Othello and Desdemona enter, along with Cassio. Othello asks Cassio to keep watch over the island tonight with Iago and leaves with Desdemona, with whom, he says to her, he will tonight finally consummate their marriage. Iago enters. He talks with Cassio about Desdemona's beauty and offers him wine; Cassio refuses, saying he is too easily influenced by it. Iago insists, saying that their friends are here to celebrate. Cassio goes to let them in, and Iago, alone, hopes that he can get Cassio to drink, since the easily drunken man will then surely fight with Roderigo. Cassio returns with Montano and others. The men drink and sing together. Cassio is quickly drunk. He hopes, he says, that his soul will be saved, offers a couple of blasphemous jokes and leaves. Iago warns Montano of Cassio's drunkenness, which could put the island in danger. Roderigo enters, and Iago quickly sends him off to find Cassio.
As Montano worries about Cassio's competence, shouts are heard. Roderigo returns, chased by Cassio. Montano tries to stop him, and quickly gets into a sword-fight with Cassio. Roderigo, instructed by Iago, quickly leaves, and Iago shouts that there is trouble at the watch. Othello, hearing the noise, enters. Montano cries that he is mortally wounded. Othello condemns them, and asks Iago, who looks concerned, to explain what has happened. Iago says that he does not know, but agrees with Othello that it is a terribly dishonorable event. Cassio cannot speak, but Montano claims that he was only defending himself. Furious, Othello demands to know who started the fight, asking Iago again. Pretending to be reluctant, Iago admits what has happened: Cassio entered chasing a man, who Iago pursued when Cassio had scared him away. When he returned, Cassio and Montano were fighting. He does not know who started the fight, Iago says, but if it was Cassio he surely had some reason. Othello thanks Iago for trying to defend his friend Cassio, but he fires Cassio immediately from his position as lieutenant. Desdemona enters, asking what the matter is. Servants take Montano away for his wounds to be treated. Othello instructs Iago to keep guard over the town and goes back to bed with Desdemona.
Iago and Cassio remain. Cassio complains that he has lost his good reputation, but Iago responds that reputation is easily lost or won again. Iago asks Cassio what happened, but Cassio can't remember and curses wine as the creation of the devil. Iago suggests that wine isn't so bad, and, more importantly, that he knows how Cassio can get his job back. Desdemona, he says, has great influence over Othello, and Cassio should tell her what happened and ask her to persuade Othello on his behalf. Cassio thanks Iago for the advice, says he will do so, and leaves. Alone, Iago tells the audience that he's no villain, since the advice is indeed the best way for Cassio to get his job back. But he is, he admits, like a devil who pretends to be good, since, while Desdemona is pleading to Othello on Cassio's behalf, Iago will be whispering to the Moor that Desdemona is being unfaithful to him with Cassio. Thus, he will turn Desdemona's innocent kindness into a trap for all of them.
Roderigo enters. He wants to go back to Venice: he has wasted all his money in Cyprus, and gotten nothing for it but a fight. Iago instructs him to be patient: already, he says, they have gotten Cassio fired. Told by Iago to go to bed, Roderigo departs. Alone, Iago says that two things are now to be done: Emilia must get Desdemona to meet with Cassio, and Iago must bring the Moor to see Cassio together with Desdemona.
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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