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William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 3
lines 147 - 227
Othello investigates the brawl!

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:

"I do not know. Friends all but now, even now,
In quarter, and in terms like bride and groom
Devesting them for bed; and then, but now --
As if some planet had unwitted men --
Swords out, and tilting one at other's breast,
In opposition bloody."
  • Comment on Iago's opening statement to Othello, "I do not know." (2)

[Need help?]

  • Comment on Iago's exaggerated explanation, "Friends all but now, even now, in quarter, and in terms like bride and groom devesting them for bed." (2)

[Need help?]

  • Explain Iago's simile, "As if some planet had unwitted men." (2)

[Need help?]

"What's the matter,
That you unlace your reputation thus
And spend your rich opinion for the name
Of a night-brawler?"
  • Examine the richness of Othello's metaphor in terms of what has taken place. (4)

[Need help?]

"Worthy Othello, I am hurt to danger.
Your officer, Iago, can inform you, --
While I spare speech, which something now offends me, --
Of all that I do know."
  • Othello is almost forced to accept only Iago's evidence. Why is this so? (4)

[Need help?]

"What! in a town of war,
Yet wild, the people's hearts brimful of fear,
To manage private and domestic quarrel,
In night, and on the court and guard of safety!
'Tis monstrous. Iago, who began't?"
  • Othello is rightly angry, and he here explains the reasons for this anger. What reasons does he give? (4)

[Need help?]

"Touch me not so near:
I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth
Than it should do offence to Michael Cassio."
  • Comment on the irony of Iago's words. (4)

[Need help?]

"Thus it is, General.
Montano and myself being in speech,
There comes a fellow crying out for help:
And Cassio following him with determined sword,
To execute upon him. Sir, this gentleman
Steps in to Cassio, and entreats his pause."
  • How accurate is Iago's description of the start of the brawl? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Iago not mention Roderigo by name but refers to him only as "a fellow crying out for help"? (4)

[Need help?]

"I know, Iago,
Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter,
Making it light to Cassio. Cassio, I love thee
But never more be officer of mine."
  • What is the problem of Othello's sentencing Cassio thus? (4)

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