ACT I – Scene.iii
This scene takes place in the Duke’s Council Chamber and we are
brought up to date regarding the political situation concerning Cyprus. Various messages are received, but it is soon evident that the Turks intend to throw all their resources against Cyprus.
As the excitement reaches a peak, Othello, Cassio, Iago,
Roderigo and Brabantio enter, the latter wishing to air his grievance concerning Othello’s marriage to his daughter. The Duke is more concerned regarding the Turkish threat than Brabantio’s
daughter. Eventually the Duke agrees that Desdemona’s lover will be suitably punished, but when he realizes that it is Othello, the ‘crime’ is somewhat diminished and he merely offers condolences
to Brabantio that he doesn’t look on the Moor favorably.
Othello describes how his courtship with Desdemona took place
and how he had been invited into the Brabantio’s home in order to tell his stories of adventure and battle. Desdemona was captivated by the Moor and his life and she soon fell in love with
him. Having heard the tale, the Duke suggests that his own daughter would probably have fallen in love with the Moor as well, thus putting his seal of approval on the match.
Desdemona’s love for Othello is now fully explained.
Brabantio is still of the opinion that his daughter has been
charmed, and so the Duke sends Iago to fetch her to the Council Chamber.
Desdemona speaks to the Duke showing great courage, conceding that she owes much to her father regarding her education, but now her duty lies with Othello, just as her mother was loyal to her father. Desdemona’s father is still bitter, but the Duke places Desdemona’s fate in Othello’s hands.
The Duke then instructs Othello to voyage to Cyprus and take
command of the island and resist the Turks.
Desdemona entreats the Duke to let her go with Othello to
Cyprus, and Othello assures the Duke that her presence won’t distract him from the impending battle. The Duke is impatient to have Cyprus secured and he orders Othello to leave for Cyprus that
night. Desdemona will travel to Cyprus separately accompanied by Emilia, Iago’s wife.
The dissatisfied Brabantio strikes an ominous tone to Othello’s departure.
Iago and Roderigo are left alone and Roderigo is depressed at
the loss of Desdemona.
Iago still needs him and tries to bring him out of his depression. It is so deep that he says, “I will incontinently drown myself.” Having not known love himself, Iago is surprised and reviled at Roderigo’s state and through his intelligence and powers of persuasion he brings Roderigo back to some sort of normality. He still needs Roderigo’s financial assistance. He tells Roderigo that Desdemona will soon tire of the Moor and will seek a younger lover. Roderigo is persuaded to travel to Cyprus due to the suggestion from Iago that events may turn in both their flavour.
The scene opens with a growing excitement regarding the events
over the impending invasion of Cyprus.
The audience is provided with details of the Turks movements in
a piecemeal fashion, a common technique for increasing the excitement levels of the audience and providing curiosity.
The Duke shows his agitation regarding the National emergency
and only gives Brabantio part of his attention, as he is more concerned about the fate of Cyprus. Its future depends on Othello and he cannot side against him in this matter of love, so he gives
his approval to the match once he has heard Desdemona’s story.
We are now given a full explanation regarding Othello and
Desdemona’s courtship, and we realize that Desdemona is not just physically attracted to this larger-than-life masculine figure, but she also views him as a hero and defender of her country. She is
enthralled by the stories of his prowess and bravery and she has literally been swept off her feet.
The Duke also concedes Othello’s status as a man of action, and
throughout all his adventures Othello has maintained his nobility. We also see that the Duke trusts Othello implicitly and he gives him authority to take full control of the island when he arrives
Although the Duke blesses the union, Brabantio more of less
disowns his daughter.
Keen to stay with her husband and support him in his campaign,
Desdemona is given permission to join Othello in Cyprus as soon as practical.
Othello is charged to leave immediately and the rest of the entourage will follow, including Emilia, Iago’s wife. Othello shows his trusting nature by leaving Desdemona in the care of Emilia until they are reunited in Cyprus.
As he departs, Brabantio makes a parting shot at the Moor and
the dialogue is as follows:
Brabantio: “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:
She has deceived her father, and may thee.”
Othello: “My life upon her faith! – Honest Iago,
My Desdemona must I leave to thee,
I pr’ythee, let thy wife attend on her,”
These lines almost encapsulate the whole plot.
Brabantio sows the seed that Desdemona might deceive Othello, as
he has been deceived. Othello stakes his life on the fact that Desdemona will be faithful. He also shows his naivety in regarding Iago as honest. Iago is in fact the totally evil
character of the play, while Desdemona is the symbol of goodness, and Othello has left goodness in the hands of evil.
The characters leave, leaving Roderigo and Iago alone, so the
Act is framed by these two characters, and much has transpired since the original meeting of these two.
Roderigo is in fact further away from Desdemona, but Iago gives him hope, suggesting that affairs may change in Cyprus. Iago still needs to use Roderigo and he successfully persuades him away from suicide and back to the role of his instrument of evil.
Fate seems to be on Iago’s side, as he has not had to work hard
to make events suit his purpose, and he has received help from unexpected quarters. This will continue to be the situation throughout the play.
Roderigo exits, leaving Iago to make a soliloquy, which shows
this evil man thinking aloud. There are several telling lines in his speech.
Concerning Roderigo he says, “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;”
So far as Othello is concerned, he says, “But for my sport and
profit. I hate the Moor.”
He now advises the audience that he will bring Cassio into the
plot by saying, “Cassio’s a proper man: let me see now; to get his place, in double knavery.” He is suggesting here that he will undermine Cassio’s position so that he will lose his office, but he
will also use Cassio in order to bring down Othello by concocting lies “to abuse Othello’s ear.”
He acknowledges that Othello “is of a free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so”. In other words, he is too na've. The soliloquy ends by him saying that he “must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.” This shows that he is totally evil. He regards this manipulation of people and their lives as a game.
Much has happened in this scene.
The pace has accelerated due to the military developments and Iago’s scheming. Although our hero is full of courage and has a great physical presence on the stage, he is na've and seems vulnerable to Iago’s evil.
The love between Desdemona and Othello is deep and passionate,
in contrast to the frivolous love between Romeo and Juliet.
The audience is now anticipating the final outcome.