William Shakespeare's Othello


Brought to you by The Educational Company of Ireland
With annotations, analysis and commentary by Patrick Murray
Podcasts read by actors Simon Coury and Niamh Daly

Act 5 Scene 2 Plot summary

‘Othello looks at the sleeping Desdemona. He is moved by her innocent beauty. He is at the same time troubled by what he sees as the shocking contrast between her heavenly appearance and her sinful soul. The only way he can bring himself to kill her is to convince himself that he is acting for the general good. He sheds involuntary tears, but he feels compelled to set aside his human reaction and kill the one he loves. He tells the awakened Desdemona to pray for her soul. He interrogates her in a legal-style process in which he plays the parts of judge, counsel for the prosecution and jury. The language is that of the courtroom and the confessional. Desdemona meets his charges against her with a straightforward denial. Othello’s patience begins to give way. Her grief when he mentions Cassio’s supposed death destroys his self-control and seals her fate. He will not now give her time to pray. He kills her in a blind rage.

As Othello strangles Desdemona, Emilia knocks at the door. When, after some delay, Othello lets Emilia in, she gives him the false news that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Desdemona’s dying cries attract Emilia’s attention. The murdered wife expires with words of love for her husband and a pathetic attempt to free him from responsibility for her death. Emilia courageously defies Othello and curses Iago’s villainy. She shouts for help. Montano, Gratiano and Iago arrive. For the first time Iago must face in public someone who knows the truth about his schemes. Emilia presses home her case with convincing urgency. Iago betrays himself in a futile display of murderous violence, stabs Emilia to death, and tries to escape. When he is brought back, Othello wounds him. Lodovico produces evidence implicating both Iago and Roderigo in the attempts on Cassio’s life. Othello is relieved of his position in Cyprus, and Cassio is appointed in his place. The truth dawns on Othello and he dies by his own hand. It is left to Cassio to decide the fate of Iago.’