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Scenes 2.1 and 2.2

Scene 2.1 - A seaport in Cyprus; outdoors near the harbor

The Governor of Cyprus, Montano, and his attendants are waiting for ships to arrive. A man enters with news: there has been a terrible storm at sea, and the Turks have had to turn back. The Venetian ships, meanwhile, have been badly damaged. Cassio, a Venetian, has told the messenger this news and fears for the safety of Othello. Montano orders his men to watch for Othello, whom he praises as a great soldier. Cassio enters, praying for Othello's safety. Voices then cry out - a sail has been spotted. Another man enters with news: it's Iago who has arrived. Cassio imagines that the stormy seas let the "divine" Desdemona through safely. Iago and Desdemona enter, along with Roderigo and Emilia, Iago's wife. Cassio greets Desdemona, but voices then cry out again - another sail. Meanwhile, Cassio greets Emilia, whom Iago immediately criticizes for her frequent and shrewish comments. Iago continues into a more general speech against women, who, he says, seem virtuous but are actually whores. Desdemona provokes Iago into a jesting conversation about the relationship between beauty and intelligence, the point of which is that either one can always help out the other one when a woman wants to sleep with a man. Desdemona mockingly criticizes Iago for his wit but enjoys the jokes. She and Cassio separate from the rest of the group and talk together. As they do so, Iago imagines how easily he'll turn Cassio's seductive charm against him.
Trumpets sound, and Othello enters with his attendants. He greets Desdemona as his "fair warrior" and tells how he has never been happier than now: reunited with his wife after such a terrible storm. Iago, aside, bitterly notes how he will ruin this happiness. Othello announces that war is done: the Turkish fleet had been destroyed in the storm. He blissfully goes off with Desdemona. Iago and Roderigo remain. Iago explains that Desdemona is in love with the Moor because of his romantic stories but will grow disgusted with his roughness and dark skin, and will look for an alternate. He warns Roderigo that it now looks as if that man will be Cassio: handsome, charming, and young. Iago instructs Roderigo to provoke a fight with Cassio that night - the upshot will be that Cassio will be sent away from the island, leaving his job for Iago and Desdemona for Roderigo. Agreeing, Roderigo departs. Iago, alone, admits that Cassio is indeed in love with Desdemona, and that it is at least believable that she's in love with him. He's tortured, Iago says, by the idea that Othello slept with Emilia, and he will revenge himself by making Othello suspect his own wife's faithfulness. And he will do this all the while being trusted and thanked by Othello, whose happiness and peace Iago will gradually, he says, turn into madness.

Scene 2.2 - A street in Cyprus

A herald enters, and reads a proclamation, which instructs everyone on the island to celebrate however he wants to, for two reasons: the Turks have been defeated, and Othello has gotten married. Food and drink, the proclamation says, are freely available until eleven that night.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Scenes 1.1 and 1.2
Scene 1.3
Scenes 2.1 and 2.2
Scene 2.3
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scene 3.3
Scene 3.4
Scene 4.1
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scene 5.1
Scene 5.2


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