Othello Scene Summaries and Key Quotes

Act 1 scene 1 Basic summary +key quotes Basic Summary: -Begins on a street in Venice, in the midst of an argument between Roderigo and Iago. -Iago reassures his hatred for Othello and identifies the reason as being Othello’s recent promotion of Michael Cassio to the post of lieutenant-Iago convinces Roderigo to conjure mayhem by rousing Desdemona’s family against Othello. -Iago speaks in *inflammatory termsKey quotes -‘thieves, thieves, thieves !’-‘Even now, now, very now, an old black ram /Is tupping your white ewe!’-‘This accident is not unlike my dream’
Significance of Act 1 Scene 1 -The audience must rely on Iago’s descriptions of Othello and Cassio… makes Othello’s goodness even more unbelievable in the next scene. -Shakespeare introduces possible motives for Iago… but they all seem insufficient—> talk about how they change throughout the play (Samuel Taylor Coleridge –> ‘the motive hunting of motiveless malignity.’ -Clandestine meeting/takes place in the dark… sets an ominous tone for the whole play -the use of inflammatory racist slurs…how will the audience feel about this ?-Iago’s peculiar philosophy is revealed.
Act 1 scene 2Basic summary +key quotes -Iago arrives at Othello’s lodgings, and warns him that Brabantio will not hesitate to attempt to force a divorce between Othello and Desdemona.-Cassio and officers arrive from the Venetian court. They bring Othello the message that he is wanted by the duke of Venice about a matter concerning Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea controlled by Venice. -Branbantio, Roderigo and officers arrive soon after, there is a brief confrontation, Brabantio accuses Othello of witchcraft, Othello agrees to have direct confrontation with the Duke-‘My parts , my title and my perfect soul/Shall manifest me rightly’-‘Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them’-‘Thou hast practised on her foul charms’-‘A Turkish fleet, and bearing up to Cyprus.’-‘But look what lights come yond’
Significance of Act 1 Scene 2 -Iago establishes himself as the machiavelli … when he plays the part of turning on Roderigo -the audience observe the nobility of Othello-excitement created the mention of Cyprus and war-themes of the domestic vs the professional…’Mine’s not an idle cause.’-This scene can be linked to the Bible …John 18:11
Act 1 scene 3 -An exchange between the Duke, senator and Sailors takes place, highlighting the imminent threat of the Turks who are heading towards Cyprus. -Military meeting is interrupted by Brabrantio. He accuses Othello of witchcraft and Othello is put on the spot. -Desdemona enters and claims Othello’s statement to be true. -Othello is set to sail out to Cyprus, Desdemona and Iago are to arrive on a different ship thereafter. -Exit Desdemona and Othello. Rodrigo and Iago have a private conversation. Iago repeatedly reminds Roderigo to put money in his purse and convinces Roderigo to not commit suicide.-‘the cannibals that each other eat’-‘men whose heads /Do grow beneath their shoulders’-‘I think this tale would win my daughter too’-‘my ancient: A man he is of honesty and trust’-‘Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:/she has deceived her father, and may thee.’-‘Put money in thy purse’
Significance of Act 1 Scene 3 -the imminent wars highlights Othello’s value as a soldier-the domestic vs the professional !!!! -Othello’s nobility and Megalopsychia, mastery of the rhetoric is revealed !!!-Othello establishes Iago as trustworthy –> the true cause of his downfall-Iago has a soliloquy…the rhyming couplet sets his plans into motion… ‘Hell and night/Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.’
Act 2 Scene 1 -On the shores of Cyprus, Montano, the island’s governor observes a storm which destroys the turkish fleet of ships.-Cassio arrives and portrays his worry for Othello’s safety in the storm. -Another ship arrives and Iago and Desdemona and Emilia enter.-Cassio is portrayed as being overly courteous when he kisses Emilia and this provokes Iago. -Iago and Desdemona have a brief and lighthearted ‘war of wits’.-Iago takes advantage of Cassio’s overly courteous manner and begins scheming. -Othello enters and reunites with Desdemona. There are many asides !!!-Iago persuades Roderigo that Cassio stands in the way of his chances to get Desdemona when she tires of Othello +Comes up with the plan to anger Cassio-Iago has a final soliloquy where he states his plan to avenge himself and also suspects Othello and Cassio of cuckolding him.-‘You rise to play, and go to bed to work’ -‘If after every tempest comes such calms/May the wind blow till they have wakened death’-‘With little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio'”what delight shall she have to look on the devil?”
