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Free Study Guide-Othello by William Shakespeare-Free Online Booknotes
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Act III, Scene 1

Summary

It is early morning after the night of the quarrel. According to custom, Cassio has arranged a number of musicians to play sweet music outside the bedroom window of Othello and Desdemona. Othello does not like the music and sends the clown to send them off.

Cassio bribes the clown to inform Emilia that he wants to see her on some important matter. Just then Iago arrives on the scene. He promises Cassio that he will send his wife Emilia to him. He also assures him that she will try to persuade Desdemona on his behalf. An appreciative Cassio ironically calls him "honest Iago".

Emilia enters and assures Cassio that her mistress, Desdemona, has already spoken to Othello on his behalf. She tells him that Othello’s anger is temporary, and he will soon restore Cassio to his former position, for the general still loves him. Cassio, however, is not fully convinced and wishes to meet Desdemona personally. Emilia immediately takes him to her mistress.

As Cassio presents himself to Desdemona, to again ask her to persuade her husband to reinstate him, Iago and Othello are seen at a distance.

Notes

The first scene of the third act provides a brief and somewhat comic interlude. The humorous dialogue between the musicians and the clown is lively, especially the bawdy jokes about tails and wind instruments. At the end of their comic interchange, Cassio sends the Clown to Emilia, asking her to come out and speak with him.


The real business of the scene begins with Iago’s entrance. He promises Cassio that he will take Othello out of the way for awhile, so that he can talk freely with both Emilia and Desdemona. Emilia tells Cassio that Othello feels obliged to make an example of him, but intends to reinstate him at a convenient moment. Emilia is perfectly sincere in her desire to help Cassio, as shown in her final lines. The audience realizes that she is acting unwittingly as Iago’s instrument.

The importance of this short scene is that it establishes that Desdemona, Emilia, and Othello are desirous of rehabilitating Cassio at the first opportunity. Iago must act quickly. In addition, the scene puts Cassio and Desdemona together, so that Iago can later draw Othello’s attention to the fact that they are together.

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