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Scenes 4.2 and 4.3

Scene 4.2 - The citadel

Othello is questioning Emilia about Desdemona and Cassio. Emilia insists that she has seen nothing suspicious and insists that Desdemona is faithful, the most honest of women. Othello sends her to get Desdemona. Othello discounts Emilia's testimony as that of a "subtle whore." She returns with Desdemona. Othello demands that Emilia leave and shut the door, which she does. Desdemona claims she doesn't know what this is about, but Othello insists she is as "false as hell." Othello weeps. Desdemona suspects that he believes her father is the one who has had Othello called back to Venice. Othello doesn't answer but speaks of how he could endure any hardship or affliction or scorn. He cannot, however, endure to be abused in the very place where he has staked all his love and life. Desdemona insists that she doesn't know what her husband is talking about, but Othello tells her he could make her cheeks burn with shame if he even named what she had done. Desdemona, again, claims that Othello is wrong. When she denies she is a whore, her husband says that he mistook her for the Venetian whore who married Othello. He calls Emilia in and, leaving, hands Desdemona money.
Desdemona is distraught. She asks Emilia to lay her wedding sheets on the bed for tonight and to summon Othello. Emilia leaves but comes back at once with Iago. Desdemona asks Iago if he thinks she is a whore - though she cannot even say the word. Emilia says she is sure that some villain has concocted this slander against Desdemona, but Iago says that no man could do such a horrible thing. Desdemona asks Iago to plead her case to Othello. She kneels and swears that she never betrayed her husband in thought or deed. Iago assures her that everything will be fine. Desdemona and Emilia are summoned for dinner and leave. Roderigo enters. He is angry with Iago for ignoring him and wants to know what happened to the jewels he gave Iago to give to Desdemona. Iago apologizes for the delay but promises Roderigo that, if he does what Iago says, he will sleep with Desdemona the next night - and that he may have Iago killed if he doesn't. But Othello and Desdemona plan to leave tomorrow, and the only way to stop them is to murder the man who is supposed to take Othello's place: Cassio. He can attack him that night, after he leaves Bianca's house around midnight. Roderigo wants the reasons fully explained, and Iago promises to do so.

Scene 4.3 - Scene continues

Othello and Lodovico are taking leave of Desdemona and Emilia. Othello invites Lodovico to go for a walk. He tells Desdemona to get to bed at once and to send Emilia away. Othello and Lodovico leave. Emilia says she wishes Desdemona had never met Othello, but Desdemona claims she still loves him. Emilia begins undressing Desdemona for bed. She has laid down the sheets Desdemona asked for, her wedding sheets. Desdemona asks to be wrapped in them when she dies. She relates how her mother's maid loved a man who turned out to be mad and left her. She would always sing a song about a willow, Desdemona says, and she died singing it, and Desdemona cannot get it out of her head now. They talk briefly about Lodovico, who seems charming and handsome. Desdemona begins singing, though she remembers only fragments of the words. She asks Emilia if she would deceive her husband. Desdemona would not, she swears, by "heavenly light." Emilia answers that she wouldn't do it by the "light," but might in the dark. Desdemona cannot believe that any woman would betray her husband, even if she won the whole world for doing so. But Emilia argues that men sleep around all the time without apologizing for it, and women have the same kinds of affections and desires as men, so it should not be so surprising that women do the same thing. Desdemona wishes Emilia good night, hoping that she is an example of what to avoid, not what to imitate.

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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