Significance of Act 2 Scene 1 -Shakespeare replaces the external threat of the storm with the internal threat of Iago —–> moves the play on from the professional to the domestic -the irony of Cassios’s love for Othello, and how quickly he will lose it later on -it almost seems as if all the tragedy is done… it is the highest point of Othello and Des’s relationship … (the ‘Olympus-high’) -technique of an aside is used here !! -ideas of fatalism and foreshadowing -Iago continues to explore his motives
Act 2 scene 2 Summary:-Peace is restored in Cyprus-There is to be a night of revels to celebrate the destruction of the Turkish fleet and Othello’s marriage The herald’s joyful proclamation marks a return to civil order. It is very ironic as in the next scene, Iago will disrupt the peace. Shakespeare reminds the audience that Cyprus is a dangerous place.
Act 2 scene 3 Summary:-Iago is put in charge of the festivities and Desdemona and Othello leave to consummate their marriage.-Iago persuades Cassio to join in the carousing and underminds his reputation by telling Montano that he is a drunkard. -Roderigo antagonises Cassio, a fight ensues and Othello dismisses Cassio from his post. -Iago advises Cassio to seek Desdemona’s help on his behalf. -Iago intends to pursuade his wife, Emilia, to promote Cassio’s cause with Desdemona while he poisons Othello. ‘Have you forgotten all place of sense and duty'”I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking”‘I had rather have this tongue cut from my Mouth…”All’s well now, sweeting.’-‘Confess yourself freely to her.’
Significance of Act 2 scene 3 -the audience get to see how Iago brings his plan to fruition-the fact that Iago is able to seamlessly switch between different characters –> highlights his manipulative skills … his singing…-to the audience’s horror, Iago’s plan comes to fruition-there are many asides between Rod and Iago which only the audience get to see-reputation is largely mentioned by Cassio here-Iago presents his final plan….
Act 3 scenes 1 and 2 Summary :-Cassio hires some musicians to serenade Othello and Desdemona, Othello sends a clown to pay the musicians to leave.-Iago says he will divert Othello’s attention so that Cassio can speak to Desdemona alone and Emilia agrees to help.-Othello sets out to inspect fortifications and Iago accompanies him. Act 3 scene 2
Act 3 scenes 1 and 2 significance -could say they offer comic relief
Act 3 scene 3 Summary: -Des has a brief conversation with Cassio and Emilia, vows to do her best -Desdemona pleads with Othello to reinstate Cassio-Iago poisons Othello’s mind against Cassio, hinting that he has committed adultery… Othello begins to doubt Desdemona’s love and becomes jealous-talks about reputation –> jealousy –> talks about the woman of Venice–>-Othello has a brief sililoquy-Desdemona drops her handkerchief, which Emilia picks up and gives to Iago. -Othello demands proof of Desdemona’s adultery-Iago describes how Cassio called out for Des in a dream and has been seen wiping his beard with the handkerchief.-Othello asks Iago to kill Cassio and he promotes Iago-Othello intends to kill DesdemonaThe Faustian Scene comes at the end, where both Iago, and Othello kneel. Iago says: ‘I am your own forever.’
Act 3 scene 3 significance -Cassio has decided to seek Desdemona’s help, under Iago’s advice-contains a scene with a short soliloquy from Othello… it highlights to the audience the extent Othello is influenced
Act 3 Scene 4 Summary :-Desdemona asks the clown to inform Cassio that she has pleaded for him-She is uneasy about losing the handkerchief (Emilia is present and doesn’t say anything)-She tries again to promote Cassio’s cause-Othello is angry with Desdemona because he believes she has lost the handkerchief—> The scene where he talks about the magic in the handkerchief… he leaves in anger.-Emilia enters and points out his jealousy , Cassio and Iago enter. Iago mocks surprise ‘Can he be angry?’. Desdemona is still going to convince Othello, even after his anger.-Cassio gives Bianca Desdemona’s handkerchief, saying he found it on the floor of his bed chamber… wants her to take the pattern out + brief demonstration of jealousy
Act 3 Scene 4 Significance -Othello lies to test if Des has the handkerchief … could talk about how it symbolises the degeneration of his noble character-There is foreshadowing in Othello’s tale
Act 4 Scene 1 Summary:-Othello falls into an epilepsy-Overlooking a conversation, Othello sees Desdemona’s handkerchief in Bianca’s hand and believes that his wife has been unfaithful … THE CONCEALMENT SCENE-Othello vows to murder Desdemona-Venetian visitors bring news that Othello will be replaced with Cassio-Othello strikes Desdemona-Iago undermines Othello’s reputation with Lodovico
Act 4 Scene 1 Significance -Othello’s inability to conceal his domestic problems from business –> his true degeneration/ contrast with Act 1 Scene 3.
