The Climax & Ending of Othello

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
At the end of William Shakespeare's tragic play, Othello, things are looking bleak for the titular character. He has just found out his wife Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio, and he is furious. But is she really cheating on him?

The Buildup

Few stories really capture the dangers of jealously like Shakespeare's Othello. The protagonist, Othello, starts the play in love with his wife Desdemona. However, the jealousy of Iago, one of Othello's officers who proves himself to be ultimately unable to handle the fact that Othello has chosen to put his faith in another officer, Cassio. Throughout the play, Iago seeks to stoke his own jealousy by causing Othello to grow suspicious of the relationship of his wife and Cassio. Ultimately, that mistrust leads to plenty of deaths to go around.

Delacroix
Death of Desdemona

Trusting Iago

Of course, Iago has more than just hatred for Cassio to base his jealousy off of. He has conspired with Rodrigo, who had wanted to marry Desdemona. Rodrigo, meanwhile, fans the flame of distrust that Iago already has for Othello when it comes to Iago's own wife.

Okay, wait a second. Is all of this starting to sound a little middle schoolish? Rodrigo is effectively telling Iago that he can't be friends with both him and Othello, while the fact that Othello picked someone else first for kickball has really upset Iago. Add in the fact that Iago's crush thinks that Othello is cute and you've got a whole boatload of middle school drama going on in Venice.

Iago, meanwhile, sees that the best way to drive Othello mad is to accuse Othello's two perceived greatest loves, Desdemona and Cassio, of having an inappropriate relationship.

Killing Desdemona

Finally, Othello gives in to this thought from Iago. Iago plants a handkerchief that has great meaning between Desdemona and Othello in Cassio's belongings, which then leads Othello to believe that the rumor about Desdemona and Cassio is true. Iago is then asked by Othello to kill Cassio, which he fails, while Othello proceeds to be a massive jerk to Desdemona. Finally, that night Othello smothers Desdemona as she sleeps.

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