Shakespeare's "Othello" tells the story of a man who is driven by jealousy and the influence of others to kill his wife and eventually himself. Prior to murdering his wife Desdemona, Othello makes a speech that reveals not only his personality, but also how he views Desdemona. Othello's speech at the beginning of Act VI, scene ii shows his internal conflict about killing Desdemona, his struggles with power, and ultimately his view of his wife as he contemplates whether or not he should actually go through with murdering Desdemona. The language works to create not only primary meanings about his conflict, but also secondary meanings about Desdemona herself.
After repeatedly being convinced by Iago that Desdemona has been cheating on him with Cassio when they are newly married, Othello reaches his limit and decides to murder Desdemona for doing what he believes she has done to him. Act VI, scene ii begins with Othello's speech as he enters his and Desdemona's bedroom where she is asleep. As he enters the room, the stage directions indicate that he has a light or torch with him. Right away we begin to see the primary meaning of the speech, that being Othello's struggle with his desire to kill Desdemona and the morality of it. It becomes clear that he knows what he is about to do is wrong: "Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars" (5.2.2). Here Othello is referring to God or heaven as "chaste stars" watching him and he doesn't want to be seen doing what he is about to do because it is not "chaste" or pure. Othello sees Desdemona and recognizes the purity he once saw in her as his wife: "Yet I'll not shed her blood, Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow, And smooth as monumental alabaster" (5.2.3-5). By referring to Desdemona as having skin that is whiter than "snow" and smooth like "alabaster," which in the footnotes is defined as "stone used in tombs," Othello is showing some initial reluctance to hurt someone he has seen as being so pure and almost angelic, like a fresh snowfall or even peaceful and spiritual like a tomb could be.