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Free Study Guide-Othello by William Shakespeare-Free Online Booknotes
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Act V, Scene 1

Summary

Cassio has gone to dinner at Bianca’s house. Iago and Roderigo plan to murder him as he leaves for home. They conceal themselves behind a wall, and as Cassio passes, Roderigo stabs at him, but Roderigo is the one that is really wounded. Iago then comes from his hiding place and stabs Cassio. He falls down, but he is only wounded in the leg, even though Iago thinks he is dead. Iago hurries away so that nobody will know about his involvement. Cassio cries out that he is stabbed and dying. His wails attract Othello, who thinks that Iago has kept his promise and has murdered Cassio. He is now most determined to murder Desdemona.

Awakened by the noise, the two messengers from Venice come to the scene. Iago also returns, holding a lantern and wearing a nightdress, as if he has just awakened from sleep; he is horrified to learn that both Cassio and Roderigo are still alive. Iago pretends to offer comfort to Cassio and secretly stabs Roderigo. He then arranges for the wounds of Cassio to be bandaged and has him carried away out of the night air.

At this point, Bianca arrives on the scene. Iago holds her responsible for the attack on Cassio and has her arrested on suspicion. He then sends Emilia to inform Othello and Desdemona of what has happened. The scene ends with his muttering senseless words.

Notes

This scene is filled with action. It begins with Iago giving Roderigo the plans for the murder of Cassio. Roderigo, never pictured as a strong character, is not sure about the murder, but Iago reassures him that it must be done. Then in an aside, Iago thinks that it would be great if both Cassio and Roderigo die in the fight. He resolves to finish off either survivor. When Cassio enters, Roderigo draws his sword and attacks, but it is Roderigo who is wounded. Iago comes out of hiding and stabs Cassio, but it is only a leg wound. Iago, thinking Cassio is murdered, quickly flees the scene.


Othello hears the cries of "murder" shouted by Cassio and comes on the scene. Thinking that the man is all but dead, he hurries home to kill Desdemona. Lodovico and Gratiano also hear Cassio’s cries and enter the scene after Othello has departed. Iago, now dressed in a nightshirt soon joins them. The villain is shocked to realize that both Cassio and Roderigo are still alive. For the first time in the play, his plans have not been carried out successfully. As the Venetian messengers tend to Cassio, Iago secretly and fatally stabs Roderigo. He then begins to help with Cassio and has him carried away, pretending great concern.

Bianca enters and begins to sob. The evil Iago immediately casts suspicion on her since Cassio has dined at her house. As always, the villain is in control and handles the situation to his advantage. When his wife enters, he pretends to be filled with sorrow over the death of Roderigo and the wounds of Cassio. She, like everyone else in the play, still believes her husband is honest and has no idea that he is the murderer.

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