Scene by Scene Synopsis
Scene: Venice and Cyprus.
Act I, Scene 1: Roderigo, who has been courting Desdemona, is distressed at Iago’s news that she has eloped with Othello, a Moorish general in the service of Venice. lago, who is Othello's aide, assures Roderigo that he also hates the Moor because Othello has denied him a promotion that went instead to Cassio. He says that he only continues to serve the general in the hope of revenge. lago and Roderigo awaken Desdemona's father, Brabanto, to inform him of the elopement.
Act I, Scene 2: lago tells Othello of Brabantio's anger, as Cassio arrives with word that the general has been summoned by the Duke to a council of war. Brabantio and Roderigo arrive. The angry father, informed of the Duke's council, plans to accuse Othello there.
Act I, Scene 3: The Duke and several Senators receive news of an immanent Turkish attack on the Venetian island of Cyprus. Othello and Brabantio arrive and Brabantio makes his accusation. Othello replies that Desdomona loves him and has married him of her own free will. When she is summoned she supports his account. Brabantio concedes, and the meeting turns to business: Othello is ordered to leave for Cyprus. Desdemona is to live there with him, and lago is to escort her in a later ship. Privately, lago assures Roderigo that Desdemona will soon repent marriage to a Moor, and that if Roderigo will come to Cyprus he will continue to help him with his suit by delivering presents to Desdemona. Roderigo agrees and leaves; lago reflects on how easy it is to get money from this fool. Saying that Othello is rumored to have cuckolded him, he goes on to plot revenge upon both Othello and Cassio; he will make the general believe that Cassio is the lover of his new wife.
Act II, Scene I: In Cyprus the Venetian governor, Montano, and two friends discuss the great storm that may have destroyed the Turkish fleet. A third Gentleman brings news that Cassio has arrived with word that this has indeed happened, but that the ship carrying the new governor, Othello, has also disappeared. lago arrives with Desdemona, his wife, Emilia, and Roderigo. lago engages the two women in a courtly exchange of witticisms while they await word about Othello. The general arrives safely and greets Desdemona with affection. The group moves indoors, except for lago and Roderigo. lago proposes a plot: he says that Desdemona is in love with Cassio and proposes that Roderigo pick a fight with the lieutenant while he commands the guard that night, in the hopes that fighting on duty will disgrace Cassio and remove him as potential competition for Desdemona. Roderigo agrees. Alone, lago meditates on the course of his plans: he will abuse Cassio to Othello and get credit from the general, while at the same time making him sick with jealousy.
Act II, Scene 2: A gentleman reads Othello's proclamation of a public holiday. All the soldiers are at liberty until eleven at night, when they must return to duty.
Act II, Scene 3: Despite Cassio's insistence that a little wine will make him very drunk, lago convinces him to drink for the sake of the holiday. They join some others, including Montano, and when Cassio goes to take his guard post he is drunk. lago sends Roderigo after Cassio; he shortly reappears, pursued by the drunken lieutenant, who gets into a fight with Montano. lago sends Roderigo to sound the alarm, and Othello appears and angrily dismisses Cassio from his post. Left alone with a dismayed Cassio, lago convinces him that his only hope of recovering his position is to get Desdemona to present his case to Othello. Cassio agrees and leaves, and lago exults in the success of his scheme: now Othello will witness—and jealously misconstrue—Desdemona's interest in Cassio.
Act III, Scene 1: Cassio has hired Musicians to play before the general's quarters in the hope of influencing his mood. lago sends Emilia to Cassio; she assures him that Desdemona favors his cause and agrees to take him where he may meet with the general's wife.
Act III, Scene 2: Othello prepares to conduct an inspection of the fortifications.
Act III, Scene 3: Desdemona assures Cassio she will plead his case to Othello. Cassio withdraws as Othello and lago approach; lago pretends to regard this suspiciously. Desdemona asks Othello to take Cassio back, and he agrees, saying that he loves her and can deny her nothing. She leaves, and lago begins to ask seemingly innocent questions about Cassio. He pretends to be reluctant to express his suspicion, but goes on to inflame Othello with the idea of a sexual affair between Cassio and Desdemona. He suggests that if Othello delays Cassio's reappointment he can see if Desdemona supports the lieutenant to an excessive degree. Othello fears that Desdemona has been unfaithful because he is black or because he is old, but he tries to resist the thought. Desdemona and Emilia arrive to ' accompany him to a state banquet, and Othello disguises his distress. As they leave, Desdemona drops a handkerchief that was Othello's first gift to her. Emilia picks it up, and lago takes it from her as she leaves. He states his intention to plant it on Cassio. Othello returns and angrily demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. lago asserts that Cassio has Desdemona's handkerchief. Enraged, Othello goes on his knees to formally swear vengeance, and lago affirms his loyalty and joins him in the oath, promising to kill Cassio himself and to help Othello kill Desdemona.
