Wiliam Shakespeare
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Act 4 Scene 2

Othello approaches Emilia and questions her about Desdemona's infidelity. Emilia says that there is nothing immodest that has taken place between Desdemona and Cassio. Instead of believing that nothing has happened between Desdemona and Cassio, he feels that Desdemona is so cunning that she has influenced Emilia to deceive hide her misdeeds. While they are in private, Othello approaches Desdemona and threatens her with banishment from the castle. He refers to her as a whore. Desdemona immediately denies these charges.

When Emilia comes in, Othello leaves immediately. While it is evident that Desdemona is exhausted out of these accusations, she, however, does not understand her crimes. Emilia, on her part, believes that there is a villain character that has stirred up Othello's sense of jealousy to cause trouble in her marriage.

Roderigo makes an appearance in a conversation with Iago. Roderigo says he has been exhausted in her desire to capture Desdemona. Thus, he seeks to pull out. In furtherance of his plot, Iago tells Roderigo that he needs to kill Cassio to prevent Othello from being sent elsewhere, thereby allowing Desdemona to stay in Cyprus. Roderigo is convinced that the idea is good.


Othello has failed to obtain evidence with which he may use to convict Desdemona of sexual immorality. As a result, the only option that he has is to use the person closest to her for questioning. As at this time, Othello has already condemned her even without an iota of evidence. The closest he has come to confirm this is the handkerchief incident. That, however, may not be sufficient to execute her. For a military commander with responsibilities to guard a colony, this mindset and emotional instability are very low and undesirable. It is evident that Othello is obsessed with finding Desdemona to be guilty of the crimes against which she has been accused. He has refused to reason out and provide an opportunity to Desdemona to prove her innocence.

In the interview with Desdemona, Shakespeare has shown the element of dread and hope that characterizes Desdemona's thought system. While Othello accuses her of being "false as hell" (40), a "whore" (74), and a "public commoner" (75), to mean a whore, Desdemona calmly responds that she is a "true and loyal wife" (35). While even the audience is capable of seeing the innocence in Desdemona, it is appalling that Othello would hear none of it. Even if Desdemona would occasionally be committing adultery, the strength of the adjectives that he applies are exaggerated and do not fit the character of Desdemona.

Whether in speech or otherwise, Desdemona has done more than an ordinary human would do to prove her innocence. On the other hand, Othello only gets more annoyed when he hears her explanations. He throws money at her before exiting the room, terribly angry. Desdemona is feeling like weeping, but she fears that doing that would harm her public image. Emilia invites s conversation with regards to the events. However, she is not willing to reveal much. In the face of these accusations and confusions, Desdemona can only think about their wedding sheets. In the society at this time, wedding sheets played a significant role. After marriage, the couple would have sex, and if the woman were virgin, there would be blood stains on the sheet. The sheet would then be hung on the house balcony to communicate to everyone that the lady had kept her honor. Thus, a bedsheet was a critical element in the set-up of these societies. Thus, when Desdemona takes out her marriage sheets and uses them on the bed, she is trying to rekindle the flame of her marriage.

When Iago approaches to know the conversation between Othello and Desdemona, the lady is so distraught that she can only weep. Othello says to her, "Do not weep, do not weep: alas the day!" (126). In many cases, women have been known to weep when they intend to manipulate and compromise a man. By telling her to stop weeping, Iago intends to put away any chances of mercy or sympathy that may arise in her engagement with Desdemona. Iago is fully aware that Othello plans to kill Desdemona and thus, is unconcerned about her weeping. To deal with her abusive husband, Emilia suggests to Desdemona to "Beshrew him for it!" (130).

Roderigo has sensed that things are moving fast but in the wrong direction. He has seen all the events and sought to withdraw his quest to get Desdemona. Roderigo has come to confront Iago over a recent scheme that has collapsed. He has been giving money and jewels to Iago to use as gifts to Desdemona, but there is no fruit that his efforts have borne. As a result, he is demanding to have his jewels back. Amidst the demands, Iago can only respond, ‘very well' and these responses infuriate Roderigo. In response to these ‘very well' statements, Roderigo retorts that, " . . . 'tis not very well. Nay, I think it is very scurvy, and begin to find myself stopped in it" (191-193). For the first time, the audience starts to think that after all, Roderigo might not have been a fool as may have been the thinking.

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