This scene is well structured, showing the gradual decline of Othello’s character. The scene can be split into six different sections. It is opened with a discussion between Cassio and Desdemona. Having been deceived by Iago into disgracing himself before Othello, Cassio has come to plead with the “virtuous” lady to beg her husband for his reinstatement. Desdemona tells Cassio that she would “rather die” than break her promise to do so. This shows the genuine nature of her character. In seeing Othello appearing, he slopes guiltily away. Though his leaving was purely due to embarrassment over his actions, Iago sees this as a way of creating false evidence that he and Desdemona have been having a sexual affair. Cassio is, after all, known to be a local “Florentine”. The next section shows Desdemona trying to defend Cassio, much to Othello’s discretion. Her continual asking of questions is childlike and suggests breathlessness eagerness, which is disconcerting to Othello. Though this is purely through the goodness of her heart, she too has fallen into her place in Iago’s web of deception. When Othello tells her “I will deny thee nothing” this shows that he loves her too much to say no. However, when he claims “I do love thee…chaos is come again”, and this not only implys that he has already begun to doubt her, but suggests a madness forming in his mind.
Iago then begins making his implications, suggesting that something is wrong, and drives Othello into placing all his trust in him, claiming “I am bound to thee forever.” After this climax, Othello gives a powerful soliloquy in which he insists his trust in the “exceeding honesty of Iago” and says that he needs proof in order to put his mind at ease. This is an example of dramatic irony, as Iago is the one who should not be trusted. When Othello talks of his inferiority complexes, this shows his despair and the disintegration of his character. This is also the moment where Desdemona drops the fateful handkerchief, a symbol of their love, which ends up in Iago’s hands. In the final part of the scene, Othello has succumbed to Iago’s manipulation and is distraught with emotion, exclaiming “O monstrous, monstrous!” Iago, worried that Othello may relent tells him of seeing Cassio with the handkerchief, and this concludes to be the final piece of evidence needed to send Othello into a spiralling trance of jealousy.
Throughout the scene, there are many key moments in Iago’s manipulation of Othello. Iago tantalises Othello, making implications on why Cassio has left, referring to his leaving as “steals away” and in merely exclaiming “Ha! I like not that!” Iago turns the Moors attention to this, and this plants a seed of doubt in his mind. Iago also suggests that perhaps when Cassio was acting as a “messenger” between Othello and Desdemona, they too may have been forming a relationship. When he utters the simple word “indeed”, this is full of innuendo, and every time that he repeats what Othello has said, he implies doubt. Iago is determined to remain outwardly faithful to Othello, claiming that he feels “men should be what they seem”, which is contradictory in the fact that he himself is more dishonest than anyone else. Iago cunningly reminds Othello of Desdemona’s deception to her father, hinting that she is capable of lying. When Iago can see that he has succeeded in increasing Othello’s doubt, he warns him of becoming the “green eyed monster” which is ironic as it is exactly what he intends him to be. There is also mockery in his tone as he refers to Othello as a “cuckold”.
Iago’s deception is effective, as he doesn’t actually allow himself to say a conclusion; his aim is for Othello to make his own based on his open accusations. Iago reverses the conversation, so that he uses rhetorical questioning, and plays the role of an innocent trustworthy friend. He shows fake disbelief in saying “Is’t possible my lord?”. Iago knows for certain that it is not possible, but in showing his concern, he knows that it will force Othello to believe it is true. Iago makes implications that Venetian women are promiscuous, calling Desdemona “virtuous”, and this worries the moor. By the end of their conversation, Othello is in fact begging Iago to tell him the fateful truth, but once again, Iago manipulates the situation, telling him it is “impossible.” This exchange of manipulation only angers Othello through use of reverse psychology.
