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Scene 4.1

Iago is talking with Othello about excusable sins - since Othello gave Desdemona the handkerchief, it is hers to give away. Othello asks whether she may give away her honor as well. But Iago has a new report: Cassio has been talking about his affair with Desdemona, though of course he'll deny it - but he has been saying that he has slept with Desdemona. Othello, hearing this, goes into a rage, babbling of handkerchiefs and devils, and falls onto the ground in a fit. Iago watches gleefully. Cassio enters. Iago tells him what has happened and asks to speak to Cassio once Othello is gone; Cassio leaves again. Othello, waking, complains of his fate, but Iago consoles him: there are many men, he says, in the same predicament. Iago asks Othello to hide and watch while Iago asks Cassio about Desdemona. Othello steps back to watch in secret, close enough to see Cassio's gestures but too far to hear his words.
To himself, Iago unfolds his plan to ask Cassio about not Desdemona but Bianca. Cassio enters. Iago asks him about Bianca and whether he intends to marry her, and Cassio responds only by laughing, which enrages the watching Othello. Iago beckons Othello to come close enough to hear. Cassio tells how "she" (Bianca, but Othello thinks he is referring to Desdemona) will never leave him alone and is always hanging on him. Bianca enters. She gives him back the handkerchief which, she says, he found in his room and was certainly left there by some woman. Bianca leaves. Iago sends Cassio away, promising to meet with him later. Othello steps forward, ready to murder Cassio. Iago points out that he has given Othello's handkerchief, which Desdemona gave him, to a whore. Othello begins plotting to murder Desdemona but is continually stopped, in his thoughts, by his love for her, but each time Iago reminds him of his wife's crime. Finally, Othello relents, and asks for poison. Iago rejoinders that he should strangle her in bed, in the same bed she has corrupted; Othello likes the idea. Iago volunteers to kill Cassio, an offer that Othello accepts.
Lodovico, a Venetian, enters with Desdemona. He brings a letter from the Duke. As Othello reads the letter, Desdemona tells Lodovico about Cassio, which enrages Othello. The letter, Lodovico says, requests that Othello come home and Cassio look over Cyprus while he's away. Desdemona remarks that it's good news, and Othello, calling her "devil," hits her. Lodovico is shocked. Desdemona, apologetic, begins to leave. Lodovico asks Othello to call her back. He does and asks Lodovico what he wants with her. Talking back-and-forth to Lodovico and Desdemona, he tells Lodovico that he'll return to Venice and Desdemona to go to bed, where he'll come visit her soon. Othello leaves, shouting: "Goats and monkeys!" Lodovico is concerned and asks Iago what's wrong. Iago says that he is worried about Othello too but cannot reveal to Lodovico the cause of his madness.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Scenes 1.1 and 1.2
Scene 1.3
Scenes 2.1 and 2.2
Scene 2.3
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scene 3.3
Scene 3.4
Scene 4.1
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scene 5.1
Scene 5.2


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