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Act Iv Of Othello: Foreshadowing Tragedy

1245 words - 5 pages

In Act 4, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Othello, imagery and other stylistic devices are used in lines 48-74 to develop the lack of communication between Othello and Desdemona. This passage foreshadows tragedy, as it illustrates that Othello no longer trusts his wife. It is apparent that Iago's plan will be a success.


Othello begins hyperbolically: "Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell." This also contains two antithetical terms: heaven and hell. Shakespeare uses adjectives to illustrate this-- heaven is true and hell is false. This is a response to the previous line, spoken by Desdemona: "Heaven doth truly know it [that she is honest]."


Desdemona then naively says, "With whom?" She also asks "To whom...?" and "How...?," but Othello probably would have chosen to hear "With whom?" This is because he has no evidence of Desdemona's infidelity other than Iago's testimony, which has begun to manipulate his mind.


After further expressions of Othello's stubbornness and Desdemona's naivete, Othello finally gives a short speech, beginning with a vivid allusion to the Bible. Othello metaphorically compares himself to a man who fell victim to a contest of will between God and the devil. The devil thought that if God made the man to suffer, he would denounce God; but after being plagued by illness and poverty, he still loved God. Vivid imagery is found in this passage:

Had it pleased heaven

To try me with affliction, had they rained

All kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,

Steeped me in poverty to the very lips,

Given to captivity me and my utmost hopes

I should have found in some place of my soul

A drop of patience.


More metaphors and imagery are found in the next passage. Othello

refers to himself as "A fixed figure for the time of scorn / To point his slow unmoving finger at." He is a number on a clock, with a hand that points to him and moves so slowly that it doesn't seem to move at all. Othello says he "could bear that too."


The next passage discusses his feelings for his wife. He says that where he has stored his heart (or love), referring to Desdemona, he must either "live or bear no life." Othello says: "The fountain from which my current runs / Or else dries up..." He compares his love to a fountain. Re-asserting the previous statement, he says the current either flows or dries up. Alternately, he may keep it as a cesspool for "foul toads (Cassio and Desdemona)" to breed in; he feels he is being abused because of this.


He concludes by imploring patience, the "young and rose-lipped cherubin (or angel, referring to Christian mythology)" to "turn thy complexion there." After viewing Desdemona's betrayal, patience will look "grim as hell," turning pale at the sight. Interestingly, the selection (lines 48-74) begins and ends with hell.


The passage makes clear the lack of communication between husband...

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