Wiliam Shakespeare
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Act 5 Scene 1

It is in the streets at night. Roderigo and Iago are planning to kill Cassio. As Cassio draws near, Iago instructs Roderigo to attack him. When Roderigo attacks, he is unsuccessful, and Cassio stabs him.  On seeing the unexpected turn of events, Iago approaches and stabs Cassio in the leg. He runs way leaving Cassio writhing in pain while crying uncontrollably. When Othello hers Cassio cry, he believes that Iago has undertaken the job and executed it accordingly. In return, Othello must harden his heart and spill his wife's blood on the same bed on which the things he was betrayed.


Iago's statement, "It makes us, or it mars us, thinks of that, / And fix most firm thy resolution" (4-50), summarizes everything in this scene. In the mind of Roderigo, Iago‘s statement means, "Be brave, kill Cassio, and you will have Desdemona."  However, the mind of Iago reads from a different script: "Be brave, make sure Roderigo, Cassio, and Desdemona die, and you will have your revenge on Othello." The only winner would be Othello. Even as at this time, he is the only guy who is happy with the flow of events.

Roderigo is still wavering. He is not showing that he is ready for the task at hand. He says, "Be near at hand; I may miscarry in't" (6). The statement reveals his cowardly nature. He does not take events surrounding him with the confidence and desire. It is an indication that he is not acting out of personal conviction and drive but relies on the motivation of Iago. By taking orders from Iago, Roderigo abdicates responsibility from his actions and is led into harming an innocent man who has done no wrong to him.

From his admission, there is no wrong that Cassio has committed even against Iago. Iago has a good opinion among all people, but not until Iago demonstrated his duplicity. However, Iago is possibly enjoying a happy life, and Iago is not comfortable with this. He says that [I]f Cassio do remain, he has a daily beauty in his life, which makes me ugly" (18-20).  Sword fighting is always a dangerous game. Some rules govern these practices. In this case, Roderigo hides in the bush and lashes out at Cassio. In self-defence, Cassio hits back at the bush. Sensing that the battle may take an unwanted twist. Iago jumps out of his hiding and stabs Cassio. It is rare Iago always to keep his promises. In this regard, he promised to help Roderigo to fight shoulder to in the event the confrontation turned nasty. However, these events confirm the ‘villain' character that Emilia had talked about in the previous scene. In the military, a soldier is not allowed to hit a colleague during a battle. Instead, the soldiers need to protect each other.

As Cassio cries, Othello is reminded of his resolution to kill Desdemona. Othello is embarrassed and poisoned that in the long run, he would have to kill Desdemona. To do this, he must first push away any instincts of love for Desdemona; "forth of my heart those charms, thine eyes, are blotted, / Thy bed, lust-stain'd, shall with lust's blood be spotted" (34-35). He must close her eyes and avoid any compassion that may arise in the process. Othello starts to for the murder scene in his eyes. He sees Desdemona lying on their bed and sees the marriage bedsheets. Instead of seeing Desdemona's blood on the bed, Othello sees the blood-stained strawberry. His rage multiplies in the process.  Othello has vowed to fill the bed with blood, but not the blood of passion as it happened on their first night.

As at the moment, things are going on well for Iago. Roderigo is dead, and there is no more demand for jewellery. Cassio, on the side, is wounded having been attacked by ‘thieves'. Although this was not the expected result, he is willing to live with it. Iago has hopes that Cassio may succumb to the injuries or may get crippled in the long run.  However, there is still a long journey to go.  "This is the night that either makes me or fordoes me quite" (127-128).

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