In Othello, William Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona that begins with elopement and mutual devotion and ends with jealous rage and death. Shakespeare builds many differences into his hero and heroine, including race, age, and cultural background. Yet most readers and audiences believe the couple’s strong love would overcome these differences were it not for Iago, who sets out to destroy Othello. Iago’s false insinuations about Desdemona’s infidelity draw Othello into his schemes, and Desdemona is subjected to Othello’s horrifying verbal and physical assaults.
Characters in the Play
In Venice, at the start of Othello, the soldier Iago announces his hatred for his commander, Othello, a Moor. Othello has…
Act 1, scene 1
In the streets of Venice, Iago tells Roderigo of his hatred for Othello, who has given Cassio the lieutenancy that…
Act 1, scene 2
Iago warns Othello about Brabantio’s anger, but Othello is confident in his own strength and in his love for Desdemona….
Act 1, scene 3
The duke and the senators discuss the movements of the Turkish fleet and conclude that its target is, indeed, Cyprus….
Act 2, scene 1
The Turkish fleet is destroyed in a storm, while Cassio and then Desdemona, Emilia, and Iago arrive safely at Cyprus….
Act 2, scene 2
Othello proclaims a public celebration.
Act 2, scene 3
Iago gets Cassio drunk, making it easy for Roderigo to provoke Cassio into a brawl, first with Roderigo, then with…
Act 3, scene 1
Cassio arrives with musicians to honor Othello and Desdemona. As Iago has recommended, Cassio asks Emilia to arrange a meeting…
Act 3, scene 2
Othello prepares to tour Cyprus’s fortifications.
Act 3, scene 3
Desdemona’s interview with Cassio is cut short by the arrival of Othello. Cassio leaves hastily in order to avoid speaking…
Act 3, scene 4
Desdemona, still actively seeking to have Cassio reinstated, is worried about the loss of her handkerchief. Her anxiety about it…
Act 4, scene 1
Iago continues to torment Othello with vivid descriptions of Desdemona’s alleged sexual activity. Othello falls into an epileptic seizure. Iago…
Act 4, scene 2
Othello questions Emilia about Cassio and Desdemona’s relationship, acting as if Emilia is the mistress of a brothel and Desdemona…
Act 4, scene 3
Othello, walking with Lodovico, orders Desdemona to go to bed and to dismiss Emilia. As Emilia helps Desdemona prepare for…
Act 5, scene 1
In the dark streets of Cyprus, Roderigo attacks Cassio, who, uninjured, stabs Roderigo. Iago then wounds Cassio in the leg….
Act 5, scene 2
Desdemona is asleep in bed when Othello enters. He kisses her and wakes her and once again charges her with…