Dramatis Personae Duke of Venice Othello: Moor, married to Desdoma Iago: Solider in Othello’s army Cassio: Lieutenant in Othello’s army Desdemona: Othello’s wife Emilia: Iago’s wife Rodreigo: Solider, love Desdemona
Act I Scene 1 Othello begins in the city of Venice, at night Roderigo is having a discussion with Iago, who is bitter at being passed up as Othellos lieutenant. Though Iago had greater practice in battle and in military matters, Cassio, a man of strategy but of little experience, was named lieutenant by Othello. Iago says that he only serves Othello to further himself, and makes shows of his allegiance only for his own gain He admits that his nature is not at all what it seems. Iago is aware that the daughter of Brabantio, Desdemona , has run off with Othello, the black warrior of the Moors. Brabantio knows nothing of this coupling Iago decides to enlist Roderigo, who lusts after Desdemona, and awaken Brabantio with screams that his daughter is gone.
Act I Scene 1 At first, Brabantio dismisses these cries in the dark He realizes his daughter is not there, he gives the news some credence. Roderigo is the one speaking most to Brabantio, but Iago is there too, hidden, yelling unsavory things about Othello Brabantio panics, and calls for people to try and find his daughter Iago leaves, not wanting anyone to find out that he betrayed his own leader Brabantio begins to search for his daughter.
Analysis: Friendship The relationship between Roderigo and Iago is somewhat close Roderigo shows this in his first statement: Iago "hast had [Roderigos] purse as if the strings were thine," he tells Iago (I.i.2-3) The metaphor shows how much trust Roderigo has in Iago, and also how he uses Iago as a confidante Does Iago share the same kind of feeling? As far as Roderigo knows, Iago is his friend Appearance is one thing and reality another, as Iago soon will tell.
Analysis: Trusting Appearance Iago tells several truths about himself to Roderigo He trusts Roderigo with the knowledge that he serves Othello, but only to further himself. How ironic that after Iagos lengthy confession of duplicity, Roderigo still does not suspect him of doublecrossing or manipulation. Iago seems to do a great deal of character analysis and exposition for the audience He divulges his purpose in serving Othello, and the kind of man he is. Appearance vs. Reality is a crucial theme in Iagos story He enacts a series of roles, from advisor to confidante He appears to be helping people though he is only acting out of his twisted self-interest.
Analysis: Metaphors and Paradox "These fellows" that flatter for their own purposes "have some soul," Iago says There is a double irony in this statement that Iago passes off as a truth People who act one way and are another are duplicitous, and scarcely deserve the credit that Iago is trying to give them. Iago, though he is one of those fellows, seems to have no soul He never repents, never lets up with his schemes, and never seems to tire of damaging whatever he is able to. "In following [Othello] I follow but myself," Iago also professes This is a paradox in terms, but is revealing of Iagos purposes in serving Othello. His language is revealing of his dark character; He uses the cliché "I will wear my heart upon my sleeve" to convey how his heart is false, and his shows of emotion are also falsified He turns this cliché into something more dark and fierce, when he adds the image of the birds tearing at this heart He has foreshadowed the great deceptions that he will engineer, and the sinister qualities that make up his core.
Analysis: Parallels The key to Iagos character is in the line "I am not what I am“ Roderigo should take this as a warning, but fails to. Everything which Iago presents himself as is a false show This first scene represents the peak of Iagos honesty about himself with another character. Iago lacks remorse and uses false representations of himself to gain other’s trust.
Analysis: Racism Racial issues and themes which are at the core of Othellos story and position are beginning to surface. When Roderigo refers to Othello, he calls him "the thick lips“ This singles out one prominent characteristic of Othellos foreignness and black heritage It displays a racial distrust of Othello based on his color. Roderigo and Iago are not the only characters to display racism when referring to Othello Racism is a pervasive theme within the work, spreading misconceptions and lies about Othello by tying him to incorrect stereotypes.
Analysis: Black and White Another element that surfaces repeatedly in the play is the use of animal imagery; "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe," Iago yells to Brabantio The use of animal imagery is used in many places in the play to convey immorality and illicit passion, as it does in this instance. Iago also compares Othello to a "Barbary horse" coupling with Desdemona, and uses animal imagery to reinforce a lustful picture of Othello Iagos statement is doubly potent, since it not only condemns Othello for his alleged lust, but also plays on Brabantios misgivings about Othellos color The juxtaposition of black and white, in connection with the animal imagery, is meant to make this image very repellent, and to inflame Brabantio to anger and action.
