Go to Knowledge4Africa.com

William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 1
lines 162 - 288
Iago's hatred of Cassio!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 22 January 2014
Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that the creator of Knowledge4Africa, Dr T., has passed away. Helping people through his website gave him no end of pleasure. If you had contact with him and would like to leave a message, please send us an e-mail here.


The setting for this scene is Cyprus. Othello and Desdemona have just arrived and have instructed everyone to celebrate their wedding.

Iago plans to disturb the celebrations by causing a fight between Cassio and Roderigo, hoping in this way to have Cassio demoted.


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:

[Aside] He takes her by the palm. Ay, well said, whisper. With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Ay, smile upon her, do. I will catch you in thine own courtesies . . . You say true, 'tis so, indeed . . . If such tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantry, it had been better you had not kissed your three fingers so oft, which now again you are most apt to play the sir in. Very good; well kissed! an excellent courtesy! . . . 'tis so, indeed . . . Yet again your fingers to your lips? Would they were clyster-pipes for your sake!"
  • Was there anything wrong with Cassio's kissing Desdemona's hand? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Iago makes fun of Cassio's kissing of his own three fingers. What was wrong with this action? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Iago says that it would be better if Cassio's three fingers were "clyster-pipes". Why does he use the term "clyster-pipes"? What does Iago mean by this? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Iago resent Cassio so much? (2)

[Need help?]

Sir, [Cassio] is rash and very sudden in choler, and haply may strike at you. Provoke him that he may, for even out of that will I cause these of Cyprus to mutiny, whose qualification shall come into no true taste again but by the displanting of Cassio. So shall you have a shorter journey to your desires by the means I shall then have to prefer them, and the impediment most profitably removed, without the which there were no expectation of our prosperity."
  • Is it true that Cassio is "rash and very sudden in choler"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What is the point of Iago's trapping Cassio in this way? Is it successful? Why? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What does Iago mean when he tells Roderigo, "So shall you have a shorter journey to your desires"? (4)

[Need help?]

For that I do suspect the lusty Moor
Hath leap'd into my seat; the thought whereof
Doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards;
And nothing can or shall content my soul
Till I am even'd with him, wife for wife,
Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor
At least into a jealousy so strong
That judgment cannot cure."
  • Has Othello truly slept with Iago's wife, Emilia? If not, why does Iago keep referring to him as if he has? (4)

[Need help?]

I'll have our Michael Cassio on the hip,
Abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb --
For I fear Cassio with my night-cap too --
Make the Moor thank me, love me and reward me.
For making him egregiously an ass
And practising upon his peace and quiet
Even to madness."
  • What is meant by "For I fear Cassio with my night-cap too"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Does Iago have any reason for this fear? If not, what is it that drives the man in this way? (4)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
This document is copyrighted. No part of it may be reproduced in any form whatever without explicit permission in writing from the author. The sole exception is for educational institutions which may wish to reproduce it as a handout for their students.

Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator