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Free Study Guide-Othello by William Shakespeare-Free Online Booknotes
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Act I, Scene 2

Summary

In this second scene, Iago reveals his scheming and treachery, as he applies it to the unsuspecting Othello. He reaches the Sagittary Inn before Roderigo and Brabantio. Pretending to be Othello’s loyal friend and follower, Iago tells him that Roderigo has spoken in an insulting manner about him. Iago says he was so upset at the words that he wanted to stab Roderigo; only his conscience prevented him from doing so. Iago then cautiously advises Othello to be careful, for Roderigo and Brabantio are searching for him, hoping to dissolve his marriage to Desdemona.

As torches approach, Iago warns Othello to go inside, but he is not afraid and refuses to hide. The torches are, in fact, carried by Cassio and his men. He informs Othello that the Turkish fleet is on the way to Cyprus and intends to attack it. The Duke is in session with his council and has called for Othello to meet him at once.

Roderigo and Brabantio soon arrive on the scene, with a number of armed followers. Othello greets them and remains calm, trying to appear friendly. Brabantio calls Othello a ‘foul thief’ and threatens to send him to prison. Othello explains with perfect courtesy and dignity that he cannot allow himself to be taken to prison, since he has been called to the council hall. When the old Senator realizes that the Duke has called a meeting, he goes at once to present his case against his daughter’s husband.

Notes

In this second scene, Othello is introduced in person for the first time. He is portrayed as a wise, calm, intelligent, and patient man, who speaks clearly, rationally, and to the point. In opposition to him, Iago is pictured as emotional and deceitful. His opening words to Othello appear to be those of an honest, loyal, courageous, impulsive man, more used to practical action than elaborate argument. In order to ingratiate himself to his boss, he tells Othello that Roderigo has been speaking insults about him, an obvious lie. Iago is here to warn his noble boss that Roderigo and Brabantio have organized a search party to find Othello and try to dissolve his marriage to Desdemona. Othello is not shaken by the news. He is confident that his service to Venice and his noble descent will cause everything to smooth over. He is also certain that he is worthy of Desdemona and gently professes his love for her. He is the picture of self- confident, acceptable pride, integrity and nobility.


Cassio, the new lieutenant, arrives on the scene to inform Othello about the Turkish threat and about the Duke’s summons for him to come to the Council Hall. It is obvious that war is imminent. It is also apparent that the Duke thinks highly of Othello, for he wants to see him immediately to entrust the Venetian war efforts into his hands.

The search party arrives, armed and carrying torches. Brabantio verbally abuses Othello and physically threatens him. He accuses Othello of enchanting Desdemona with magic and drugs and orders his arrest. Othello resists and reacts calmly, stating he is wanted urgently by the Duke on state business. Brabantio decides to go along to present his case against Othello, certain that the Duke will rule in his favor.

It is important to notice how cleverly Shakespeare weaves public and private business in this play. Cassio, on official business from the Duke, does not know about the private life, the marriage, of Othello, his boss. It is Iago who informs him of the elopement. The Duke is involved with grave matters of state, for a war with Turkey is imminent; Brabantio ignores the matters of state and goes with Othello to present his private case against the marriage of Desdemona before the Duke.

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