In this scene, Iago is prevaricating, and the manipulation shown is effective through use of anticipation to create a climax. In opening the scene by Cassio’s plead to Desdemona, it gives the audience an early insight into their innocence. It is then that Iago raises the doubt in Othello’s mind, and then manufactures the proof. His rhetorical asking of questions and his protesting of his innocence make Iago’s gradual reversal of the conversation held with Othello effective. He lays upon his procrastination, and gradually encourages Othello to reveal his weaknesses so that he can exploit them. When the unbeknown false truth dawns upon Othello, he exclaims “O misery” and this marks his dreaded realisation. There is a moment of glee in Iago when he realises that Othello is at his lowest. He declares “I am your own forever” and the men kneel together. This quote is effective because it is short and so therefore exposed. Because it is not an iambic pentameter, it has broken the rhythm of the speech, and this creates a bathetic climax. The men make a vow that Iago shall murder Cassio and Othello shall kill Desdemona. The change which evolves in Othello is not only shown by Iago’s persuasion, but by his change in attitude each time that Desdemona enters the scene, as she shows through contrast the decline in his mindset. His reference to her as the “fair devil” is an oxymoron, and suggests a religious belief. The fact that Iago is not refining anything clearly and making short, effective innuendos such as ‘I dare to be sworn’ and ‘I think’ imply doubt and work Othello into a jealous wreck over the duration of the scene, creating a great climax as he becomes an entirely different man altogether.
This scene is important to the rest of play because there is a significant difference caused between Othello before and after it. It shows the change in the character of Othello from happy to tormented by what he believes Desdemona has done. In this scene, Othello’s tragic flaws are played upon so that they engulf his personality and take over his actions. Othello has no inclination of subtlety, and so because he expects other people to act as he does, he has no reason to believe that Iago would deceive him. This scene shows how the words of one man can turn pure love into passionate hatred. Because of the manipulation, Othello resorts to suffocating the woman he has dedicated his life to. He finds it hard to do because he loves her so, but after being driven into a frenzy of emotional jealousy, he is so passionately tormented that he can’t stop himself and he won’t relent; he kills Desdemona, claiming that love “is the cause”.
Act three; Scene 3 of ‘Othello’ shows the deterioration of a once noble man to a jealous “monster” consumed by irrational jealousy. It is the breakdown of this man portrayed in this scene that leads to the demise of Desdemona. Iago’s methods of manipulation, and his manufacturing of proof are revealed throughout. Weakness and vulnerability are conveyed by Othello, Desdemona and Cassio in this scene as they are all subjected to Iago’s conspiracy. We see Iago expose Othello’s vulnerabilities and then take full advantage of them. Because of Othello’s irrational state, the theme of emotion versus action is exposed, because he allows himself to become overcome by envy so much so that he would murder his wife. Indeed he had “loved wisely, but not well”, because he had not the sense to ask her to justify the accusations, and loved her so much that the grief was too much for him to bear. The tragedy of this scene is that not only is Othello led astray by Iago, but also he is a threat upon himself. In placing all faith in Iago, he has no faith left in him to make the right decision. He allows his personal doubts to overcome his belief in his love, and he falls for the false security Iago lures him with. The scene is made effective through Iago’s cunning manipulative language and the procrastination he uses. It is because of this that it marks the change of a seemingly powerful man, and makes it a significantly dramatic turning point.
Here's what a star student thought of this essay
Quality of writing
This essay is clearly structured, with a strong introduction and conclusion. Each paragraph is well signposted, making it clear what it adds to the argument. I was slightly disappointed to see the use of the first person in the introduction - phrases such as "I shall" are really unnecessary and show a lack of sophistication. However, this is only included in the introduction and in no way detracts from the excellent essay that follows.
Level of analysis
The analysis in the essay is strong. I would like to note the strength in embedding quotes - this essay includes quotes frequently, yet these do not hinder the flow of the argument. If you are looking for examples of embedding quotes, this essay is full of them. The frequent use of quotes means that there is analysis throughout the essay, and it rarely just retells the story because of this. I particularly liked the paragraph discussing how the scene was structured, but there could be improvements here. It is key to remember that Shakespeare is constructing the play, yet it is not mentioned once in this essay. Showing awareness that this is the case allows you to address why he may have chosen to have Iago manipulate Othello, for example, then allowing an exploration of audience response. This essay superbly addresses the audience response throughout, acknowledging the dramatic effect a play should bring, but they could strengthen their analysis by mentioning Shakespeare's role a bit more. Language, imagery are analysed throughout and technical terms are used strongly. The analysis in this essay should be admired!
Response to question
This essay picks a suitable scene when discussing significance, superbly analysing its components to describe its dramatic effect. I was pleased to see a number of paragraphs which ably support the argument that Act Three, Scene Three is significant to the play. It was great to see that this essay acknowledges that Othello is a play, looking at audience responses throughout.