ACT II – Scene.i
The action moves to a seaport town in Cyprus and the Governor of
Cyprus, Montano awaits the arrival of Othello and the other ships.
The island is being hit by a raging storm and concern is felt for any ship on the high seas. Montano hopes that the Turkish fleet have not found harbor, for they will be destroyed by the storm, but he also hopes that Othello and the rest will be saved.
News is received that in fact most of the Turkish fleet has been
lost and, therefore, Cyprus is safe, and a sail has been sighted that belongs to Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant, who arrives safely. He advises Montano that Othello and Iago’s ships have been
separated in the storm, and Montano shows real concern for Othello, even though he will hand over power to him when he arrives.
Cassio advises Montano concerning the marriage of Othello and
Desdemona. In flourishing language he describes Desdemona’s charms to the Governor.
A second sail is sighted and this is Iago’s ship, and when he
enters with his wife, Roderigo and Desdemona, Cassio continues his enthusiastic compliments concerning Desdemona. Again this action gratifies Iago.
Desdemona is anxious about her husband and she tries to distract her thoughts by entering into a play of words with Iago. He attempts to demean womankind including his wife, and Desdemona defends Emilia.
Cassio, who is concerned at Desdemona’s fears for her husband’s
safety, gallantly comforts her and takes her hand. Iago twists this behavior and considers it evidence that Cassio is making love to Desdemona.
Finally, Othello arrives safely at the port and the couple is blissfully reunited.
Iago and Roderigo are once again alone and Iago incites
Roderigo’s jealousy of Cassio by misinterpreting Desdemona’s relationship with Cassio. Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona is in love with Cassio as she is beginning to tire of Othello.
The pair plot to discredit Cassio and Roderigo is persuaded to engage Cassio in a fight when the opportunity presents itself. Now Roderigo is jealous of both Othello and Cassio and he will be a useful tool for Iago’s scheme.
Again Shakespeare uses a storm in order to bring an element of
the supernatural into the storyline. It is the usual portent of evil manifesting itself in the plot, but it also at a stroke removes the threat of invasion from the Turks.
However, will it cause any of the characters in the play to be drowned? Shakespeare induces an element of suspense, but at the end of the day, all the main characters are saved and are available to see out the action that will follow.
Shakespeare develops the character of Cassio here by using
extravagant language, showing him to be a gallant, but loyal servant to Othello. During this scene, Iago uses this trait as misplaced evidence that Cassio in fact loves Desdemona.
Shakespeare makes it clear that Othello’s only enemy will be
The Governor Montano clearly respects Othello and will obey the Duke’s command to have over power to him. He is genuinely concerned for Othello’s safety and puts up a prayer to Jove that he will be safe.
When Desdemona enters, she engages in banter with Iago in order
to take her mind away from her missing husband. She dislikes Iago’s cynical attitude regarding women.
Iago says of women, “they rise to play, and go to bed to work”, and later he says that they are fit only to raise children and keep household accounts.
Cassio’s genuine concern for Desdemona’s situation is
manipulated by Iago, and he relishes the fact that this behavior is shown in public. Iago will use this for best effect later on.
When the lovers are reunited, it marks the pinnacle of their
happiness. This delights Iago because he will now destroy their blissfulness and he sets the wheels in motion by plotting with Roderigo. Roderigo has been duped yet again to be Iago’s
instrument in bringing down Cassio, which is the first stage of his plan.
To summaries, therefore, the storm is used to increase the
tension. We see the clear happiness of Othello and Desdemona, which is overshadowed by the plotting of Iago. He will use Roderigo to discredit Cassio in order that he will lose his position,
and there will also be an accusation that Cassio has been making love to Desdemona.
Again this scene finishes with a soliloquy from Iago, which
contains important lines summarizing what has occurred and what his plans are for the future:
“Cassio loves her; I do well believe it;”
“The Moor '' is of a constant, loving, noble nature:”
“He’ll prove to Desdemona a most dear husband. Now I do love her too.”
“But partly led to diet my revenge '' a poisonous mineral gnaw
my inwards and nothing can, or shall, content my soul till I am even’d with him, wife for wife.”
The whole soliloquy should be read in detail. Every line
has something to say, but briefly we have that the perverted Iago believes that Cassio loves Desdemona.
He acknowledges that the Moor is a noble man, but that he will destroy him. He confesses that he loves Desdemona, but the observer knows that this man is incapable of love. What he desires is to possess her. He seeks revenge over the Moor and this has totally consumed him, like a poison. The last line of the soliloquy, “Knavery’s plain face is never seen till used”, meaning that his plotting will go undetected until it is too late.