Act II Scene 1
A terrible storm has struck Cyprus, just as the Turks
were about to approach.
This might mean that the Turkish attack will not
happen; but it also bodes badly for Othello's ship.
A messenger enters, and confirms that the Turkish fleet
was broken apart by the storm, and that Cassio has
arrived, though Othello is still at sea.
They spot a ship coming forth; but Iago, Desdemona,
and Emilia are on it, not Othello.
Cassio greets them all, especially praising Desdemona;
somehow, Iago and Desdemona enter into an argument
about what women are
Iago shows how little praise he believes women deserve.
Othello arrives at last, and is very glad to see his wife
Act II Scene 1
Othello and Desdemona make public signs of
their love, and then depart.
Iago speaks to Roderigo, convincing him that
Desdemona will stray from Othello, as she
has already done with Cassio.
He convinces Roderigo to attack Cassio that
night, as he plans to visit mischief on both
Othello and Cassio.
Storms are always of greater significance in
the storm is a symbol of unrest
The storm marks the end of the peaceful part of the
play, and is an act of fate
it is a signal that Iago's mischief is about to begin.
Shakespeare's characters that comment on the
storm are mariners, alluding to Ursa Minor and
stars used for navigation
This is a testament to Shakespeare's incredible
ability to form credible language for a great
diversity and range of characters.
Just as every character has their own manner of speech
and expression, Cassio has a very polished, courtly way
of speaking, especially of ladies.
He describes Desdemona as one who "excels the quirks
of blazoning pens"; he calls her "divine Desdemona"
As Iago finds out later, he has no love for her, though
much respect; so it is with much irony that Cassio is
charged as being Desdemona's lover
Othello sees Cassio as a model Venetian, all poise and
polish, which is something Othello wants to be, but
thinks he is not.
Othello's insecurities mean that Cassio is promoted over
Iago, but also lead Othello to hold Cassio at a distance.
Though Iago is married, he does not have as
favorable an impression of women as Cassio does.
Women are "wildcats in your kitchens, saints in your
injuries, devils being offended“
He even declares that they "rise to play, and go to
bed to work“
Iago's perception of women as deceptive,
dominating, and lusty colors the way he portrays
both Emilia and Desdemona; both are good women
Desdemona exceedingly so, yet he is able to convince
other men that they are anything but what they are.
Misrepresentation is a theme that surfaces often
through Iago's villainy
He makes Desdemona seem like a fickle, lusty
woman, which he will soon try to convince
Othello of as well.
Iago's speech plays on Othello's insecurities
He speaks of Othello's age, race, and manners as
reasons why Desdemona will grow tired of him,
which are also reaons why Othello fears he
might lose her.
Iago is also a master of temptation, another
theme in the story
He is able to figure out exactly what people
want, and then drive them to it.
Though Iago seems grieved by Cassio's promotion
over him, this does not seem to be his main motive.
Iago also cites his suspicions that Emilia and Othello
have had an affair as another reason for his enmity.
Iago is not a man to be consumed with sexual
jealousy; though rumors about his wife may hurt his
pride, they seem but an excuse for the misery he is
about to cause.
Shakespeare leaves the root of Iago's malignancy
unexplained, while showing the fruits of his evil in
Act II Scene 2
Othello's herald enters, to proclaim that the Turks
are not going to attack
All should be joyful, and Othello is celebrating the
happiness of his recent marriage.
Act II Scene 3
Iago gets Cassio to drink a bit, knowing that he cannot hold his
liquor at all.
Iago also tries to get Cassio's feelings about Desdemona, but his
intentions are innocent
Iago hopes to cause a quarrel between Cassio and Roderigo
Iago wants to see Cassio discredited through this, so that he
might take Cassio's place.
Cassio fights with Roderigo
Montano tries to hinder Cassio, but Cassio ends up injuring him.
The noise wakes Othello, who comes down to figure out what
Montano tells what he knows of it all, and Iago fills in the rest
making sure to fictionalize his part in it all.
Cassio is stripped of his rank, and all leave Cassio and Iago
Act II Scene 3
Iago tries to convince Cassio that a
reputation means little
Iago suggests talking to Desdemona, maybe
he can get her to vouch for him with Othello.
This will help Iago get the impression across
that Desdemona and Cassio are together
Iago then gives a soliloquy about knowing
that Desdemona will speak for Cassio, and
that he will be able to turn that against them
"Honest" emerges as a key word in this scene
It is a term laden with irony, and a constant reminder of the
dramatic irony inherent in Iago's dealings.
None of the characters in the play have any idea of Iago's
plans and evil intentions:
Othello and Cassio are especially innocent of this
The audience knows exactly what Iago is up to, and is able
to see his deceptions for what they are
Iago's words interest the audience because of how much
dramatic irony they are laden with
Curiosity to find out whether Cassio and Othello will
come to know as much as the audience does about Iago's
The word "honest" draws attention to how Iago's motives are
hidden from the characters onstage
Iago and Cassio are juxtaposed in this scene to bring out
Cassio's flawed honor and courtliness and Iago's
manipulativeness and deceptiveness.
Cassio stands in especially sharp contrast to Iago when
Iago speaks lustfully of Desdemona
Cassio is full of honor when it comes to women, and the
ideals of a courtier as well.
"He's a soldier fit to stand by Caesar," Iago says, the
allusion to Caesar stating the fact that he knows Cassio's
Iago strikes gold when he figures out Cassio's weakness
"He'll be as full of quarrel and offense as my young
Iago’ metaphor shows that he knows how liquor can
separate even the best man from himself
Iago's metaphor reinforces his perceptiveness, and the
Analysis: Know the Audience
Iago's homage to "sweet England" in his song of this act:
though this play does not take place in England
features no English characters
Shakespeare throws this in to amuse his audience.
He does the same in plays like Hamlet, in which a little
nod to England is thrown in for comic effect, and as an
Reputation is a theme in the book that obviously
holds some resonance for Cassio
Iago also knows the importance of reputation,
which is why he makes sure that people see him
as "honest" before anything.
"Reputation is a most idle and false imposition,"
this statement is meant as false consolation to Cassio,
and is filled with great irony.
Reputation is always of concern when
individuals are involved
Cassio is so grieved that his reputation has been
hurt that he sees fit to find a villain in all that
Ironically, Cassio misses the identity of the real
devil in this situation, Iago.
"Devil" becomes a key word in this play, as
people try to seek out what is poisoning
Good vs. evil is a major theme in the play
There is a great deal of gray area:
Iago is the villain
Everyone else has some blemish of their natures
No one entirely deserving of the label "good".