Othello – Questions on Act 1 Scene 1

What impression of Othello is given by Iago and Roderigo at the beginning of the play? – Iago talks about his hate for Othello- Iago says Othello is ‘loving his own pride and purposes’ (he is arrogant and big-headed)
What is Iago’s opinion of Cassio? What does this tell us about Iago as a character? – Iago says Michael Cassio is an ‘arithmetician’ (writes about combat but actually has no physical experience) – Audience can see that Iago is quite spiteful and jealous and tries to play-down the success of others by insulting them to make him feel better
Iago’s references to Othello: – ‘Barbary horse’ (North African horse) – ‘Old black ram is tupping your white ewe’ – ‘The beast with two backs’ (sex)- ‘The Moor’ – ‘Coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans’ (Racehorses for cousins and small Spanish horses for relatives)
Roberto’s references to Othello: – ‘a knave’ (villain)- ‘a gondolier’ (taxi driver) – ‘Moor’
How is Desdemona introduced and constructed as a character in this scene? How do the other characters regard her? – Brabantio says choosing her own husband is ‘treason of the blood’ – She is unsafe – in ‘the gross clasps of a laviscious Moor’ – She’s sweet and innocent. Her ‘youth and maidhood’ have been ‘abused’ by Othello (reinforces stereotype of black people being cunning sexual predators)
Male views on women: – Sexist- Iago says Cassio is ‘A fellow almost damned in a fair wife’ (Even though we later find out he’s not actually married)- Iago shouts ‘Look to your house, your daughter and your bags/thieves, thieves!’ (Desdemona is just a possession which could have been stolen) – he has been ‘robbed’
Why Iago hates Othello: – He’s annoyed at Othello because he didn’t get the promotion to lieutenant – ‘I know I am worth no worse a place’
Things which tell us that Iago has evil intentions: – ‘In following him, I follow but myself’- ‘I am not what I am’
Clues that Othello will be a tragedy: – Roderigo’s failure to marry Desdemona- Iago’s failure to gain promotion- At the end of the scene, Brabantio arms himself and orders his neighbours to help him hunt down Othello – The marriage of Othello and Desdemona will be at the heart of the conflict – There are also references to the conflict with the Turks over Cyprus
First impressions of Iago: – He says to Roderigo: ‘poison his delight’ and ‘plague him with flies’ (talking about breaking the news of Desdemona’s elopement to Brabantio) – Seems to be xenophobic (having or showing an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries) – Iago says he only follows Othello to ‘serve my turn upon him’

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