Othello Act 5, Scene 1 Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

In this lesson, we will discuss Act 5, Scene 1, of Shakespeare's ''Othello'' in which Iago manipulates Roderigo into trying to kill Cassio, clearing the way for the play's final, tragic scene.

Ambush and Murder

As Act 5, Scene 1, of Othello opens, Iago, the antagonist, has manipulated most of the characters in an elaborate revenge scheme. Iago talks to Roderigo, the man who has hired Iago to win over the object of his desires and Othello's wife, Desdemona, for him. Iago has convinced Roderigo that Cassio, Othello's ex-lieutenant, is having an affair with Desdemona and that killing Cassio is the only way for Roderigo to be with Desdemona. Roderigo prepares to ambush Cassio by waiting outside the whorehouse that Cassio is in. Iago thinks any outcome of the fight will work in his favor, and says:

Now, whether he kill Cassio, /

Or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, /

Every way makes my gain.

When Cassio exits the whorehouse, Roderigo falls on him immediately in an ambush. Though he stabs Cassio, he is unable to kill him because of Cassio's armor. However, Cassio stabs and wounds Roderigo. In the passion of the fight, Iago sneaks up and strikes Cassio's legs, causing Cassio to cry out 'murder! murder!'

Hearing the ruckus, Venetian diplomats enter the scene to find both Cassio and Roderigo wounded. Iago appears to everyone, pretending he has not seen what happened. Cassio claims Roderigo tried to kill him, and Iago, without hesitation, stabs and kills Roderigo. This not only releases Iago from his obligation to Roderigo, but also calms any suspicion Cassio might have of him.

One Down, One to Go

In the midst of the fighting, Othello briefly enters the scene. He appears after hearing Cassio cry out that he is being murdered. He says, 'The voice of Cassio: Iago keeps his word.' Othello believes that Iago has murdered Cassio, as he promised he would. This inspires Othello to kill Desdemona and finish killing the adulterous couple. He says, 'Thy bed, lust-stain'd, shall with lust's blood be spotted,' signifying that he is going to kill Desdemona is the bed she has corrupted with lust by her supposed affair with Cassio.

Bianca the prostitute
Bianca the prostitute

''Fruits of Whoring''

As the results of the fight are being sorted out, Bianca, the prostitute whom Cassio has been having a romantic relationship with, comes out of the whorehouse to find out what happened. She is distraught that Cassio has been hurt. Iago asks Cassio if he knows who wounded him, and Cassio says he does not, nor did he know Roderigo. Cassio is taken away for medical attention.

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