Othello Passage


Act V, Scene ii., lines 122-134

Emilia. O, who hath done this deed?
Desdemona. Nobody--I myself. Farewell. Commend me to my kind lord. O, farewell!
[She dies.]
Othello. Why, how should she be murd'red?
Emilia. Alas, who knows?
Othello. You heard her say herself, it was not I.
Emilia. She said so. I must needs report the truth.
Othello. She's like a liar gone to burning hell! 'Twas I that killed her.
Emilia. O, the more angel she,
And you the blacker devil!
Othello. She turned to folly, and she was a whore.
Emila. Thou dost belie her, and thou art a devil.
Othello. She was as false as water.
Emilia. Thou art rash as fire to say
That she was false. O, she was heavenly true!

Othello's grief and his deep love for Desdemona led to a series of actions and dialogue located at the climax of the story. The chosen passage came near the end of this work--just after Othello smothered Desdemona with her pillow. Shakespeare, simply and probably tritely put, was a genius. His artful mastery of meter, diction, imagery, and tone is matchless and captivates interest and thought like no other.

Meter in a literary work, just like all other components, can be a key factor in affecting the reader's thoughts and mood. Of course, this being Shakespeare, meter was utilized with a definite purpose. Because this portion of the play is dramatic and suspenseful, an erratic, loose structure is appropriate. The author "changed things up" and "kept the reader guessing" with regard to the structure and meter--thus causing even more suspense than what the plot had already provided.

In this group of dialogue, Othello loses his usual poetic eloquence. His mental and emotional composure were compromised, thus impairing his diction. This temporary breach in character displayed his internal conflict and how it was affecting him as a person--for Othello's dignified speech, just as the way anyone speaks, was a part of him as a person.

Displayed in many other works, contrasting imagery, or perhaps simply contrast in general, is present in my excerpt from Othello. For example, Emilia calls Desdemona an angel, while designating Othello a devil. Also, Othello says Desdemona was "as false as water" while, in the subsequent line Emilia accuses Othello as being "as rash as fire." By including these contrasts, Shakespeare heightened the intensity of the moment as well as expressed the mood and thoughts of the characters.

There are many words that can describe the tone at this point in the play: chaotic, confused, angry, impulsive. Emilia's thought process is not so much shared by the reader as empathized by the reader--though we know what's going on, we can identify with her anger and confusion. Somehow, I was forced to feel Emilia's emotions when I read this--this was the tone I experienced from this bit of dialogue(consider yourself being Emilia, shrieking this): "Desdemona is dead! Who killed her?! You killed her?! You are so horrible!! She was so kind and innocent!" So much emotion is wrapped up in these lines--I think many people focus on just Othello's anguish and passion at this anguish and passion at this point in the story, but Emilia is going through so much so suddenly. Othello's emotions had been building and building, but Emilia's hit her like a wrecking ball--I personally think that if she had not been killed by Iago, she would have killed Othello, then herself. In conlusion, the tone was very powerfully manifested in the reader/watcher--a tone portrayed in a double-portion that heightened the climax that much more.

Due to Shakespeare's extreme talent, the reader of the play finds himself experiencing it, perhaps, at a greater level than a watcher watching it unfold on a stage. By reading the excerpt and the paragraphs following it, one finds that the emotion in Othello is created and enhanced by Shakespeare's skillful use of meter, diction, imagery, and tone.

"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal; Pensees, translated by A.J. Krailsheimer