Othello Act 3 notes

Othello Act 3 Notes
Othello 3.1
The scene opens with the clown and musicians (3.1.1-3.1.22). The clown,
using a variety of puns, is meant to provide comic relief from the tense and
upsetting events that have occurred thus far in the play.
Iago’s pan begins to work as Cassio asks Emilia to set up a meeting between
himself and Desdemona (3.1.33-36). She agrees to do this so that Cassio and
Desdemona can speak in private (3.1.54-55).
Dramatic Irony – Iago offers to “help” as well by making an excuse to draw
Othello away so that Desdemona and Cassio can speak in private (3.1.36-39).
However, the audience knows this is part of Iago’s plan to make it seem as
though Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.
Iago still has some work he has to do, however, as Emilia admits that Othello
still cares for Cassio and is only not reinstating because the man he fought,
Montano, is well liked in Cyprus and from a powerful family (3.1.44-50)
Othello 3.2
This scene is an example of dramatic irony both through the words of
characters and the setting.
Othello shows he trusts Iago by having him send important news to the senate.
Othello also asks Iago to meet him and help him examine the fortifications.
Fortifications are meant to prevent enemies from entering; however, what Othello
does realize is that the enemy is already within.
Othello 3.3
Cassio is worried that Othello will forget about how loyal and devoted a friend
he is the more time he and Othello spend apart (3.3.14-18).
Through the use of imagery Desdemona perfectly plays into Othello’s plan.
She explains to Cassio that at every opportunity, whether Othello is eating,
sleeping, etc., she will talk to him about forgiving Cassio (3.3.22-6)
What is ironic about this conversation is that the two people most loyal to
Othello, Cassio and Desdemona, are simply discussing what they think is best
for Othello; however, this act of loyalty will be used against them.
Iago plants the first seed of doubt and betrayal in Othello’s mind when they
observe Cassio quickly leaving as they approach Desdemona (3.3.38-40).
Foreshadowing and allusion – Othello comments that if he ever falls out of
love with Desdemona Chaos will take over suggesting that he will no longer be
ruled by logic (3..390-92).
Iago plants another seed of doubt when he questions Cassio’s trustworthiness
(which he has tarnished through the fight the previous night) when he brought
messages to Desdemona while he was wooing her on Othello’s behalf (3.3.94103).
Othello 3.3
Iago further creates suspicion in Othello’s mind by hesitating in his replies
regarding whether or not Cassio can be trusted.
Dramatic Irony & Foreshadowing:
Men should be what they seem,/Or those that be not, would they might seem none!”
(Iago, 3.3.126-127)
Iago introduces the theme of jealousy by playing on the theme of reputation. He
suggests that reputation is the most important part of a person “…the immediate
jewel of their souls” (3.3.156). However, he plans to tarnish the reputations of
the two people most loyal to Othello in order to create jealousy. Thus reputation
is actually only what Iago explained it to Cassio to be: “Reputations is an idle and
most false/imposition;… (2.3.268-269).
Imagery – “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on…
But, O what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet [strongly] loves! (3.3.165-167, 169-170)
Othello 3.3
Othello reveals that he is a logical man not easily overcome by emotion. He
admits to Iago that he knows his wife is beautiful and admired by many but this
does not make him jealous. The only way he believe she is unfaithful is if he is
provided with proof (3.3.184-192).
Iago reveals his first “proofs” to Othello that Desdemona cannot be trusted
when he points to how she deceived her father by marrying Othello and that
she initially seemed scared of Othello but was actually falling in love with him
Iago tells Othello that if he wants further proof of Desdemona and Cassio
possibly having an affair to wait awhile and observe their interactions. See if
they meet and if Desdemona talks of Cassio often (3.3244-255). Iago knows
this will happen, as he has set up these circumstances, but Othello does not.
What literary device is this an example of?
Othello 3.3
Symbol – Desdemona’s handkerchief is a symbol of her and Othello’s love. It was a prize
possession of Othello’s and the first gift he gave to Desdemona. Desdemona displays her love
and loyalty to Othello by constantly having the handkerchief with her, kissing it and speaking
to it (3.3.290-296).
Divided duty – Iago has often asked Emilia for Desdemona’s handkerchief. Why do you think
her has made this request? Emilia is loyal to Desdemona, thus she does not want to steal it;
however, she is also loyal to Iago as he is her husband. As a result she finds a way to make
them both happy by having the handkerchief copied (3.3.296-297).