Act 4 Scene 2 Summary:-Othello questions Emilia but does not believe her when she says Desdemona is true to him.-Othello confronts Desdemona trying to get her to confess her guilt -Believing that Emilia assisted Desdemona in her wantonness, Othello offers Emilia money and leaves in disgust-Emilia’s anger comes through-Desdemona appeals to Iago for help-Iago persuades Roderigo to help in his plot to kill Cassio
Act 4 Scene 2 Significance -Iago’s views of woman have rubbed off on Othello… he tried to determine her innocence by examining her physically-The irony of Des asking for help from Iago… only the audience knows he can’t be trusted –> creates frustration
Act 4 Scene 3 Summary:-Desdemona is sent to prepare for bed-Emilia says she wishes Desdemona never met Othello, but Desdemona says she still loves her husband-Unable to dismiss a melancholy song from her mind, she discusses man’s inconstancy of love towards woman with Emilia **—> The Willow song scene
Act 4 Scene 3 significance -effective in creating a melancholic and depressing atmosphere -Also foreshadows Des’s inevitable death—> the audience know that her death is almost determined. Could contrast with her more assertive character
Act 5 Scene 1 Summary:-Roderigo tries to wound Cassio but is instead wounded. -As Iago stabs Cassio in the leg, Othello hears cries and believing that Cassio has been killed, is spurred onto his own revenge-Iago kills roderigo-Bianca appears and Iago accuses her of involvement in a plot to kill Cassio.-Iago sends Emilia to inform Othello and Desdemona of what has happened.
Act 5 Scene 1 Significance -At this point, the conclusion of the play is not completely cemented… recall Iago’s quote … ‘for my peculiar end.’
Act 5 Scene 2 Summary:-Othello explains he will kill Desdemona, then kisses her, waking her up.-Desdemona weeps when Othello tells her Cassio is dead and believing Desdemona loved Cassio, he smothers her.-Desdemona tells Emilia that she caused her own death-After finding out the truth, Emilia insults Othello and summons Montano, Gratiano and Iago – Iago denies Emilia’s accusations of villainy, stabs her and leaves her to die.-Othello wounds Iago but Iago will not explain his actions.-Realising his folly, Othello kills himself.
Act 5 Scene 2 Significance -Othello’s conflict highlights the extent of Iago’s manipulations… he is not himself/ a completely changed man from Act 1 scenen 3 -He considered his act a sacrifice or form of justice, he kills Desdemona without mercy or reason… does not care if she dams her soul, and he attempts to hide desdemona-We never really understand why Iago did what he did, all the soliloquies only gave us glimpses, eg. Roderigo’s letter. Leaves audience with unsatisfaction and bitterness.
Key quotes + significance of Othello’s opening speechAct 1 Scene 3 -‘Most potent, grave and reverend signoirs’ -‘Of moving accidents by flood and field’ —> descriptions of adventure and allure-‘the cannibals that each other eat’-‘men whose heads /Do grow beneath their shoulders’… use of exotic imagery to make himself appear less barbaric -’twas strange… ’twas wonderous pitiful -‘She loved me for the dangers I had passed’
Key quotes closing speechAct 5 Scene 2 In othello’s suicide, he attempts to resurrect his reputation and attempts to destroy the villainPoetic Justice… a fitting or deserved retribution for one’s actions.he kills himself with a sword he used to kill enemies of the Venetian state…- He uses language of justice eg. ‘it is the cause’ In his justification he says… * “Of one not easily jealous…’-‘An honourable murder, if you will.'”Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away””I took by th’ throat the circumcised dog”
Significance of Diabolical language Used as a …dramatic device… highlights how people see Othello (racism)… how Othello sees Desdemona (sexism)… highlight Des’s fear…… and of course Iago can be seen as a devil figureIt provides Othello with an excuse to carry out his revenge and it also establishes the morals of society. -‘I hope to be saved’ Act 2 Scene 3-“what delight shall she have to look on the devil?”-‘damn her, damn her!’… Act 3 scene 3 -“fair devil”… Act 3 Scene 3-‘You the blacker devil”… Act 5 Scene 2 -“Whip me ye devils” … Act 5 Scene 2
Hellish imagery Othello Highlights how he has damned himself…’This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven”roast me in sulphur.’
