Summary and Significance of Act V, Scene II in William Shakespeare's "Othello"


G. Stolyarov II

See Mr. Stolyarov's Index of Selected Writings, Originally Published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices.
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2001 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it received over 4,300 page views. To preserve a record of my writings following the shutdown of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, I have given this article a permanent presence on this page.

~ G. Stolyarov II, July 28, 2014

In Act V, Scene II of Shakespeare's Othello, the Moorish general's life and fortune are finally unraveled by the malicious Iago. The general stumbles into his bedchamber to find Desdemona sleeping and reiterates his perceived necessity in killing her.

Desdemona is awakened by Othello's presence of her husband and is battered with charges of gross adultery that she was innocent of and knew nothing about. She fruitlessly defends her integrity and claims that her loyalty has always been to Othello and that she was never attracted to Cassio. Alas, the Moor, immersed in his Iago-inspired rage, believes the crafty lie of the handkerchief evidence, Othello's only real warrant for suspecting Desdemona's treachery.

The general suffocates his wife, bringing her to the brink of death. Emilia enters the room and accuses Othello of an unwarranted murder following her encounter with some of Desdemona's final exclamations prior to her sinking into non-existence. She does not condemn her husband even during her last moments. Emilia informs the Moor of Roderigo's demise at the hands of Cassio, which leads Othello to enter a state of desperation, since his scheme to rid the world of his former lieutenant has failed miserably. Othello feels that vengeance had not been proper.

In the meantime, Emilia presses her accusations and retrieves from Othello the knowledge that Iago had been the informant on the subject of Desdemona's "misdemeanors". When Iago, Gratiano, and Montano enter the bedchamber, Emilia decries the stories that Iago had told the Moor and refers to her husband as a murderer. Gratiano brings news of Brabantio's death as soon as he discovers that Desdemona shared the same fate.

In his outrage, Othello attempts to drive his sword through Iago, but is detained by Montano and Gratiano. Emilia reveals her involvement in the scheme of obtaining Othello's handkerchief and, for that, is slaughtered by Iago. The Moor, in retaliation, assails Iago once more and wounds him, realizing the treachery the latter has played and the tragedy it resulted in. Lodovico and Cassio enter, announcing the arrest of Othello for the crimes that he committed in ordaining the murder of Cassio. However, refusing to be imprisoned, Othello commits suicide while Iago is ordered by Lodovico to be taken to the torture chambers.

This scene is the last of the play, the catastrophic resolution, the grand finale of Iago's scheme: a plot that undermines itself through the testimonies of Emilia and Cassio, whose consciences and strengths have impelled them to disclose Iago's intrigues.

Unfortunately, this turning of the tides is too late for Othello, Desdemona, and even Emilia, whose deaths were brought about by Iago's hatred, jealousy, and unwarranted credulity toward a rumor. Although Iago was destroyed by the very plot he had unleashed, evil did triumph in the end, for the treachery of Iago's scheme had managed to stain Othello's reputation, slay his wife, and exploit the general's naïveté to rob him of life. Iago had succeeded in his evil intentions. But he, too, could not keep from drowning as the tides of darkness engulfed all. Through this Shakespeare relates to us his view of evil, that of a force that devastates its target yet perishes itself as a side effect of this success.

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. 

In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage RightRebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas, Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology,  a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.