It is ironic that Othello causes the handkerchief to be lost and provides the opportunity for it
to be copied. It can be suggested that because of this act Othello is bringing about his own
demise (3.3.287-288).
Emilia gives Iago the handkerchief and looks for some sign of appreciation or tenderness from
her husband but only receives mocking and is turned away. Iago’s interactions with another
innocent victim further develops his malicious and heartless character (3.3.300-320).
Iago plans to place the handkerchief in Cassio’s lodgings for him to find. Iago believes once
Othello sees Cassio with it this will be the final proof he needs to believe in the affair
(3.3.321-329). Once again Iago is not directly involved in the actions that will bring about
others’ downfall.
Othello 3.3
Othello admits that Iago’s “poison” has worked as he cannot get the thought of
Desdemona being unfaithful out of his mind; however, he still asks Iago for proof before
he fully believes she has betrayed him (3.3.345-359). At this point Othello is facing his
greatest internal struggle – between his logical side and his emotional side. Dramatic
irony is once again used as Othello turns to the person who is actually betraying him,
Iago, for proof of the person who is actually loyal to him, Desdemona, being unfaithful.
Imagery – it is significant that Othello refers to battlefield imagery to describe the
conflict that is going on inside him (3.3.350-354). He clearly is torn between believing
in his wife’s loyalty or untrustworthiness as well as the amount of truth behind Iago’s
This part of the scene also shows that Othello is a logical man as he is on to Iago, he
questions the truth behind what Iago is saying. If Othello was not blinded by his
emotions (jealousy) he may have been able to see Iago for what he was at this point as
Othello has proven that he can understand and is insightful regarding his enemies as
this is why he has been appointed general. Ultimately it is almost as though finding
love with Desdemona has weakened Othello.
Othello 3.3
Iago’s “proof”:
Hears Cassio say “Sweet Desdemona,/Let us be wary, let us hid our loves;”
“Curse fate that gave thee to the Moor!” (3.3.426)
Cassio put his leg over Iago, sighed and kissed him as though he were Desdemona
He saw Cassio with Desdemona’s handkerchief (3.3.437-439)
Hubris – Othello finally accepts all of Iago’s “proofs” and vows to get revenge
on Desdemona and Cassio (3.3.442-450). Dark imagery (black vengeance;
hollow hell) and animal imagery (aspics’ tongues) are used to demonstrate
the depth of Othello’s anger (3.3.447, 450). Additionally, just like in battle,
Othello vows he will not stop until Cassio and Desdemona receive the
punishment he feels is fit (3.3.456-462)
Othello 3.3
Iago will kill Cassio, Othello plans to kill Desdemona and Othello has promoted
Iago to his lieutenant for his “loyalty” (3.3.473-479)
How do you feel about Iago at the end of this scene?
How do you feel about Othello at the end of this scene?
Othello 3.4
Comic relief/pun – The exchange between the clown and Desdemona, focusing on the question
regarding where Cassio lies is meant to provide a laugh for the audience, and reprieve from the
intensity of the previous scene, as it plays on the notion of the affair (3.4.1-22).
Irony – Desdemona asks Emilia if she has seen her handkerchief. Emilia denies knowledge of its
whereabouts. Desdemona is upset about it missing but is not distraught because she claims
Othello is not jealous and trusts her completely (3.4.23-29). She does not know that this was
the final “proof” to convince her husband otherwise of her character.
Symbol – The importance of the handkerchief is revealed. It once belonged to Othello’s mother
who was given it by an Egyptian. She was told that so long as she had it her husband would
always love her, but if it were lost her husband would look upon her with hatred. This is now
what has become of Othello and Desdemona’s relationship (3.3.55-63).
Irony – This tale behind the handkerchief and its magical powers is ironic as this was the first
token Othello gave to Desdemona. Brabantio accused Othello of using magic to win
Desdemona’s love, but Othello claimed this was not true. Instead, the story behind the
handkerchief suggests the opposite, that it helped Othello fall in love with Desdemona.
Othello 3.4
Theme - Emilia sums up jealousy best when she explains that jealousy feeds upon itself.
Thus, those who are jealous will never be satisfied so long as they are jealous (3.4.158161). It is also ironic that Emilia shows this great insight as her husband, the one who is
actually consumed by jealousy and is causing others to be destroyed by it, treats her as
though she is worthless and has nothing valuable to offer.
Cassio finds the handkerchief in his chambers and asks Bianca to copy it (3.4.180). Why
is this significant? (Think about Bianca’s reaction and Iago’s plan).

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