Analysis: Devils Iago especially mentions the devil many times in the text The first time here in the first scene to make Othello sound like a devil with: lust indiscretion strangeness The irony is that Iago is so quick to make others out to be evil The devil often takes disguises, just as Iago does embodying the theme of appearance vs. reality He is the one who looks least guilty.
Analysis: Imagery and Setting Important to this scene is the fact that it is held in darkness Things are unsteady and eerie, and disorder rules - secrets. With Brabantios call for light, there is a corresponding call for some kind of order: darkness vs. light order vs. disorder Both important juxtapositions within the play they highlight the status of situations These themes will appear again at the end, as the play returns to darkness, and chaos
Iago’s Soliloquies Soliloquy – in a drama when a character speaks to himself and relates thoughts and feelings Iago’s intensions and motives are revealed in his soliloquies It is his only opportunity to really be honest The other characters call him honest yet he is only honest with the audience He makes the audience his co-conspirators
Act I Scene 2 Iago has now joined Othello, and has told Othello about Roderigos betrayal of the news of his marriage. He tells Othello that Brabantio is upset, and will probably try to tear Desdemona from him. Cassio comes at last, as do Roderigo and Brabantio Iago threatens Roderigo with violence, again making a false show of his loyalty to Othello. Brabantio swears that Othello must have bewitched his daughter (racial reference), and that the state will not decide for him in this case. Othello says that the Duke must hear him, and decide in his favor, or all is far from right in Venice.
Analysis: Janus Iago continues his deliberate misrepresentation: Swearing to Othello that he could have killed Roderigo for what he did. Iago is a very skilled actor: He is able to successfully present a contrary appearance Ironically, Iago alludes to Janus, the two-faced god, in his conversation with Othello. Since Iago himself is two-faced Janus seems to be a fitting figure for Iago to invoke.
Analysis Iagos duplicity is again exhibited in this scene as his tone swings: friendly to backbiting as soon as Othello steps away back to his original friendliness when Othello returns. Iago acted supportive of Othellos marriage to Desdemona Cassio enters and uses a rather uncomplimentary metaphor to tell what Othello has done: "He tonight hath boarded a land-carrack" His diction and choice of metaphor make Othello into some kind of pirate stealing Desdemonas love Cassio reduces Desdemona into a mere prize to be taken. Iago will soon want Cassio to think of Desdemona as an object to be taken, and to believe Othello to be less honorable than he is.
Analysis: Pride Othellos pride first becomes visible here He is exceptionally proud of his achievements and his public stature Pride is a huge theme of Othellos story. He is proud of Desdemonas affection for him He would not give her up "for the seas worth," he says (l. 28). Othello is very confident in his worth, and in the respect he commands If the leaders of the city decide to deny a worthy man like him his marriage to Desdemona, then he believes: "bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be." This statement of paradox betrays Othellos faith in the state and in the Dukes regard for him; hopefully, neither will fail him.
Analysis: Racism and Magic The issue of race comes to the forefront, as Brabantio confronts Othello about his marriage to Desdemona. Desdemona never would have "run from her guardage to the sooty bosom of a thing such as thou," Brabantio says (l. 71-2). Brabantio assumes that Desdemona must have been "enchanted" to marry Othello merely because Othello is black Brabantio ignores all of Othellos good qualities, and gives into his racist feelings. Magic is another recurrent theme, and here is linked to stereotypes of African peoples as: knowing the black arts of magic being pagans being lusty The theme of magic does not always play into the theme of race within the play
Analysis: Stereotypes and History At the time Shakespeare was writing, there were in fact free blacks in England However, racism was even more pronounced in Shakespeares England than it is in Othello A character like Othello could not have risen to such ranks in England at the time Shakespeares play is much more progressive than the time in which it was written. Stereotypes are linked to Othello by other characters, but he manages to evade them through his nobility and individuality.
Act I Scene 3 Military conflict is challenging the Venetian stronghold of Cyprus There are reports that Turkish ships are heading toward the island, which means some defense will be necessary. Brabantio and Othello enter the assembled Venetian leaders, who are discussing this military matter Brabantio announces his grievance against Othello for marrying his daughter. Othello addresses the company, admitting that he did marry Desdemona, but wooed her with stories, and did her no wrongs. Desdemona comes to speak, and she confirms Othellos words: Brabantios grievance is denied Desdemona will indeed stay with Othello. Othello is called away to Cyprus, to help with the conflict there Othello and Desdemona win their appeal, and Desdemona is to stay with Iago, until she can come to Cyprus and meet Othello there.
