Infidelity in Othello

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Infidelity in Othello

Two important scenes in Othello are the "Temptation scene" (3.3) and the "Willow scene" (4.3). Although the topic of discussion in both scenes is infidelity, the two scenes contrast more than they compare.

First, the setting is different in the two scenes. Most of the Temptation scene takes place outdoors, in a garden. The atmosphere is open but the conversation stifling. In this scene, Iago tricks Othello into believing Desdemona is cheating on him with Michael Cassio.

In the Temptation scene, Iago conjures up images of infidelity in the mind of Othello. Upon seeing Cassio leave the side of Desdemona, Iago looks on the scene with disdain. Unsuspecting Othello asks Iago what is wrong. Iago speaks of Cassio's leaving as "steal[ing] away so guilty-like, /Seeing you coming" (3.3.43-44). In this way, Iago plants his first seed of discord. Next, Desdemona beseeches Othello to reinstate Cassio. Angry at her persistence, he asks for some time alone. In this time alone, he scolds himself for his frustration. Yet Iago invades this time so he may sow more seeds of jealousy. Othello knows Iago to be honest, so when Iago seems disturbed at the relationship between Cassio and Desdemona, Othello becomes alert. Moreover, Iago continues by reminding Othello of Desdemona's deception of her father (3.3.233-235). At this point Othello begins to doubt the fidelity of his wife. Iago notes Othello's change saying, "I see this hath a little dashed your spirits" (3.3.244). He says, "I do not think but Desdemona's honest"(3.3.258). But two lines later he professes, "And yet, nature erring from itself--" (3.3.260). Then Othello begins a soliloquy expressing, "This fellow's [Iago] of exceeding honesty" (...

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...ons. The main topic of discussion is the same in both scenes. Yet the characters approach the question in different ways. Furthermore, each scene has a "masculine" character and a "feminine" character. Finally, the differences in passivity and aggressiveness vary from character to character.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bevington, David, ed. William Shakespeare: Four Tragedies. New York: Bantam Books, 1980.

Ferguson, Francis. "Two Worldviews Echo Each Other." Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice

Pitt, Angela. "Women in Shakespeare's Tragedies." Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Reprint from Shakespeare's Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Shakespeare, William. Othello. In The Electric Shakespeare. Princeton University. 1996. No line nos.
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