Act 4 Scene 2
Synopsis of Act 4 Scene 2
Othello interrogates Emilia to discover any evidence of misdemeanours between Desdemona and Cassio and does not believe her testimony that Desdemona is virtuous. He summons his wife, asking Emilia to leave, then confronts Desdemona and, despite her protestations of loyalty, calls her a whore. After his departure, Emilia returns with Iago. Desdemona is dazed, understanding only that she has somehow lost her husband. Ironically, Iago commiserates, whilst Emilia is convinced that some scoundrel has deliberately slandered her mistress. Asking Iago for advice, Desdemona kneels to swear her constant love for Othello, even if he divorces her, which she now expects, then she and her maid leave.
Roderigo arrives and complains bitterly to Iago that he is no nearer winning Desdemona’s love, despite his lavish gifts, so plans to ask for them back and give up. Iago turns Roderigo’s anger on its head by claiming that his determination will win Desdemona. Were he to kill Cassio, Othello and Desdemona would have to stay in Cyprus and Roderigo would be able to woo her. Iago will arrange for Cassio to be at a certain place that night, when Roderigo can conveniently kill him.
Commentary on Act 4 Scene 2
She says enough; yet .. – Emilia’s staunch defense of Desdemona gives the audience hope that the tragedy can be averted – until they realise that Othello does not believe her. Othello is more persuaded by the words of a fellow soldier than by his wife’s maid, reinforcing the chauvinistic attitude of comrade soldiers towards women.
Come, swear it, damn thyself
– Oaths invoking God were taken very seriously; to swear such an oath dishonestly would incur condemnation not just from Othello but from God, meaning that Desdemona’s eternal life
would be in jeopardy.
like one of heaven .. devils .. fear
– Desdemona is like an angel
, associated with light and utter purity, in the face of which even demon
Heaven/hell, truly/false – In Othello’s distorted world, hell is heaven, lies are truth.
try me with affliction .. sores .. poverty
– Othello recalls the suffering seen in Job
, an Old Testament
narrative about maintaining faith despite enduring hardship. Just as the audience was familiar with sympathy for Job (who had unhelpful ‘friends’), so they feel for Othello in his emotional distress.
The fountain from the which my current runs / .. discarded – The depth of Othello’s love is seen in his struggle to throw it aside.
black weed .. lovely fair
– The oxymoron
s illustrate Othello’s conflicted emotions.
public commoner – prostitute
No, as I am a Christian.
– Here Desdemona is making the equivalent of a sacred
vow. Her faith is everything to her and she regards her purity as important to her as her Christian
I took you for that cunning whore of Venice – In Othello’s mind, Desdemona’s identity has been entirely subsumed by her (supposed) promiscuity.
office opposite to Saint Peter, / And keeps the gates in hell
– In the Gospel
entrusts his disciple Peter
with ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 16:19
). From this arose the idea that Peter was the ‘gatekeeper’ of heaven
, allowing or denying access (just as a maid such as Emilia controls access to her mistress’s rooms). However, to Othello, Emilia is guarding hell
rather than heaven.
Lay on my bed my wedding sheets, - Some critics believe that this instruction shows that she and Othello have not yet had time to consummate their marriage, and she is preparing for their sexual union. Alternatively, wedding sheets would carry the evidence of Desdemona’s chastity prior to intercourse with Othello and so remind him of her purity. Either interpretation only increases the irony and tragedy about to unfold.
’Tis meet I should be us’d so – Desdemona is being ironic – Othello’s behaviour is anything but fitting.
What name, fair lady? – Iago here fails to answer a straight question, as he refuses to help Desdemona and Othello to be reconciled. Their reconciliation is the last thing Iago wants.
A beggar .. his callat. – Emilia here is furious with Othello for calling his wife a whore or callat, both terms for prostitute.
forsook .. noble matches, / Her father .. country .. friends – The enormity of Desdemona’s social sacrifices for love of Othello also highlights how isolated and vulnerable she now is.
I will be hanged if some eternal villain, - Emilia has unknowingly guessed the truth, that Othello has been tricked into thinking that Desdemona has been unfaithful.
A halter pardon him, - may he be hanged.
hell gnaw his bones
– In popular Christian iconography, the ‘mouth’ of hell was ringed with sharp teeth. Doom painting
s illustrated the torment of those in hell, being eternally feasted on by demon
And made you to suspect me with the Moor. – Emilia here tells us that she was never unfaithful to Iago, but she obviously knew he suspected her. This makes Iago seem to be a very insecure, untrustworthy man, which we see expressed through the cynical and bestial language of his thoughts and speech.
Here I kneel. – This is the strongest way in which Desdemona can stress that she is completely innocent, kneeling being associated with prayer and petitioning, as she reaffirms her love and faithfulness to Othello.
To beggarly divorcement) love him dearly, .. But never taint my love. – Shakespeare evokes pity for Desdemona as she is prepared for Othello to divorce her unjustly, yet still go on loving him steadfastly.
