THE GYPSY “TEST OF THE HANDKERCHIEF” IN OTHELLO(29)

When Iago’s schemes have been revealed and Othello realizes the extent of his own tragic misinterpretations (Iago, he knows, cannot simply be blamed unequivocally) he utters the words “O cursed, cursed slave,” talking not to Iago, in blame, but to himself. When Lodovico demands, “where is this rash and most unfortunate man?,” (V.2 177) Othello now responds with a final rhetorical enigma of his own, once again echoing Exodus. Othello says: “that’s he that was Othello: here I am.” (V.2 177) He is no longer Othello; he is bound by his previously negated past. He admits it, but immediately denies it.

Although Othello’s relation to his guilt is obvious (surely, to himself) he chooses denial, refusing to admit the truth, preferring one last attempt at self-defense which only shows the extent of his disassociation, from himself, from the act. He calls himself “an honourable murderer,” and instead of a confession, prefers to shift the blame to Iago, hearing Lodovico’s “fallen in the practice of a damned slave” as an indictment of Iago, not himself. “Will you, I pray, demand that demidevil/Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?” (V.2 178) Othello asks, as if needing to know Iago’s motives but, as compulsive self-confession, really talking about his own tortured self.