ACT 1 – Scene.i
This is set in a Venetian street where Iago and Roderigo are in
conversation, and we learn details concerning Othello and the personalities of these two Venetians.
Iago is the protagonist and key character of the play.
Roderigo is a much weaker person, but Iago needs Roderigo as a
source of money, and to help him in his vendetta against Othello.
Iago is Othello’s personal servant and he wished to become
Othello’s lieutenant, but instead, Othello chose Cassio to hold this position.
Cassio is a Florentine, not a Venetian, and has little experience of military affairs. Iago feels he is more qualified to hold the position and regards Othello’s choice as pure favoritism.
Roderigo wishes to court Desdemona, the beautiful daughter of
Senator Brabantio, and asked Iago to help him with his suit.
This he did by using Roderigo’s money to make bribes. It now transpires that Desdemona has eloped with Othello who is a Moorish General in the service of the Duke’s Venetian army.
Iago exerts control over Roderigo in order to maintain a supply
of money. He hopes to persuade Roderigo to be an ally in his plans to obtain revenge on Othello. Iago still wishes to appear loyal to Othello, and so he persuades Roderigo to advise Desdemona’s
father about the elopement.
They wake Brabantio to proclaim the news concerning his daughter and at first he is unwilling to listen, as he regards Iago and Roderigo as drunkards. Eventually, after he has searched house, Brabantio organizes a search-party as he is sure the Moor has bewitched his daughter. Iago is pleased that his plans are so far successful, and he hopes that Othello’s position will be undermined. Roderigo leads the search-party to the Inn where Othello and Desdemona are to be found. Iago has gone ahead to warn Othello and to show his apparent loyalty.
Originally Brabantio had repelled Roderigo’s suit, but he now
thinks that he would be a far better choice for his daughter than Othello.
This first Act takes place in Venice and the final four Acts on
the island of Cyprus. Cyprus was part of the Venetian Empire, who was in conflict with the Turks, and who coveted this island.
The audience soon has an insight into the villainous character
Iago, who is seen to manipulate Roderigo who will help him in his revenge against Othello, and also provide him with money.
Iago had sought the prestigious position of Othello’s
lieutenant, but instead he received the inferior post of personal attendant. Iago is much hurt by this act and when he realizes the post is given to an outsider, Cassio, he is determined to have
Very early on in the scene we learn of Iago’s intentions as follows:
“I follow him to serve my turn upon him:
we cannot all be masters, nor all masters
cannot be truly followed. You shall mark
many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,
that, doting on his own obsequious bondage,
wears out his time, much like his master’s ass.”
One of the main aims of this scene is to create an atmosphere of
suspense and interest as an introduction to our meeting Othello himself. We can clearly see that Iago is untrustworthy and the audience must realize that his word cannot be relied upon. An
element of mystery is conjured up concerning Othello emphasized by Brabantio’s speech as follows:
“Damn’d as thou art, thou has enchanted her;
for I’ll refer me to all things of sense,
if she in chains of magic were not bound,
whether a maid so tender, fair and happy,
so opposite to marriage that she shunn’d
the wealthy, curled darlings of our nation,
would ever have to incur a general mock,”
What Brabantio is saying here is that it is not feasible that
his daughter would willingly elope with this black Moor unless she was enchanted, or under some influence, for such action opens her family to mockery. What this also tells us is that Desdemona, if
not enchanted, has shown great courage in turning her back on her family for love of this man.