‘whore’ .. abhor
- Shakespeare uses the assonance
of the words to highlight Desdemona’s absolute rejection of the term she’s been labelled with.
daff’st me with some device, - ‘Put me off with some excuse.’ After the poetic passion of Desdemona’s feelings, Shakespeare lowers the tone of the stupid (Roderigo) and cunning (Iago) plotters to prose.
Would half have corrupted a votarist.
– Roderigo believes that he has given Desdemona so much money that even a nun
(who would have vowed to be celibate) would have given in to his advances.
Why now I see there’s mettle in thee, - Iago completely twists Roderigo’s argument in his own favour by complimenting him on his new-found courage, which will surely win Desdemona’s love if he will only act on it.
knocking out his brains – Iago no longer hides his malevolent intent. Even so, Roderigo might have realised that murder is an extreme (and unnecessary) action – but Shakespeare’s plot depends upon this device.
Investigating Act 4 Scene 2
- Study Othello’s speech starting from ‘Had it pleased God..’ until ‘Ay, here look grim as hell.’
- In the first six lines, what kind of suffering does Othello say he’d prefer?
- In the next three lines, what makes him suffer more?
- In the second half of the speech, what does he feel is the worst torment for him?
- How do the images in the last four lines show the terrible mental distress he is experiencing?
- Writing in role, prepare a short psychiatrist’s report on the overall mental state of Othello by the end of this scene.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? 2And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. 4But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, Where are you? 10And he said, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. 11He said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? 12The man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate. 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, What is this that you have done? The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. 14The Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. 16To the woman he said, I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. 17And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, You shall not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 20The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22Then the Lord God said, Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever - 23therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
1Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 9And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 20And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
- English Standard Version
- King James Version
1And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered them, When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. 3And in the morning, It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. So he left them and departed. 5When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6Jesus said to them, Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 7And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, We brought no bread. 8But Jesus, aware of this, said, O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 12Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? 14And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 15He said to them, But who do you say that I am? 16Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. 21From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you. 23But he turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. 24Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
1The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. 5And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
A great debate on why, if God is just and good, he allows innocent people to suffer (theodicy); recognised as a literary masterpiece for the wealth and energy of its language and the power of its thought
This is the most Jewish of the gospels portraying Jesus as the Messiah promised by David. It contains many parables and accounts of miracles. It also has an account of Jesus' birth and uniquely records the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem guided by a star.
Famous stories from the Bible: Jesus, his birth; Jesus, his temptation; Parable of the sower; Feeding of the 5000; Jesus, his death and resurrection
According to Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament), Adam is the first human being, made in the image / likeness of God, placed in the Garden of Eden and given dominion over the earth.
According to the book of Genesis in the Bible the first woman, said to have been created by God out of Adam's rib, to be his companion.
The Bible describes God as the unique supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe.
A snake. In some religions and mythologies seen as the embodiment of deceit, cunning and evil, and associated with Satan.
Calling on / use of supernatural power to bring trouble or harm to something / someone.
A new quality of life, beginning in the present but continuing after death, which Jesus is said to offer to those who believe in him.
Supernatural beings closely linked with the work of God; his messengers, traditionally portrayed as having a winged human form.
An evil spiritual force, also known as a devil, which opposes God and seeks to separate human beings from him. In the Gospels and Acts they are portrayed as inhabiting or oppressing individuals.
A 'testament' is a covenant or binding agreement and is a term used in the Bible of God's relationship with his people). The sacred writings of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible). These also form the first part of the Christian Bible.
A Figure of speech in which two apparently opposite words or ideas are put together as if they were in agreement.
That which belongs to the divine, or holy, or to God; as opposed to secular, which is that belonging to the material world of time.
Name originally given to disciples of Jesus by outsiders and gradually adopted by the Early Church.
Gospel - Literally 'good news' - used of the message preached by Jesus recorded in the New Testament.
1. The central message of the Christian faith
2. Title given to the four New Testament books which describe the life of Jesus Christ
The name given to the man believed by Christians to be the Son of God. Also given the title Christ, meaning 'anointed one' or Messiah. His life is recorded most fully in the Four Gospels.
1. Term meaning learner or follower.
2. Used in the New Testament in particularly of the twelve apostles of Jesus.
3. Now applied more generally to all Christians.
One of the twelve disciples of Jesus, originally called Simon but given the name Cephas by Jesus.
In many religions, the place where God dwells, and to which believers aspire after their death. Sometimes known as Paradise.
Jesus describes hell as the place where Satan and his demons reside and the realm where unrepentant souls will go after the Last Judgement.
A painting of The Last Judgement.
An evil spiritual force, also known as a devil, which opposes God and seeks to separate human beings from him. In the Gospels and Acts they are portrayed as inhabiting or oppressing individuals.
A device similar to alliteration but where the vowel sound in a word is repeated and thus emphasised ' e.g. 'burnt and purged'.
A woman who has chosen to enter a religious order for women, and taken the appropriate vows.