After Othello’s jealous behavior, Desdemona feels deflated. She spends time with Emilia, who tries to reassure her mistress and discusses what happened. In this Othello Act 4 Scene 3 summary, our writers explored the dialogue between two female characters.
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🎵 Summary of Othello: Act 4 Scene 3
Act 4 Scene 3 starts in quite a small setting. Othello, Lodovico, Desdemona, Emilia, and others enter a room in the castle. Othello orders his wife to leave and wait for him alone in their bedroom. After that, Emilia and Desdemona stay on the stage, trying to understand why he wants to dismiss the servant.
Emilia is suspicious and does not want to leave her lady. However, Desdemona is ready to do that because, as she says, “We must not now displease him.” She also confesses her love for Othello. And yet, she suspects that she might die at the hands of her husband that night. She says:
“If I do die before thee, prithee shroud me in one of those same sheets.”
She tells the story of her mother’s maid Barbary, who fell in love. Barbary sang The Willow Song about her tragic situation. The man she loved was mad, and she died singing it. That same song is on Desdemona’s mind all night.
Recalling their last encounter with Othello, Desdemona compliments Lodovico saying that he is a proper man. Emilia agrees but admires his physical appearance. While for Desdemona, the way he speaks is more important than his looks.
The conversation between the two women is interrupted by Desdemona singing The Willow Song. The audience sees that she is bothered by something when she exclaims, “O, these men, these men!”. Desdemona wonders if women abuse their husbands. The dialogue between two women allows the audience to understand what they think about men, women, and the world around them in general.
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🎭 Active Characters
Othello, Lodovico, Desdemona, Emilia
🔥 Active Themes
🌱 Analysis of Othello: Act 4 Scene 3
Act 4 Scene 3 of Othello is particularly long, but it does not have much action compared to the previous episodes. In this scene, Desdemona prepares to go to sleep and has a private conversation with Emilia. Their dialogue provides a window for the audience to see the inner thoughts and beliefs both women have. It is the only scene in Othello that has only women in it most of the time. Until this moment, the audience heard about the nature of women coming from men, mainly from Iago.
The scene opens with Othello, Desdemona, Lodovico, and others after dinner. Othello takes Lodovico for a walk and orders Desdemona to go to her bed. He also instructs her to dismiss Emilia. This order is unusual, and both women try to find reasons for that when Othello leaves. This uncertainty creates tension and serves as a foreshadowing that something terrible is about to happen.
Emilia remarks how happy she is that Othello manages to control himself. She also states that she wishes Desdemona never met him. Desdemona quickly responds that she loves Othello with all her heart, including all his flaws. The women’s views on the general are different due to many factors. First, Desdemona is blindly in love. Second, she is a noblewoman whose obligations are to be a good wife and defend her husband. That is why she remains loyal to Othello despite his attitude.
This purity of Desdemona also creates a tragic component to the play. Emilia is a middle-class woman, and she is more pragmatic and realistic about men, including her husband and Othello. Emilia also allows herself to comment on Lodovico’s physical appearance, demonstrating her sexuality. At the same time, Desdemona’s comment makes it evident that looks in men are not essential for her.
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The conversation between the two women continues, and Desdemona mentions her mother’s maid and The Willow Song. The story of Barbary, whose lover went mad and left her, echoes the story of Desdemona. She confesses that the song “will not go from my mind.” It demonstrates her inability to have a happy ending. In Desdemona’s monologue, The Willow Song serves as a foreshadowing of her death and sorrow.
Emilia is also older and more experienced than Desdemona. Her honesty with Desdemona is provocative and unusual for the Elizabethan public. Emilia turns the dialogue towards all men in the audience, saying that women, just like men, have feelings and motives.
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