This extract takes place once Othello has killed Desdemona and has realised that Iago is behind all the doubt. It is towards the end of the play and Othello is planning on killing himself. Gratiano has just entered the chamber and Othello is talking to him.
He starts off by telling him that he has a weapon and that it is the best weapon there is (‘A better never did itself sustain Upon a soldier’s thigh’) This is Othello belittling himself by saying that he was a mere soldier, instead of the great general that everyone respected. Then he refers to his ‘little arm’, yet again being modest because the fact that he has killed so many ‘impediments’, he puts down to his ‘good sword’ instead of himself. Then ‘O vain boast’ means that this all means nothing now. ‘Who can control his fate?’ is a question he asks himself. It is strange that he asks himself this because, really, his death was his own fault. But he thinks that it was always going to happen this way. Maybe this is a reference to the fact that Iago was always in charge of everything, that Iago was really in charge of everything from the start of the play to the end.
This also related to Iago being portrayed as the devil later on in the extract. Then he uses some more sea imagery that he has used much throughout the rest of the play. He describes this as being his ‘journey’s end’ and the ‘sea mark’ of his ‘utmost sail’. It is ironic that he used tales of his sea journeys to seduce Desdemona. He has always viewed himself as a sailor for many reasons. Firstly, he is a soldier and part of his job is to travel the seas to fight. Secondly, he has come from North Africa, to Venice and that in itself is a journey across the sea. He thinks about his past a lot and probably his childhood. Continuing to speak to Gratiano, he talks of how a “rush”, a reed, could kill him. This is a metaphor of his sword and how even such an ineffective sword could kill him because his spirit is broken and has weakened him. Then he asks “where should Othello go?” basically asking what he should do now.
He addresses Desdemona and describes how she looks ‘pale as thy smock’. Then he refers back to the fate part and talks of heavens and stars. Then he uses the line “This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven” meaning that while she’s in heaven, he never will be able to be there so “fiends will snatch” his soul. Then they punish him and he punishes himself because he uses imperative to order what the fiends should do to him, including “Blow me about in the winds!” and “roast me in sulphur!”. Then he exclaims “Desdemona! Dead!”, a play on words linking the two together, yet again by fate. Then enters Lodovico with Cassio, who comes in because in this story, he is the link between Othello and Iago. Lodovico pities and sympathises Othello describing him as a “rash and most unfortunate man”.
Othello then says “That’s he that was Othello: here I am” meaning that he doesn’t think he deserves his name any more because his name is related to his honour and good will. Lodovico, in contrast to his sympathy for Othello, refers to Iago as a “viper” and “villain” putting all the blame on him. Othello then refers to the “fable” of the devil having goat-like feet but that that can’t be true because Iago has no such feet and he is the devil himself. Othello then wounds Iago but Iago says that he has only been wounded, and wants to be killed, using ‘sir’ sarcastically but Othello says that “’tis happiness to die” referring to his sorrow about Desdemona. Lodovico, still full of respect for what Othello once was, asks him “what shall be said of thee?”. Othello answers that he should be remembered for his honour instead of the hate that caused the murder.