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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
ACT III, SCENE I
The tension mounts as Iago's plan takes shape. Will he be able to keep control of all his victims?
Cassio has come to the castle, as Iago suggested. As a token of reconciliation, he's brought a small group of musicians to serenade Othello and Desdemona. (It was a common practice in Shakespeare's day to awaken important people with music on special days.)
A clown enters and makes a few crude jokes about the musicians' instruments. His play on words connects the wind instruments with breaking wind.
Shakespeare often used clowns in his plays, and usually did so for two reasons: 1) to relieve the tension of the drama and 2) to comment on the action, showing that so-called fools are often smarter than supposedly wise men. Many readers feel the clown is used here primarily for comic relief, although he isn't very funny. Others suggest that his comments on the bagpipes (an instrument of disharmony to Elizabethans) reflect the disharmony about to afflict Othello's household. Almost every reader agrees that the clown has little dramatic significance in the play.
After Cassio sends the clown to find Emilia, Iago appears promising to make sure Cassio can speak to Desdemona privately. Cassio is amazed at Iago's generosity.
Emilia comes to tell Cassio that Desdemona and Othello are discussing him right now. Emilia reports that Othello can't reinstate Cassio right away. Cassio's having injured Montano, an important man, makes it necessary for Othello to wait before reinstating Cassio; he doesn't want to set a precedent of leniency.
If only Cassio would accept this decision and wait for Othello to call him, Iago would have a difficult time proving to Othello that Cassio loves his wife. But Cassio insists on seeing Desdemona right away. And who can blame the lieutenant for wanting to reestablish his reputation as quickly as possible?