Essay on Act IV of Othello: Foreshadowing Tragedy

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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
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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 and wife. Othello is made to appear stubborn and ignorant, and Desdemona is made to appear naive. It seems as if their marriage will not survive, and Iago will succeed.

- Daniel Gruber

In Act 2, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's play Othello, conflict finally erupts between Desdemona and Othello as he accuses her of dishonesty. This is the first time in the
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