Analysis of Othello
Othello begins on a street in Venice, in the midst of an argument
between Roderigo, a rich man, and Iago. Roderigo has been paying Iago
to help him in his suit to Desdemona. But Roderigo has just learned
that Desdemona has married Othello, a general whom Iago begrudgingly
serves as ensign. Iago says he hates Othello, who recently passed him
over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced
soldier Michael Cassio.
Unseen, Iago and Roderigo cry out to Brabanzio that his daughter
Desdemona has been stolen by and married to Othello, the Moor.
Brabanzio finds that his daughter is indeed missing, and he gathers
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Desdemona insists that she accompany her
husband on his trip, and preparations are made for them to depart that
In Cyprus the following day, two gentlemen stand on the shore with
Montano, the governor of Cyprus. A third gentleman arrives and reports
that the Turkish fleet has been wrecked in a storm at sea. Cassio,
whose ship did not suffer the same fate, arrives soon after, followed
by a second ship carrying Iago, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Emilia,
Iago’s wife. Once they have landed, Othello’s ship is sighted, and the
group goes to the harbor. As they wait for Othello, Cassio greets
Desdemona by clasping her hand. Watching them, Iago tells the audience
that he will use “as little a web as this” hand-holding to ensnare
Othello arrives, greets his wife, and announces that there will be
reveling that evening to celebrate Cyprus’s safety from the Turks.
Once everyone has left, Roderigo complains to Iago that he has no
chance of breaking up Othello’s marriage. Iago assures Roderigo that
as soon as Desdemona’s “blood is made dull with the act of sport,” she
will lose interest in Othello and seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere
(II.i.222). However, Iago warns that “elsewhere” will likely be with
Cassio. Iago counsels Roderigo that he should cast Cassio into
disgrace by starting a fight with Cassio at the evening’s revels. In a
soliloquy, Iago explains to the audience that eliminating Cassio is
the first crucial step in his plan to ruin Othello. That night, Iago
gets Cassio drunk and then sends Roderigo to start a fight with him.
Apparently provoked by Roderigo, Cassio chases Roderigo across the
stage. Governor Montano attempts to hold Cassio down, and Cassio stabs
him. Iago sends Roderigo to raise alarm in the town.
The alarm is rung, and Othello, who had left earlier with plans to
consummate his marriage, soon arrives to still the commotion. When
Othello demands to know who began the fight, Iago feigns reluctance to
implicate his “friend” Cassio, but he ultimately tells the whole
story. Othello then strips Cassio of his rank of lieutenant. Cassio is
extremely upset, and he laments to Iago, once everyone else has gone,
that his reputation has been ruined forever. Iago assures Cassio that
he can get back into Othello’s good graces by using Desdemona as an
intermediary. In a soliloquy, Iago tells us that he will frame Cassio
and Desdemona as lovers to make -Othello jealous.
In an attempt at reconciliation, Cassio sends some musicians to play
beneath Othello’s window. Othello, however, sends his clown to tell
the musicians to go away. Hoping to arrange a meeting with Desdemona,
Cassio asks the clown, a peasant who serves Othello, to send Emilia to
him. After the clown departs, Iago passes by and tells Cassio that he
will get Othello out of the way so that...