The Significance of Act 5, Scene 1 in ‘Othello’

The first scene of Othello’s fifth act, unlike those before it, is dominated by physical violence, with Iago at the centre playing the “puppet master”. This scene reminds the audience of the capabilities Iago possesses in controlling the more malleable characters, namely Roderigo. Shakespeare also builds on the theme of proof with regard to his protagonist, who, satisfied with his “ocular proof”, is confronted now with aural proof – Cassio’s screams, which ‘allow’ him to attempt to end Desdemona’s life. It is widely perceived that the beginning of this act shows Shakespeare departing from the intellectual schemes and techniques common to pre-Renaissance theatre; he turns here toward more medieval ‘action-scenes,’ intentional regression that draws the audience gradually toward the climax. This scene is one of rapid transition: no longer are Iago’s words just empty threats, they are now coming swiftly to fruition.

In the first dialogue between Iago and Roderigo, the audience sees a return to the early, perhaps more ‘innocent’, stages of the play. There, we now realize Shakespeare’s ‘villain’ planted the seeds for this moment in Roderigo’s “love-stricken” mind. The conversation now has a more sinister connotation; take, for...

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