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Othello, more and more losing his grip on reality, quizzes Emilia about Desdemona's fidelity. She swears on her soul that Desdemona's innocent, but Othello is too crazed to believe her. He sends her after Desdemona, and when the two women return, he treats Emilia like the madam of a brothel, telling her to guard the door while he talks to his wife.

Alone with Desdemona, he treats her like a whore and tries to get her to confess her adultery. No matter how much she pleads her innocence, he throws insults and accusations in her face. He could stand anything, he tells her-sickness, ridicule-but not the loss of her love. Paying no attention to her cries and protests, he leaves her, offering Emilia payment for her services as a "madam."

Desdemona is shocked by Othello's behavior. Beyond tears, she can barely think. She asks that Emilia put her wedding sheets on the bed, perhaps hoping to regain some of the love and the innocence she remembers from that time. She then sends for Iago.

Iago feigns astonishment at what Desdemona and Emilia tell him. Emilia has a theory about Othello's behavior:

I will be hanged if some eternal villain, Some busy and insinuating rogue, Some cogging, cozening slave, to get some office, Have not devised this slander. I'll be hanged else. Act IV, Scene ii, lines 153-56

She's the first to suspect that someone's been spreading lies about Desdemona-perhaps the same person who spread the rumor about her and Othello. When she says that it might be someone trying "to get some office,"- that is, to get a desirable job-she is hitting closer to home than she knows. Iago is uncomfortable by Emilia's suspicions and orders her to be quiet. He promises Desdemona that all will be well, and the women leave.

Roderigo enters, furious that he's been tricked. He's spent all of his money, and even given Iago gold and jewels to give Desdemona-and with no results! Roderigo threatens to go to Desdemona to get back his jewels. Of course she's never seen them. If Desdemona doesn't return the jewels, he'll see to it that Iago pays.

Iago is again able to talk Roderigo out of his plan. Othello's been asked to return to Venice, and he and Desdemona will leave the following day. If Roderigo can kill Cassio tonight, Iago promises, Othello will have to stay until a replacement for Cassio can be found. With Cassio dead, Desdemona will need a new lover-and turn to Roderigo. Iago knows that Cassio will have dinner with Bianca that evening; he can be attacked on his way home, and Iago will be there to help. Roderigo is not fully convinced, but Iago promises that everything will go without a hitch.

For the first time, we see the net begin to close in on Iago. Emilia is suspicious that someone is behind Othello's hideous behavior. Although she has no reason to suspect her husband, she might soon put some of the pieces together.

Also, Roderigo, who up until now has been a puppet in Iago's iron hand, begins to show signs of strength and rebelliousness. Iago has to appease him as well as to handle the other complications his villainy has brought about. If either Emilia or Roderigo guess Iago's motives before he can see his plan completed, he's doomed.

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