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Shakespeare: Othello

20. Act 5, Scene 2: Othello Kills Desdemona

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read through the first half of Act 5, Scene 2, in which the truth about ‘honest Iago’ is finally revealed – but not before Othello has already killed Desdemona. In particular, we think about: (i) the motif of harmony and disharmony (“Then murder’s out of tune”, 114); (ii) the interaction between public and private; (iii) the role of women in Othello – the virgin (Desdemona), the wife (Emilia) and the whore (Bianca) – and the significance of the fact that only the whore survives; and (iv) Othello’s big speech at 257-79, in which he starts to come to terms with what he has done.


In this twenty-one part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s Othello. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, political and intellectual context of early 17th-century England, before going through the play scene-by-scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: We used the Arden edition of the play (Third Series, Revised Edition, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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APA style

McRae, J. (2019, January 27). Shakespeare: Othello - Act 5, Scene 2: Othello Kills Desdemona [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Othello – Act 5, Scene 2: Othello Kills Desdemona." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Jan 2019,

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