Act 1 Scene 1

The play begins on a street in Venice, Italy, Roderigo, and Iago are in the middle of an argument. Roderigo has paid Iago a lot of money to help him win the hand of Desdemona. Despite this he learns that Desdemona has eloped with Othello, the Moorish (North African) general under whom Iago serves. 

So, he believes Iago has scammed him. Iago outlines that he hates Othello as he promoted Cassio to lieutenant over him. He states how he is only looking out for himself not Othello as he is pretending to serve him.

Iago and Roderigo head to the house of Brabantio (a senator and Desdemona’s father). They shout from the street that Brabantio has been robbed. Brabantio immediately comes to the window, but at first doesn’t believe them as he clearly recognizes Roderigo (as he has recently told to stop hanging around his house and pursuing Desdemona).

 But then Iago, who doesn’t give his name and whom Brabantio doesn’t recognize outlines Desdemona eloping with Othello (robbing his daughter). 

Brabantio doesn’t believe them and goes into his house to find Desdemona, to his shock she isn’t there. Iago has fled to ensure Brabantio doesn’t realise it’s him. They gather an army and go to find Othello; Brabantio says he wishes she’d married Roderigo.

Plot Summary

Iago is angry that Othello (the general of the army), has promoted Cassio to be his lieutenant instead of him. Othello secretly marries Desdemona, the daughter of a senator in Venice (Brabantio). Iago therefore tells Desdemona’s father about the secret marriage to cause trouble for Othello.

Desdemona’s father makes a formal complaint about Othello’s behaviour to the Duke of Venice. His complaint is ignored and the Duke sends Othello to Cyprus to continue fighting in a war. Othello goes to Cyprus and takes his new wife Desdemona with him, together with Iago and Michael Cassio.

Iago encourages Cassio to get drunk whilst on duty. Cassio ends up in a drunken fight and is demoted from his position as lieutenant. Iago begins to plant seeds of suspicion in Othello’s mind about his wife’s relationship with Michael Cassio. Iago gets hold of a handkerchief belonging to Desdemona and hides it in Cassio’s room pretending it is proof of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness.

Desdemona pleads with Othello to give Cassio his job back. She does this innocently, but Othello takes this as proof of her feelings for Cassio. Iago continues to manipulate Othello to the point where Othello murders his new wife as punishment for her supposed unfaithfulness. Iago’s wife, Emilia, tells Othello that Iago has lied. Othello realises his tragic mistake and commits suicide over the body of his wife as Iago is arrested.

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