How does Shakespeare convey a sense of impending crisis in Act IV?

Categories: William Shakespeare

Q) How does Shakespeare convey a sense of impending crisis in Act IV? It is typical of Shakespeare's play in those times to have a very intense and impending crisis calling situation in Act IV; it was the climax of the play, where the audience expected maximum villainy and trouble. The three scenes in this Act compact together many dramatic moments and also help unveil Othello's different side, a side where there is jealousy, anger and revenge, therefore helping in creating a sense of crisis.

Scene 1 starts off with Iago and Othello, where again Iago the villainous character is corrupting Othello's mind with false thoughts of Desdemona being unfaithful. The language used to describe her disloyalty by providing sexual imagery of a 'bed' and' naked' just infuriates Othello, and shows how Shakespeare uses language as a very essential device to stir up fury. This anger itself just emphasizes upon the upcoming crisis as a result of this jealousy within Othello.

Apart from using language as a dramatic technique, Shakespeare also uses overhearing and hiding as means to warn the audience and readers that there is danger coming.

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Next Othello has to bear the conversation between Iago and Cassio, which is wrongly interpreted to him with the help of Iago's evil way of talking and choice of words. Even though they are talking about Bianca Iago makes it look as if they are speaking about Desdemona, while Othello thinks that Cassio is betraying him with his wife. 'Alas, poor rogue!

I think, i'faith, she loves me', says Cassio making it look as if he accepts his and Desdemona's false affair, while the audience know that they are speaking about Bianca.

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This dramatic irony just makes Othello even angrier while he starts drawing conclusions by himself about how Cassio seems so happy, and therefore envies him. This conversation hints towards an impending crisis, but it builds up even more when Othello sees Desdemona's handkerchief in Bianca's hand and believes that his wife has been unfaithful.

Therefore the stage directions combine with language and dramatic irony to provide a foreboding sense of crisis. After all this Othello finally decides to kill Cassio and Desdemona, he decides to poison Desdemona but Iago suggest that strangling her in the bed she has 'contaminated' would be appropriate, while Iago concludes to deal with Cassio's murder. This whole plot shows the audience that there will be more suspense and crisis for them to see, while they also notice how ruthless Othello has become just like Iago.

During the Elizabethan times, this lack of faith in Desdemona might have been accepted because the male society was seen as being dominant over females, therefore it only seemed convincing if Othello was easily persuaded by an ironically not so 'honest Iago'. Also this type of revenge might be seen as acceptable because it was the way people dealt with unfaithful wives and men during that time. Therefore according to the social context, women were seen as being inferior to men, and the historical context also shows that a woman's word wasn't as valued. A trumpet sounds within', as part of the stage directions, also helps add to the impending crisis as it hints to some big news or entrance.

Lodovico is seen as a dramatic device and representative of Venetian society, and gives hope to the readers and audience that maybe this murderous plot could be halted. It is shown that Othello is called from Cyprus while Cassio is to be governor in his place, while Desdemona shows her happiness on this. Othello presumes that she is glad because Cassio has received promotion and therefore strikes her on this, and then she leaves the stage.

This definitely shows signs of impending crisis, because of Othello's rage reaching out of boundaries. While Lodovico is left shocked by a 'moor.... Whom passion could not shake? ' Then later Iago assures Lodovico that Othello is worse than what he seemed, thereby making the Venetian society view him as a dark figure and violent. This further worsens Othello's situation and his status, therefore hinting to crisis. Overall this scene is very disturbing making it quite revealing to future crisis, Othello is seen as getting degraded in this scene to the level violence and eavesdropping.

Therefore he no more remains the noble moor he was seen to be. Also Iago helps Othello plan the horrible plot again hinting towards greater danger, while the Venetian society sees Othello as not so great. Scene 2 consists of investigation of Othello, about Desdemona. Othello questions Emilia about Cassio and Desdemona to support the handkerchief. Emilia supports Desdemona and mentions she is loyal and chaste and also warns Othello against jealousy, while she is sent to fetch Desdemona herself.

The idea of Othello and his wife being alone in the room shows an impending crisis incase he might use violence or strike her again, he tries to get her to admit the false claims but she doesn't. Othello gets so confused and frustrated that he cries while Desdemona presumes he is crying for her dead father. Othello describes his emotions using descriptive imagery and creating drama, while also mentioning how his wife could be so 'fair' but also a 'weed'. This leaves Desdemona very sad, while also creating tension in the play knowing that Othello left the room with a disgusted heart further reminding of the murderous plot.

Emilia tries to comfort Desdemona because of her sadness of being called a 'whore'. Iago tries to act as if he is comforting her, while later after her departure Roderigo arrives wanting to return home because Iago gave him false hopes, but again Roderigo is convinced he will get Desdemona as Othello will leave for Mauritania. This scene also compiles misunderstandings and reminding of plots and crisis, while it is ironic that Desdemona seeks comfort form Iago.

Her lack of comprehension and her innocence hints towards crisis for her. Scene 3 being the last scene of the Act consists of tension and crisis as well, but even more compared to the other scenes. After Lodovico has politely bidden Desdemona, Othello tells her to go to bed and dismisses Emilia. Emilia tries to comfort her that he seemed' gentler than he did'. However Desdemona still claims she loves Othello no matter how harsh he maybe, and she also mentions death therefore hinting to a crisis.

Desdemona narrates the sad story of Barbary, her mother's maid, whose lover went mad and forsook her. She also says she can't get the song she sang as she died out of her head. This hints towards danger and theme of death! This does make the reader and audience wonder why Othello told her to go to bed and reminds us of the plot. This does form a lot of tension especially when death is mentioned, but in the meantime Desdemona ironically doesn't understand why women would betray their husbands.

Emilia meanwhile provides a pessimistic view of marriage and betrayal, and how women are undermined in society. This scene overall is quite emotional and tensed compared to the other scenes, as it hints to death. Desdemona still looks for the virtuous path while Emilia contradicts it with her view of marriage. Shakespeare is emphasizing her innocence and lost romance of her marriage. Desdemona mentions death and her love is shown to be quite powerful, it is also quite critical that Othello and Desdemona both cry, therefore making us sense a crisis.

Othello weeps because of his marriage, while Desdemona cries because she doesn't understand what is going on. The mind of the former has been destroyed; the body of the latter is shortly to be tortured. Overall, there are so many differences between all scenes, however they do hold impending crisis in all of them. Shakespeare uses language, imagery, stage directions, dramatic irony, emotions and plotting to hint to an impending crisis. The characterization also helps in emphasizing the villainy and crisis and also innocence of Desdemona.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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How does Shakespeare convey a sense of impending crisis in Act IV?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

How does Shakespeare convey a sense of impending crisis in Act IV? essay
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