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Thursday, March 6, 2014

“Commend me to my kind lord”, Othello!!!

One night,  Roderigo, a rich man, blames Iago, an ensign of Othello, in a street in Venice, for not performing his leg of contract: helping him in his suit to Desdemona, for he comes to know that Desdemona has just married Othello, the Moor. But Iago, saying that he hates Othello for he has ignored his claim for promotion as lieutenant and instead elevated an inexperienced Cassio, pleads that he is still working on the plot.

Hiding in dark, Iago and Roderigo then shout to Brabantio, father of Desdemona, that his daughter is stolen by and married to Othello. Hearing which, Brabantio searches for his daughter, and finding that she is indeed missing, he, with a couple of officers, goes out to find Othello. To hide his hatred from being noticed by Othello, Iago, in the meanwhile leaving Roderigo behind, rushes to Othello well before Brabantio.

At Othello’s lodgings, Cassio arrives with an urgent message that the Duke has summoned him in connection with the imminent Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Following it, Brabantio reaches him and accuses that he has married his daughter by witchcraft. But knowing that Othello is on his way to the Duke, Brabantio decides to go along and present his allegation before the senate thus: “She is abused, stolen from me, and corrupted / By spells and medicines bought of Mountebanks.”

Hearing Brabantio’s accusation, the senate, being sympathetic of his contributions in wars, grants Othello a chance to speak for himself. He then explains that he won Desdemona’s heart not by witchcraft — “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, / And I loved her that she did pity them. / This only is the witchcraft I have used”— but by narrating his adventures of war and travel. He even requests the senate to get the fact verified by summoning Desdemona. Later, she arrives at the senate and confirms her marriage with Othello and announces her allegiance to him. Frustrated at the developments, Brabantio gives up and allows the senate resume meeting. The Duke then directs Othello to go to Cyprus to defend it from the Turks. As sought by her, Desdemona is permitted to accompany her husband. Arrangements are then made for their departure that very night. 

Good news awaits them in Cyprus: a storm at sea wrecks the Turkish fleet. But the ship carrying Cassio arrives safely followed by the one carrying Iago, Desdemona, Roderigo and Emilia, the wife of Iago. At the arrival of Desdemona in Cyprus, Cassio greets her by clasping her hand. Watching this, Iago, who is waiting along with others to receive Othello, draws a scheme to use it to ensnare Cassio. 

Arriving in Cyprus, Othello announces a party that night to celebrate the safety of Cyprus from Turks. Once everyone leaves, Roderigo complains to Iago that there is no way to break Othello’s marriage. But Iago, assuring Roderigo that it will not last long, guides him to cast Cassio into disgrace by picking a quarrel with him at the evening party. Thus the die is cast to first eliminate Cassio in his master plan for ruining Othello.

Iago gets Cassio drunk in the party and then sends Roderigo to pick a quarrel with him. Apparently, provoked by Roderigo, Cassio stabs him. Iago then sends Roderigo to raise alarm in the town. Hearing the alarm, Othello arrives at the scene. On his enquiring, Iago first pretends as though he is reluctant to implicate his friend, Cassio, but ultimately tells Othello the whole story. Othello then strips Cassio of his rank of lieutenant. Cassio expresses his grief to Iago. After everyone departs, Iago, with an ulterior motive of framing Cassio and Desdemona as lovers, assures Cassio that he can get back into Othello’s good books through Desdemona. 

As suggested by Iago, Cassio meets Desdemona privately and pleads with her to help him. Being sympathetic of his request, she promises to make Othello forgive him. As Cassio is about to leave, Othello and Iago return home. In his discomfiture, Cassio departs without talking to Othello. Then Othello enquires if it is Cassio who parted from his wife. Iago makes best use of the enquiry to kindle jealousy in his mind by whispering, he cannot think for sure if Cassio “would steal away so guilty-like” seeing him coming.

Othello becomes upset at it. Looking at his mood, Iago suggests that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. She later requests Othello for reinstating Cassio as lieutenant which at once makes Othello confirm his doubt about her fidelity. This upsets him terribly. Coming to invite Othello for supper and noticing him unwell, she gives him her handkerchief to wrap around his neck. However, finding it too small, Othello drops it on the floor and exits for supper. Emilia picks it up and passes it on to her husband as asked for earlier. 

Iago then plants it in Cassio’s room to use it as evidence of his affair with Desdemona. When Othello asks for proof of his wife being unfaithful to him, Iago says that he has seen Cassio wipe his beard with Desdemona’s handkerchief at his house. Hearing it, Othello asks Desdemona for the kerchief that he has gifted her. She replies that she does not have it with her. Unwittingly, she, attempting to change the topic, reminds him of Cassio’s cause. Obviously, this drives his rage further.

Influenced by Iago’s machinations, Othello gets deeply consumed by jealousy. In the meanwhile, Othello is ordered to return home with instructions to Cassio to take over his place. This disturbs Othello further. That night he accuses Desdemona as a whore. He, brushing aside her protestations as also Emilia’s pleadings about Desdemona’s innocence, storms out. Iago, true to his evil nature, pretends to smoothen Desdemona’s hurt feelings by saying that Othello is upset with matters of state and things will return to normal soon.

Poisoned thus by Iago, Othello, finally, did what a hero guided by imperfect observation and self-fulfilling analysis does: one night he kills Desdemona. She, proclaiming “A guiltless death I die,” joins the silence. Later, on coming to know of the truth about the handkerchief from Emilia, and Iago’s villainy, Othello, “to die upon a kiss”, kills himself.


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