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William Shakespeare


Act 1, Scene3
lines 360 - 385
Iago contemplates Othello's downfall!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 22 January 2014
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The scene opens with messages that Cyprus is about to be attacked by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire.

Into the midst of this excitement comes Brabantio to appeal to the Duke for justice at Othello's elopement with Desdemona. He accuses the Moor of seducing his daughter through magical spells and drugs.

Othello defends himself in that it was merely his stories of the battlefield -- and of the strange people whom he encountered -- which had won Desdemona to him.

Desdemona, upon being summoned, confirms Othello's innocence. Since Brabantio will not have her back into his house, however, she is forced to follow Othello to Cyprus.

In the meantime, Iago hatches his plot to revenge himself on Othello, as well as to win Desdemona over to Roderigo.


Iago provides us with absolutely no reason for his hatred of Othello.

He claims at one time that Othello has slept with his wife (Emilia) and that he will get his revenge "for mere suspicion" -- in other words, he needs no real reason whatsoever.

Nevertheless, he gives no proof for this suspicion and in fact states that he himself doesn't really believe it. Nevertheless, he still intends to get his revenge just at the idea of it.

A more understandable reason is that Othello has promoted Michael Cassio to be his 2nd in Charge even though he is incompetent for the position.

Iago, on the other hand, has been promoted only to be Othello's Aide-de-Camp or Ancient -- i.e. his 3rd in Command -- even though he believes he is more competent than Michael Cassio.

This, however, happens all the time in life and one has to live with it, not seek revenge every time it happens -- otherwise one will live a life that is absolutely full of hatred.

Apart from that, Iago appears to be full of anger and resentment, and spends his life attempting to revenge himself on someone or something. Ultimately, of course, he will come unstuck. It usually happens.

There is a psychological term for someone like Iago: One who believes he is the centre of the universe whom everyone should love. Do you know what the term is?

Does Iago have any morals whatever? He appears to be a totally amoral person who will wreak havoc for the mere enjoyment of it. There lurks in him an evil which is impossible to explain.

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

"Thus do I ever make my fool my purse."
  • Explain the meaning of the term "my fool". (4)

[Need help?]

  • In what way does Iago make the fool "my purse"? (4)

[Need help?]

"I mine own gain'd knowledge should profane
If I would time expend with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit."
  • What does Iago mean by this? (4)

[Need help?]

"I hate the Moor;
And it is thought abroad that 'twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if't be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety."
  • Has Othello slept with Emilia, Iago's wife? Give reasons for your answer. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Does Iago believe that Othello has slept with his wife? How do you know? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Iago hate Othello? (4)

[Need help?]

"The better shall my purpose work on him."
  • Why does Iago believe that he will succeed in his plot? (2)

[Need help?]

"Cassio's a proper man: let me see now;
To get his place, and to plume up my will
In double knavery."
  • What does Iago mean when he says that Cassio is "a proper man"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What is the "double knavery" of which he speaks? (4)

[Need help?]

"After some time, to abuse Othello's ear
That he is too familiar with his wife."
  • What is Iago's plan? (4)

[Need help?]

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See also:
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