Scenes 1.1 and 1.2
Scene 1.1 - A street in Venice
On the dark streets of Venice, Iago and Roderigo are talking. Roderigo has found out some bad news - and Iago insists that he didn't know about it and hates the man involved. Iago deserved, he says, to be the man's lieutenant, but the man chose Cassio, an egghead with no experience in battle, instead. So Iago now serves as the man's third-in-command, rather than his second. In speaking, Iago has begun referring to the man as "the Moor"; a "Moor" is a dark-skinned Muslim from Northern Africa. Roderigo suggests Iago should have quit, but Iago has decided against it: serving the Moor will give him the best chance of getting his revenge. Some men, he says, are absolutely loyal to their masters - and get fired in the end. But some make themselves look dutiful while actually taking care only of themselves - and such a man is Iago. He will not wear his "heart upon [his] sleeve," says Iago: "I am not what I am." That is, who he appears to be, and what he appears to want, are only disguises to his real intentions.
The two men approach the house of Brabanzio, the father of the woman involved in the news (she has, it turns out, married the Moor) and begin shouting "Thieves!" When Brabanzio comes down, Iago begins hinting, in vulgar terms, at what has happened; Brabanzio can't see Iago, but notices Roderigo and, misunderstanding what is happening, tells him that his daughter, Desdemona, doesn't want to see him - that is, Brabanzio thinks Roderigo is pursuing his failed courtship of his daughter. Iago proceeds to tell Brabanzio, in thinly disguised hints, that his daughter is now having sex with the Moor. Roderigo finally explains: Brabanzio's daughter and the Moor have eloped. Understanding, Brabanzio quickly exits, waking the house and calling for help. Iago - who has not been seen - leaves, because, he explains, it cannot be known that he is acting against the Moor, who is presently the hero of Venice because he's about to lead its troops in the war in Cyprus. Brabanzio returns, with help. He guesses that the Moor had drugged his daughter. Brabanzio sends men to seize his daughter and the Moor.
Scene 1.2 - Another street in Venice, before Othello's lodgings
Iago is telling the Moor, Othello, about the man who has informed on him to his wife's father, and says he would have stabbed the man if he'd had the chance. He warns Othello of the influence of Brabanzio, who is a senator in Venice, but Othello is sure that his military service makes him even more influential. Further, he says, he really does love his wife, Desdemona. Cassio enters, telling Othello that the Duke wants to see him at once - there is some news about the wars in Cyprus; Othello goes to meet with the Duke. Iago briefly tells Cassio what's happened: Othello has married. Almost immediately, Othello returns, with Brabanzio and Roderigo. Iago draws his sword to defend Othello. Brabanzio makes a long and angry speech, accusing Othello of drugging and abducting his daughter. He asks the officers to arrest Othello, but Othello stops them, informing them that the Duke has asked to see him at once. Brabanzio hasn't heard about this but is sure the Duke will sympathize with his cause. They all leave to see the Duke.
Browse all Studyworld Studynotes|
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Scenes 1.1 and 1.2
Scenes 2.1 and 2.2
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3