Othello
Wiliam Shakespeare
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Act 2 Scene 1
Summary

 From this scene onwards, all the actions take place in Cyprus. All the protagonists at the center of the initial conflict including Roderigo, Othello, Iago, Cassio, and Desdemona have all moved to Cyprus. It is now the center of the new battle. The Governor of Cyprus, Montano, has waited for the Venetian forces but they have delayed. A dangerous storm has hit the ship at sea and, that has affected the journey. In a little while, a messenger comes with the message that the Turkish ship has had massive damage as a result of the heavy tides in the on the seas. As such, Cyprus is no longer under threat from the Turks.  Cassio's ship is the first to arrive followed by Desdemona's. Upon arrival, the first question that Desdemona asks is concerning Othello. She is concerned the Othello has not arrived. Meanwhile, Iago is planning on the best way to approach Cassio in his treacherous plan.

Finally, Othello makes a triumphant entry. He, Desdemona and other characters move into the fortress as Iago stays behind to inform Roderigo that Cassio and Desdemona are in love. He does this to provoke a fight between Roderigo and Cassio, an event that would lead to a mutiny and in the long run cause Cassio to be pushed away from the fortress. In another soliloquy, Iago is again talking about his hatred for Othello. While the details are not very clear, it I evident that he plans to drive Othello mad.

Analysis

It is not clear about the amount of time that had elapsed since the last scene in Act 1 ended and the time when Othello and his crew set out for the journey. The traveling parties are on different ships and arrive one after the other. The delay in their arrival of Othello's ship allows the other characters who arrived early to speak about Othello. In a discussion about Othello's wife with Desdemona, Cassio uses very polite and honorable words to describe her. Cassio refers to Desdemona as "our great captain's captain" (74). He goes ahead to describe the qualities of Othello in very glowing terms. He says that "That he may bless this bay with his tall ship, / Make love's quick pants in Desdemona's arms, / Give renewed fire to our extinct spirits" (79-82).

In the play of a game of words among Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia, Iago shows his personal bias and disdain against women. He describes women as " . . . You are pictures out of doors, / Bells in your parlors, wild-cats in your kitchens, / Saints in your injuries, devils being offended, / Players in your housewifery, and housewives in your beds" (108-111). Perhaps the use of the disparaging words against women could be a trick by Iago to offend women especially Desdemona. He could be trying to get under Desdemona's skin and cause an argument among between them. The balance to Iago's comments is provided by Emilia in Act V.

Iago, meanwhile, is watching Cassio very carefully, trying to find the most appropriate approach to use in confronting Cassio. Iago has realized that Cassio pays attention to Desdemona and he is also courteous. " . . . With the as little web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio? Ay, smile upon her, do. I will give thee in thine own courtship" (164-165). The union between Othello and Desdemona is marked with celebrations. The couple is very happy to be together, especially after the trouble they went through in Venice. Othello refers to Desdemona as "fair warrior" (174). The couple has gone through very difficult time, and it is now time for them to celebrate their time together. However, Othello must not lose sight of the threat that lies ahead of them from the Turks. Othello's statement, "If it were now to die, / 'Twere now to be most happy; for I fear / My soul hath her content so absolute / That not another comfort like to this / Succeeds in unknown fate" (181-184) shows the level of his happiness with their victory. Desdemona, on the other hand, can only look forward to our loves and comforts should increase, / Even as our days do grow" (186-187).

Iago has initiated his battle to win over Desdemona for Roderigo. He uses highly disparaging words, abusing the woman's virtue and besmirching her character. Iago says that "Blest fig's end! (an obscene oath, a "fig" is the head of a penis) / The wine she drinks is made of grapes" (238), meaning she is just the same as ordinary women. He claims Cassio is already courting her: "They met so near with their lips that their breaths embraced together" (239-245). Iago bombards Roderigo with words to the extent that he becomes weak and accepts to do as he commands in a plot aimed at embarrassing Cassio. Left alone at the stage, Iago reveals his plans to the audience.

In the last soliloquy, Iago reveals his thoughts to the audience. It is apparent that his hatred towards Othello is so deep that he is willing to whatever it takes to make sure that he causes as much pain as possible to Othello The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not" (269).  Besides, he still harbors misleading thoughts that Othello has had an intimate relationship with Emilia. Iago could get his revenge by seducing Desdemona, but that option appears unattractive. He says that "Now I do love her too . . . / But partly led to diet my revenge, / For that, I do suspect the lusty Moor / Hath leaped into my seat, the thought of which / Doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards" (272-278). The audience knows clearly that there is no love in Iago and what could be existing in him is pure lust. In a little while, Iago realizes that the jealousy that is disturbing him could be a weapon that he may use to harm Othello. He sets out on a mission to lead Othello, via jealousy, to madness: "Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me, / For making him egregiously an ass, / And practicing upon his peace / Even to madness" (289-293).

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