Having organised it that Brabantio will find Othello, Iago plays a double game by seeking out Othello
himself and he then attempts to persuade him to hide from Brabantio. This, of course, would shout out
In the meantime, news is announced of a Turkish attack on Cyprus. Othello is needed to lead the defence
of the island.
When Brabantio arrives on the scene and tries to have Othello placed in gaol for seducing his daughter,
his attempt is therefore forestalled. After all, with Othello in gaol, who is to defend the island?
THE OTTOMAN TURKS
The Ottoman or Turkish Empire had been growing slowly since about the 6th century, at about the time
when Islam had started.
By the 16th century (Shakespeare's day) the Empire was at its most powerful. It had crushed the
Byzantine Empire which was the remnant of the old Roman Empire that had still remained in Greece. It
was also threatening the whole of Europe.
The island of Cyprus was definitely in its path. Indeed, half the island was eventually overrun, and even
today Cyprus is divided, half being Greek and Christian, the other half being Turkish and Moslem.
Setting this play mostly on Cyprus was advantageous for Shakespeare. The Ottoman War in the
background would make Othello an indispensable military general because he was the Commander of
the Venetian forces.
Under normal circumstances, Brabantio would have had Othello thrown into gaol for seducing his
daughter, thus bringing this play to an abrupt end. Because Othello was indispensable on Cyprus,
however, meant that Brabantio's hands were tied.
On the other hand, by the time Othello reached Cyprus, the war was already over. The Ottoman fleet had
been destroyed at the hands of a mighty storm.
This in turn converted Othello into a governor and no longer a soldier. He was certainly not suited to this
task. Indeed, he was very much a soldier and not a governor.
His insecurity thereupon caused Othello to turn to Iago for advice and support, and the latter was able to
use that intimacy to his own advantage.
The Ottoman war was, therefore, a useful ploy to save Othello from being cast into prison. It was also the
means to get him to Cyprus where Iago could work on his insecurities.
Once on Cyprus, the war was no longer necessary and so vanished from the scene. The war was now
between Iago and Othello, and with lots of other people who happened to be in the way.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?