Act I Scene 3 Roderigo is upset that Desdemona and Othellos union was allowed to stand He lusts after Desdemona. Iago assures him that the match will not last long, and at any time, Desdemona could come rushing to him. Iago wants to break up the couple, using Roderigo as his pawn, out of malice and his wicked ability to do so. Watch movie scene
Analysis: Brabantio Brabantio again accuses Othello of bewitching his daughter, and airs his racism-based views. He is not against the match because of any incompatibility of the couple His metaphor of his grief as a flood, that "engluts and swallows other sorrows, and is still itself," means that he feels very strongly on this issue. His strong objection foreshadows a confrontation between him and his daughter If Desdemona does choose to stay with Othello, it seems likely that she will risk her fathers love.
Analysis: Desdemona In this scene Desdemona both reinforces and breaks the stereo type of women at the time First she demonstrates she can not be trusted – her father warns Othello about this later She then supports her “master” – her husband as her mother supported her father She requests to go to Cypress with Othello It was very unusual for women to accompany their husbands during a war Othello states, “she wished/ That heaven had made her such a man.”
Analysis: Tragedy Othellos appointment to Cyprus marks the true beginning of his tragedy He will be much more vulnerable to Iagos vicious attacks on his love and jealousy. This battle between order and chaos is a theme running throughout the play As Othello sinks deeper into distrust of Desdemona and is more consumed by his jealousy, chaos increases and threatens to devour him.
Analysis: Verse vs. Couple The Dukes words of advice to the couple also mark the beginning of their tragic story The Duke foretells trouble between the couple if they do not let grievances go, which ends up being a reason for Othellos fall. The change of the verse into couplets signals the importance of the advice being offered. The words of the Duke, and Brabantios words that follow, are set off from the rest of the text and emphasized by this technique The reader is notified, through the couplet rhyme, which hasnt appeared before in the text, that these are words that must be marked.
Analysis: Othello’s Tragic Flaw The only magic that Othello possesses is in his power of language. His language shows his pride in his achievements Othello portrays himself as a tested, honorable warrior, and indeed is such. This view of himself will prove troublesome when he is hard pressed to recognize his jealousy and his lust His inability to reconcile himself with these two aspects of his personality means that his doom is almost certain. Othellos lack of self-knowledge means that he will be unable to stop himself once Iago begins to ignite his jealousy
Analysis: Allusions Othellos speech before the assembly shows what he believes Desdemonas love to be: He thinks that Desdemonas affection is a form of hero-worship She loves him for the stories he tells, and the things he has done. He believes it is his allusions to strange peoples and places, like the "Anthropophagi," that fascinate her Indeed, his powers of language successfully win the Duke over, and soften Brabantios disapproval.
Analysis: White and Black Light and dark are again juxtaposed in the Dukes declaration to Brabantio, that: "if virtue no delighted beauty lack/ your son-in- law is far more fair than black." Black is associated with sin, evil, and darkness; These negative things are also associated to black people, merely because of the color of their skin. The Dukes statement is ironic, since Othello is black, but truthful, because his soul is good and light. Light/white/fairness all convey innocence, goodness, any symbol that is white has these qualities. The juxtaposition of black and white, light and dark shows up again and again in the play, as the colors become symbolic within the story.
Analysis: Origin of Chaos "Our bodies are our gardens," Iago tells Roderigo Iago is a very good judge of human nature, and easily able to manipulate people in ways that will benefit him most This cleverness also means that he is a source of wisdom in the play Iagos metaphor is particularly applicable to many in this play, himself excluded; characters do have vices that they allow to grow in themselves They also have aspects of themselves which balance these vices out. Iagos knowledge of this allows him to do away with this balance and set chaos into motion
Analysis: Cross Purposes Iagos purpose becomes plain: He sees that Othello and Desdemonas marriage is less than solid He seeks to use his powers to break this marriage apart. Iago is again "honest" about his intent, but only to a person whose involvement will help him greatly. The words "honest" and "honesty" appear repeatedly in the play, and are usually used by Iago, or in reference to him Ironically, Iago is the only person in the play whom Othello trusts to judge who is and is not honest