Emilia, a progressive feminist figure…Act 4 Scene 3 quotes -‘Is he not jealous’ -‘If I court moe woman, you’ll couch with moe men.’-“It is a great price /For a small vice”-“let husbands know /Their wives have sense like them”… ‘And have their palates both for sweet and sour.’
Iago’s methods Echoing certain phrases eg. Brabantio: “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see/She has deceived her father and may thee”Iago later echoes this in act 3 : ” She did deceive her father, marrying you…” Act 3 Scene 3 Repetition and use of Adjacency pairsmakes Othello unsure of himself …Iago: “Indeed?”Othello: “Indeed? Ay, indeed.”Adjacency pairsOthello: “Is he not honest ?”Iago: “Honest, my lord?”Feigned reluctance/concern:’I had rather have this tongue cut from my Mouth…’-‘Nine or ten times/I had thought t’have yerked him here, under the ribs’ Dictating how a person feels”I see this has little dashed your spirits”Covering himself up “I do not in position, distinctly speak of her”Challenging a person’s dignity “Are you a man ?”Use of crude language -‘Even now, now, very now, an old black ram /Is tupping your white ewe!’He manipulates Othello’s inner insecurity of his status as an outsider and a Moor…’I know our country disposition well.’Cajoling…persuade someone to do something by sustained coaxing or flattery.
Iago’s reversal of roles with Othello [in Act 5 Scene 1 ]Elevation of speech + manners:”Signior Gratiano? I cry you gentle pardon:”Also portrayed as a hero… “Are you of good or evil ?””Gentlemen, I’ll bind it with my shirt”
Iago’s proof He uses cumulative proofs…Cassio’s sleep talking : ‘loose of the soul”The Handkerchief and how he saw Cassio wiping his beard.The concealment sceneIago acknowledges… ‘Trifles light as air/Are to the jealous confirmations strong.’
Othello’s change of character, shaming and show of aggression towards Desdemona It’s important to note that this happens fairly quickly…-“Fair warrior” , “My souls joy” [Act 2 Scene 1] -‘I love the gentle Desdemona’ [Act 1 scene 2] vs-‘I’ll tear her all to pieces” [Act 3 scene 3] -“cunning w**** of Venice” [Act 4 Scene 2] -[strikes her] [Act 4 Scene 1]
Desdemona, her passiveness and foreshadowing of fate -‘For thy solicitor shall rather die/Than give thy cause away.’ [Act 3 Scene 3, ironically comes true] -She makes excuses for Othello’s anger, whereas Emilia says it for what it is. -She mentions Cassio incessantly even though she can see it annoys Othello eg. in front of Lodovico.-The willow song is a scene of ‘passive anguish’
Machiavellian Iago Deceiving and self serving-‘I follow him to serve my turn upon him’-‘How am I then a villain’has peculiar philosophies + speaks in riddles/cryptic language-‘these fellows have some soul’-‘for my peculiar end’-‘I am not what I am.’Manipulative + Has good understanding of societies prejudices and inequalities towards women …”look you pale mistress?” – Iago on Bianca ‘From this time forth I never will speak word.’
Iago’s Philosophies Theres almost a nurturing quality to the monster in Othello.-“Hell and night/ Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light” [Act 1 Scene 3]”Work on, My medicine, work! Thus credulous fools are caught” [Act 4 Scene 1] -‘Our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners.’ [Act 1 Scene 3]
Iago’s Motives Not being promoted to Lieutenant…-“For ‘Certes’ says he, ‘I have already chose my officer'”Belief that Othello has cuckolded him/jealousy-‘thought abroad that twixt my sheets/He’s done my office.’-‘the lusty Moor/Hath leaped into my seat.’ [Act 2 Scene 1] Latent Homosexuality-The Moor… ‘is of a constant, loving, noble nature.’/’he’ll prove to Desdemona/ A most dear husband.’ … perhaps Iago is jealous of this. -General distaste towards women…’damned in a fair wife.’-‘strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated.’ (sounds quite obsessive) -Racism
Othello to be blamed Could be argued that Iago merely drew out the violence from Othello.Iago even warned, -‘Scan this thing no farther.Leave it to time.’ [Act 3 scene 3]
Othello Internalising stereotypes/ expectations and his insecurities -‘Arise black vengeance/ From thy hollow cell.’-And yet how nature,erring from itself.’-‘not those soft parts of conversation.’ ‘declined/Into the value of years.’
Othello’s military background -‘like the devil, from his very arm/Puffed his own brother.’-war as Othello’s ‘thrice driven bed of down.’

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