Wiliam Shakespeare
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Act 1 Scene 1

On the streets of Venice, Roderigo, a nobleman, together with Iago, a former military officer in Venice Defense forces, have met and it appears that they are involved in an intense discussion. Roderigo has fallen in love with Desdemona, a noble lady, but Desdemona rejects his advances. Roderigo then provides a lot of money to Iago and asks him to use them to buy gifts and present them to Desdemona on his behalf. In the long run, Roderigo hopes to win the heart of Desdemona and marry her. However, there is sad news. Reports indicate that Desdemona has left the house of his father, Brabantio, a senator in Venice City state and eloped with Othello, a Military General in the city of Venice defense forces.

The news hits Roderigo very hard. He madly loves Desdemona, and he has spent a lot of money to win her heart. Losing both Desdemona and the money is a pill that proves to be too bitter to swallow. In this moment of desperation, Iago tells Roderigo that he can develop a plan that may bring success. He says that he has on many occasions used lies to push and obtain what he wants. Iago reveals to Roderigo that he still has a problem with Othello because Othello settled for Cassio to take a position that he had also hoped to get in the military. Due to the shared interests, Othello thinks that he can bring down Othello and achieve his desired revenge while Roderigo will have Desdemona when Othello is out of the picture. The first step to achieve this aims to approach Brabantio and inform him about the new developments. That would be the beginning of problems for Othello. At Brabantio's residence, the two men bang the door until Brabantio comes from the house through the balcony to understand what could be taking place. In very inflammatory works, Iago tells Brabantio that his daughter has eloped with Othello. Filled with obvious rage, Brabantio joins Iago and Roderigo to wake up the neighbor to form a search party.


 The beginning of the play is characterized by what appears like a quarrel between Iago and Roderigo. The primary function of this approach of stating the play is to draw the attention of the audience to the possibility of a conflict. The tone that Iago uses in this communication reveals a lot of things about him. He is using an attractive speech to Roderigo that he is willing to make efforts to make up for the amount of money that Roderigo has spent on him to help get the attention of Desdemona. Iago is apologetic to Roderigo for failing to help him with the case of Desdemona. Iago says that "If ever I did dream of such a matter," he says, "Abhor me" (5-6).

It is not clear for how long Iago has platooning to dip his hands in Roderigo's wallet. However, what is clear is that Iago does not have even little respect of for Roderigo's intelligence. The approach that he uses to deceive Roderigo is not even crafty, neither is it concealed. Iago says to Roderigo that "I am not what I am" (65). In this statement, even a man of little intelligence could have smelled deceit and changed the course of action. However, it is also clear that Roderigo trusts Iago but Iago decides to misuse the trust. At the end of this conversation, Roderigo emerges as a weak man, and that may win him the sympathy of the audience.

Apart from Iago's base character, the first section also introduces the conflict that has characterized this tragedy.  The opening act reveals the depth of Iago's hatred towards Othello. The issue between Othello and Iago arose when Othello refused to consider Iago for promotion, instead of promoting Cassio. Iago tells Roderigo that "Three great ones of the city" had seconded him for promotion to the rank and suggested the same to Othello, but the general had other ideas. In his view, Iago feels that Cassio was less deserving of the promotion than him since Cassio has military ineptitude that cannot match Iago's proven track record in military matters. However, all these words are creations of Iago, and it is in fact very difficult to prove that he was even in contention for promotion.

In putting forth his case, Iago tells Roderigo that Iago is never a true soldier. While appreciating that Cassio is not a Venetian, fails to see that even Othello is not a Venetian. Iago says that Cassio does not have any tested military skill and that the skills that he may have are products of books.  Iago says that he understands more of military battle than the bookish theorist" (24) that is Cassio. Having looked at the situation, Iago accepts that there is nothing much that he can do to remedy the situation. He finally sees sense that "there's no remedy" (35) while at the same time accepting that "preferment goes by letter and affection" (36) as opposed to his view of the traditional order of the society. While he wants to appear to be loyal to Othello, the primary intention of Iago is to "serve [his] turn upon him" (42). In this statement, Iago says that revenge has become his primary objective. In this scene, Iago reveals himself to Roderigo as a malicious man who may want to do all things in a manner that will serve his selfish interests.

The scene also introduces the audience to the element of racism and the manner in which it has affected the relationship among different parties in the play. The issue of racism first rears its ugly head when Roderigo refers to Othello as "the thick-lips" (66). Noting that Roderigo is not using words that will infuriate Brabantio, Iago comes in and refers to Othello in some of the worst and most bizarre descriptions used in the play. Iago refers to Othello as "an old black ram" (88) whose primary intention "is tapping your white ewe" (89) (Desdemona), as well as "a Barbary horse" (111) and a "the lascivious Moor" (126). These powerful descriptions arouse the senses of Brabantio who decides to join the two in search for Othello and Desdemona.

Roderigo faces one of the most embarrassing incidents when Brabantio openly tells him off against his daughter. He tells Roderigo not to haunt about my doors" (96); "my daughter is not for thee" (98). On the other side, Othello had also rejected the push to have Iago as his lieutenant. These realities present two men who have been joined at the hip because of the need for revenge after rejection. Initially, Brabantio did not fully comprehend the weight of what the two men have just told him. However, as the discussion goes on, Brabantio starts to have a feeling that something wrong is happening. He recalls a dream that he had had about the occurrence of this calamity.

As Brabantio wings to action to awake the members of his household, Iago slips away. However, he is keen to provide an excuse for this. He says that the public, for obvious reasons, should not know that he is an enemy of Othello. He says that for him to succeed with his mission against Othello, he must "show out a flag and sign of love, / Which is indeed but sign" (157-158) for staying in good books of Othello would earn him a place close to him, and that will be useful in the future as they continue with their planning. Joining the general, Iago finds, would be vital in bringing his marriage as long as his reign to an end.

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