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William Shakespeare


Act 1, Scene 2
Easy questions to cut your teeth on!

Abigail Meredith
Updated: 22 January 2014
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Having organised it that Brabantio will find Othello, Iago plays a double game by seeking out Othello himself and he then attempts to persuade him to hide from Brabantio. This, of course, would shout out Othello's guilt.

In the meantime, news is announced of a Turkish attack on Cyprus. Othello is needed to lead the defence of the island.

When Brabantio arrives on the scene and tries to have Othello placed in gaol for seducing his daughter, his attempt is therefore forestalled. After all, with Othello in gaol, who is to defend the island?


Moors were never held in much regard in Elizabethan England. Indeed, even as late as the 1950s, the Moorish descendants -- now called Gypsies -- were still regarded as thieves and robbers.

Read any of the original Enid Blyton children's books in which gypsies are mentioned and you will see for yourself the truth of this statement.

Moors were the descendants of the medieval Arab invaders of Spain. Although they later converted to Christianity, this conversion was always regarded as superficial. It was believed that, at heart, they still clung to their age-old Islamic customs.

By the High Middle Ages, the Moors were being hunted down and persecuted by the Catholic Inquisition as witches and satanists. The suspicion of devious practices would then never disappear and, by Shakespeare's time, they were still regarded as people who were not at all to be trusted.

You will note that Shakespeare tends to confuse Othello with the African people: not only is Othello dark but he is also said to have a flat, negroid nose. His stories of magical practices are also those believed to have originated from Africa.

The truth is that the people of Elizabethan England simply did not care. They trusted no-one who was not English. Even the French were viewed with suspicion.

It mattered not, therefore, whether Othello was a Moor from Spain or a Black person who hailed from Africa. The Elizabethan audience simply did not care. Either way, he would be viewed as a foreigner, as the "other", as someone who could not be trusted.

The fact that he spoke a wonderfully poetic version of English would have made matters worse. He would still be seen as "the other" but worse, as one who was attempting to ape English ways.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

Read the following passage and fill in the missing words:

Iago tells Othello that though he does not have the conscience to kill in cold blood, he has often thought of stabbing 1.__________ to death. Cassio and attendants of 2.__________ arrive and tell Othello that they had searched for him throughout the city when they did not find him at home.

The Duke requires him immediately on urgent matters concerning the safety of Cyprus. Cassio then asks him what he is doing in this house and Iago fills him in that Othello has recently 3.__________.

Brabantio, Roderigo and officers of the law arrive. Othello tells them to put away their swords, as Brabantio's wisdom is more effective than swords. Brabantio accuses Othello of charming away his daughter with 4.__________ or had given her 5.__________ to weaken her will.

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