ACT I – Scene.ii
We are still in the streets of Venice and Iago meets with
Othello, and he shows his apparent loyalty to his master by warning him of Roderigo’s treachery.
He tells Othello that he is shocked at the animosity that Roderigo has for him due to his jealousy concerning Desdemona.
Although Desdemona’s father has great influence in the state,
Othello is confident enough to face him, for he too is not without reputation.
A party of men approach with torches, but it is not Brabantio’s
search-party, but a group of the Duke’s men led by Cassio.
News has been received concerning Cyprus and the Duke wishes to see Othello immediately. Othello leaves to see Desdemona and we learn that they have been married.
The audience will be aware that Iago shows no contempt towards
Cassio. He is clearly biding his time and shows a sly facet to his nature.
As they prepare to meet with the Duke, Brabantio’s party
approach and swords are drawn.
Iago appears to engage with Roderigo in order to protect his master, and he draws him aside. Othello faces up to Brabantio urging that their weapons should be returned to their scabbards. Desdemona’s father accuses the Moor of enchanting his daughter. He cannot come to terms with the fact that she would refuse to marry one of the eligible Venetians and marry the Moor instead. Othello remains calm throughout the confrontation and suggests that Brabantio should go to the Duke to state his case.
The audience is quickly learning that Iago is all things to all
To Othello he is his faithful servant. To Roderigo he is a loyal friend who has done all in his power to help him in his suit for Desdemona. To Cassio he will be a dutiful subordinate and one who will seem to give good advice later in the play. He is indeed a complex character and the audience is perhaps shocked at his two-faced behavior.
We now see clearly Othello’s status in Venice and it is evident
that he is highly regarded by the Duke. The future safety of the Venetian colonies lies squarely with Othello and the Duke urgently calls for him to help with the latest crisis concerning the
impending invasion of Cyprus by the Turks.
The audience has to come to the conclusion that Brabantio’s
objection to Othello is because of his color.
If he had been white then this would have been a good match socially for Desdemona. This is perhaps why Shakespeare makes this key character a black Moor, for we suspect that just as today, the Jacobean society showed prejudice towards the influx of Blackamoors into England. Shakespeare is perhaps educating the insular audience, showing them the nobility and courage of Othello.
We also learn much about Desdemona. She has shown great
courage in following her love for Othello, which flies in the face of normal convention.