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William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 3
lines 24 - 53
Iago gets Cassio drunk!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 22 January 2014
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Iago sets Roderigo to pick a fight with Cassio. He, in the meantime, plies Cassio with alcohol and gets him thoroughly drunk. When Roderigo sets upon him later, therefore, Cassio loses his temper.

Montano gets involved, tries to separate the two combatants but gets injured in the process. The commotion disturbs Othello, and he is so angry with Cassio that he demotes him. Thereafter Iago promises Cassio that he will work to restore him with Othello's favour.


Iago does not have an overall plan. He improvises as he goes along.

He appears to know that Michael Cassio has a short temper and will react violently if someone insults him. He therefore sets Roderigo to pick a quarrel which will of course cause a disturbance on the very night on which Othello is celebrating the festivities of his marriage, and his first night with his wife.

The plan has an advantage in that Cassio does not know Roderigo. Indeed, Roderigo is a stranger to everyone on Cyprus and will therefore not be recognised or brought to book for his role.

Events work in Iago's favour. Othello has proclaimed an evening of festivities. Cassio, who does not hold his alcohol very well, has already drunk a cup of wine before he meets Iago. He is easily persuaded to have another, and then another.

Very soon he is drunk and is accosted by Roderigo in the dark. Roderigo provokes him into a fight. No one gets hurts in the ensuing brawl except Montano who attempts to separate the two combatants.

The noise, however, disturbs Othello -- which, of course, is the plan. He personally intervenes and then demands to know of Iago who is responsible for the brawl.

Iago, while supposedly attempting to remain neutral, places the blame firmly on Cassio whom Othello promptly demotes from his rank as lieutenant, not even bothering to investigate any further.

Iago thereupon initiates the next plan. He persuades Cassio to approach Desdemona to intervene on his behalf.

He, in the meantime, will poison Othello's ear but putting him on his guard to watch for an adulterous affair between Desdemona and Cassio. Othello has merely to watch for Desdemona's extravagant pleading of Cassio's cause.

All very cunning indeed!

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

"Come, lieutenant, I have a stoup of wine."
  • How much is a "stoup"? (2)

[Need help?]

"Not to-night, good Iago: I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking."
  • Comment on Cassio's words in the knowledge of what is to follow. (4)

[Need help?]

IAGO: What, man! 'tis a night of revels: the gallants desire it.
CASSIO: Where are they?
IAGO: Here at the door; I pray you, call them in.
CASSIO: I'll do't; but it dislikes me.
  • Who would "the gallants" be? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on Iago's words, "I'll do't; but it dislikes me." (2)

[Need help?]

"If I can fasten but one cup upon him,
With that which he hath drunk to-night already,
He'll be as full of quarrel and offence
As my young mistress' dog."
  • Show how Cassio is putty in Iago's hands. (4)

[Need help?]

"Now, 'mongst this flock of drunkards,
Am I to put our Cassio in some action
That may offend the isle."
  • What does Iago mean when he says that he will get Cassio to "offend the isle"? (4)

[Need help?]

Re-enter CASSIO; with him MONTANO and Gentlemen; servants following with wine.

"But here they come:
If consequence do but approve my dream,
My boat sails freely, both with wind and stream."
  • Instead of Iago taking Cassio to the nearest tavern for a drink, all the leading characters come to him. What effect does that have within the plot? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is Iago's dream? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What does Iago mean when he says, "My boat sails freely, both with wind and stream"? (4)

[Need help?]

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