “O, the more angel she, and you the blacker devil”. She uses this insult to point to his race as well as to his wrongdoing.

Othello justifies his actions to Emilia by calling Desdemona a whore. Othello tells her to ask her husband about it because he knew about her affair with Cassio. Emilia says that Iago was lying. Emilia says that by killing his wife he is no more worthy of heaven than he was of his wife. Emilia cries out “Help! The Moor hath murdered my mistress. Murder, murder!”

Montano, Graziano and Iago enter asking what the matter is. Emilia asks Iago if he told Othello that Desdemona was untrue. Iago admits to telling Othello that he thought his wife to be false. Emilia responds; “You told a lie, an odious damned lie…She false with Cassio? Did you say Cassio?” Iago says that he did.

Othello falls on the bed as Emilia accuses him of killing an innocent woman. Othello stands to speak with Graziano who is Desdemona’s cousin. Graziano reveals that Desdemona’s father has died of grief after his daughter left him for Othello.

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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