Act III, Scene 4: Desdemona speaks of Cassio, but Othello demands his handkerchief. He says it was charmed by an Egyptian sorceress so that the woman who lost it would be damned in the eyes of her lover. Desdemona denies that it is lost. She tries to change the subject back to Cassio, and Othello leaves in a rage. lago and Cassio appear; Desdemona remarks on Othello's strange anger, and lago volunteers to go see the general. Emilia observes that Othello may be jealous of his wife, even though he has no reason, and Desdemona decides she must approach him again. The women leave Cassio as Bianca appears. She humorously chastises Cassio for not seeing her more often. He asks her to make him a copy of the embroidered hand- kerchief he has found.
Act IV, Scene 1: lago says that Cassio has admitted to sleeping with Desdemona. Beside himself with rage, Othello babbles incoherently and then faints. Cassio appears, and lago tells him he has important news that he will give him once Othello has recovered and they can speak alone. Cassio leaves, and when Othello awakens Iago tells him that if he eavesdrops on the meeting he has arranged with Cassio, the general will hear Cassio speak of his affair with Desdemona. Cassio returns, and lago speaks to him of Bianca, his lover. With amused disrespect, Cassio laughs about how she presumes to think she'll marry him, and Othello, crying out in asides, believes he is speaking of Desdemona. Bianca arrives, angry about the handkerchief, which she believes was given to Cassio by another woman. Othello now thinks that Cassio has given Desdemona's love token to a harlot. Bianca and Cassio leave, and Othello says he will kill Desdemona; lago promises to kill Cassio that night. Desdemona appears with Lodovico, who brings a message from Venice calling Othello back and placing Cassio in command of Cyprus. When Desdemona is pleased, Othello hits her; enraged, he can barely speak. He orders her away and then leaves. Lodovico is surprised at this behavior, but lago confides that it is sometimes much worse.
Act IV, Scene 2: Othello quizzes Emilia who says there is no reason to suspect Desdemona and Cassio. He does not believe her and sends her to summon his wife. When Desdemona appears he accuses her and ignores her denials. He leaves in a rage as Emilia reappears. When Desdemona tells Emilia of Othello's state, she fetches lago, and the two try to reassure her. Desdemona and Emilia leave as Roderigo arrives. He complains that lago has taken his money and jewels and done nothing for him. lago tells him that because Cassio is to replace Othello as governor, the general is leaving and will take Desdemona with him. lago promises to help Roderigo kill Cassio so that Othello will have to stay, and Desdemona will remain within reach.
Act IV, Scene 3: On his way out, Othello tells Desdemona that she is to prepare for bed and dismiss Emilia. Desdemona says that she loves Othello despite his unreasonable anger, though she also has a presentiment of tragedy; she sings a song that was sung by an abandoned woman while she died. Though Desdemona is revolted by the idea of sexual infidelity, Emilia declares that men deserve it.
Act V, Scene 1: lago sets Roderigo up to ambush Cassio; he hopes that Roderigo and Cassio will kill each other, for Roderigo may claim repayment from him and Cassio may disprove his story. Cassio appears and Roderigo attacks him, but is wounded by Cassio. lago then wounds Cassio from behind and flees. Othello sees the wounded Cassio crying for help and exults in the sight. He leaves as Lodovico and Gratiano arrive. lago returns, pretends to be enraged at the assault on Cassio, and kills Roderigo. Bianca arrives. lago declares that she is probably involved in the attempted murder and places her under arrest.
Act V, Scene 2: Othello, at the bed of the sleeping Desdemona, is overcome with love for her and declares that he will not harm her beauty, but will kill her bloodlessly. She wakes, and he tells her to prepare for death. He says the handkerchief is proof of her adultery. She says that Cassio will clear her, but Othello triumphantly reports his death. She pleads for mercy, but Othello smothers her. Emilia appears, and Desdemona recovers enough to declare that she is dying in innocence. She dies, and Othello proclaims that he has murdered her because she was unfaithful. Emilia denies it, and Othello declares that lago has proved it. She calls for help, and Montano, Gratiano, and lago appear. Othello speaks of Desdemona's handkerchief, and Emilia reveals the truth. lago kills her and flees. Montano chases him, leaving Othello to his mounting grief. When Lodovico brings lago back, Othello attacks him and wounds him before he is disarmed. Othello declares himself a fool but not a dishonorable one, stabs himself with a hidden weapon and dies.
To view other Othello sections:
To view the other Plays click below:
To view other Shakespeare Library sections:
Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments about this web site.
[Home] [Upcoming Shows] [HSC Venues] [Past Productions] [Articles] [HSC Programs]