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William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 3
lines 131 - 156
Othello investigates the disturbance!

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:

Cassio strikes Roderigo.

MONTANO: Nay, good lieutenant; I pray you, sir, hold your hand.

CASSIO: Let me go, sir, or I'll knock you o'er the mazzard.

MONTANO: Come, come, you're drunk.

CASSIO: Drunk!
  • Why does Cassio strike Roderigo? (4)

[Need help?]

  • How does Montano intervene? How do you know? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why are Montago's words -- "Come, come, you're drunk." -- the worst thing that he could say to Cassio? (4)

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"Away, I say; go out, and cry a mutiny.

(Exit Roderigo)

Nay, good lieutenant, -- alas, gentlemen!
Help, ho! Lieutenant! Sir! Montano! Sir!
Help, masters! Here's a goodly watch indeed!

(A bell rings)

Who's that which rings the bell? Diablo, ho!
The town will rise: God's will, lieutenant, hold!
You will be shamed for ever.
  • Why does Iago need Roderigo to go away quickly? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What action does Iago appear to be taking? (4)

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  • Why does Iago say to Cassio, "You will be shamed for ever"? (2)

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  • How does this fracas end? (4)

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"He that stirs next to carve for his own rage
Holds his soul light; he dies upon his motion.
Silence that dreadful bell."
  • What does Othello mean when he says, "He that stirs next . . . dies upon his motion"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Othello again finds himself in a military context and reacts as a true leader. Explain how this is so. (4)

[Need help?]

"Honest Iago, that look'st dead with grieving,
Speak, who began this?"
  • Is it likely that Othello will receive a truthful report from Iago? Explain. (4)

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