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William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 3
lines 54 - 120
Cassio attacks Roderigo!

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:

"Ay, but, by your leave, not before me; the lieutenant is to be saved before the ancient. Let's have no more of this; let's to our affairs. -- God, forgive us our sins! -- Gentlemen, let's look to our business. Do not think, gentlemen, I am drunk: this is my ancient; this is my right hand, and this is my left: I am not drunk now; I can stand well enough, and speak well enough."
  • Is Cassio drunk? (1)

[Need help?]

  • What does Cassio mean when he says, "God, forgive us our sins!"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Cassio argue that he is not drunk? (2)

[Need help?]

"You see this fellow that is gone before;
He is a soldier fit to stand by Caesar
And give direction: and do but see his vice;
'Tis to his virtue a just equinox,
The one as long as the other: 'tis pity of him.
I fear the trust Othello puts in him.
On some odd time of his infirmity,
Will shake this island."
  • What does Iago mean when he says, "and do but see his vice; 'tis to his virtue a just equinox, the one as long as the other"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is Iago's point when he says, "I fear the trust Othello puts in him"? (4)

[Need help?]

" 'Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep:
He'll watch the horologe a double set,
If drink rock not his cradle."
  • Explain in simple language what argument Iago is making here. (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is Iago's purpose in saying this? (2)

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"It were well
The general were put in mind of it.
Perhaps he sees it not; or his good nature
Prizes the virtue that appears in Cassio,
And looks not on his evils: is not this true?"
  • What argument is Montano making here? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is Iago's response to this argument? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Iago ushers Roderigo away quickly? Why? (4)

[Need help?]

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