We are introduced to the primary characters of the play. Iago feels slighted because Othello has
overlooked him for promotion in favour of Michael Cassio, while Roderigo believes that Othello is standing
in the way of his marriage to Desdemona. Together they plot their revenge.
A COMMENT ON THE PLOT
The scene opens with an introduction to all the primary characters: Iago, Roderigo, Othello, Desdemona,
Michael Cassio and Brabantio.
The fact that the scene is dominated by Iago should give us the idea that it is he who is the main character
in this play, and not Othello. It is therefore the story of an antihero. Certainly Iago is introduced as a very
powerful character, and also as an arch-manipulator.
Indeed, by the end of this scene, we already witness his ongoing manipulation of Roderigo, and how he
very easily twists such a powerful patrician as Brabantio to his plans. Later, Iago will work his magic on
both Othello and Cassio.
We are therefore introduced to the theme of MANIPULATION. Iago is the master puppeteer, pulling the
strings which control Roderigo, Othello, Desdemona, Cassio, Brabantio, as well as some of the other
lesser characters. Indeed, there is almost no-one who is not under his control.
We are also given a brief introduction into another of the great themes: SORCERY and MAGIC.
Brabantio hints at this when he says, "Is there not charms by which the property of youth and maidhood
may be abused. Have you not read, Roderigo, of such thing?"
In the next scene, this theme of sorcery will be expanded when we find that Desdemona has been
ensnared by Othello's spells. Iago himself will become more than just a puppet master: his sorcery was
so potent that he was able to make Othello act in totally unexpected ways.
In this scene, Iago feels himself slighted by Othello who has overlooked him for the position of Lieutenant
in favour of Michael Cassio, whom Iago despises. One can understand Iago's resentment because he
is a powerful leader whereas Cassio is in reality a weakling who cannot even control his own drinking
Roderigo, on the other hand, feels himself crossed by Othello for the love of Desdemona, whom Roderigo
has been desperately attempting to secure as his own wife.
Iago puts into practice a plan for both of them to gain their revenge. They awaken Brabantio, a wealthy
merchant and Desdemona's father, telling him that his daughter has eloped with Othello.
They hope, of course, that Brabantio will find Othello in an illicit love-tryst with Desdemona because then
Brabantio will be perfectly justified in having Othello thrown into prison, and thereupon rewarding Roderigo
by giving him Desdemona's hand in marriage, while Iago could perhaps score handsomely in terms of
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:
"Tush," says Roderigo.
" 'Sblood," says Iago.
- Comment on the use of these two invectives as an introduction to the characters of Roderigo and
Tush, never tell me; I take it much unkindly
That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse
As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.
- What does Roderigo mean when he says "never tell me"? (2)
- In what way could Iago be said to have Roderigo's purse "as if the strings were
- What is the implication of Iago's pulling the purse-strings? (4)
'Sblood, but you will not hear me:
If ever I did dream of such a matter,
- Why does Iago exclaim, "You will not hear me"? (2)
- What does Iago mean when he says "If ever I did dream of such a matter, abhor
Three great ones of the city,
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capp'd to him.
- What does Iago mean by the "three great ones of the city"? (2)
- To whom does the personal pronoun "his" refer? In other words, whose lieutenant did Iago wish
to become? (1)
- What does Iago mean when he says that the three great ones "off-capp'd to