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William Shakespeare


Act 1, Scene 2
lines 1 - 33
Iago tries to get Othello to hide!

Keith Tankard
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?


The Ottoman or Turkish Empire had been growing slowly since about the 6th century, at about the time when Islam had started.

By the 16th century (Shakespeare's day) the Empire was at its most powerful. It had crushed the Byzantine Empire which was the remnant of the old Roman Empire that had still remained in Greece. It was also threatening the whole of Europe.

The island of Cyprus was definitely in its path. Indeed, half the island was eventually overrun, and even today Cyprus is divided, half being Greek and Christian, the other half being Turkish and Moslem.

Setting this play mostly on Cyprus was advantageous for Shakespeare. The Ottoman War in the background would make Othello an indispensable military general because he was the Commander of the Venetian forces.

Under normal circumstances, Brabantio would have had Othello thrown into gaol for seducing his daughter, thus bringing this play to an abrupt end. Because Othello was indispensable on Cyprus, however, meant that Brabantio's hands were tied.

On the other hand, by the time Othello reached Cyprus, the war was already over. The Ottoman fleet had been destroyed at the hands of a mighty storm.

This in turn converted Othello into a governor and no longer a soldier. He was certainly not suited to this task. Indeed, he was very much a soldier and not a governor.

His insecurity thereupon caused Othello to turn to Iago for advice and support, and the latter was able to use that intimacy to his own advantage.

The Ottoman war was, therefore, a useful ploy to save Othello from being cast into prison. It was also the means to get him to Cyprus where Iago could work on his insecurities.

Once on Cyprus, the war was no longer necessary and so vanished from the scene. The war was now between Iago and Othello, and with lots of other people who happened to be in the way.

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

Though in the trade of war I have slain men,
Yet do I hold it very stuff o' the conscience
To do no contriv'd murder.
  • Comment on the irony of this statement by Iago. (4)

[Need help?]

But, I pray you, sir,
Are you fast married? Be assured of this,
That the magnifico is much beloved;
And hath, in his effect, a voice potential
As double as the duke's.
  • Iago asks Othello whether he is "fast married" but Othello gives no answer to this question. Why not? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Who is meant by "the magnifico"? (1)

[Need help?]

  • Why would "the magnifico" have "a voice potential as double as the duke's"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why is Othello not afraid of what "the magnifico" might do to him? (2)

[Need help?]

Those are the raised father and his friends:
You were best go in.
  • To whom was Iago referring when he spoke of "the raised father and his friends"? (1)

[Need help?]

  • Why would they be "raised"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why did Iago suggest to Othello that he "were best go in"? (3)

[Need help?]

  • Why did Othello not obey? (3)

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