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William Shakespeare


Act 3, Scene 1
lines 26 - 52
Iago's plan to trap Cassio

Keith Tankard
Updated: 22 January 2014
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Iago plays the double game by appearing to befriend Cassio while at the same time setting Othello against him.


The scene begins with a bit of comedy. Even in the most serious of plays, Shakespeare used some light relief to get the audience laughing, thus breaking the tension of the plot.

Clownish, bawdy humour was commonplace in the Elizabethan theatre, often making reference to things like syphilis which was still a relatively unknown sickness in those days.

Indeed, it was believed to have arrived in Europe only with the voyages of discovery which visited the New World of the Americas just before Shakespeare's time.

It is now daytime. The fracas of the previous night is but a painful memory.

Iago has already established with Cassio that he should visit Emilia and beg her to plead his case with Desdemona and, through her, Othello.

Cassio has done so and Emilia has already made the first approach, bringing news that both Desdemona and Othello appear to have a willing and sympathetic ear but that it will nevertheless be difficult.

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

You have not been a-bed, then?

Why, no; the day had broke
Before we parted.
  • Why has Cassio not yet gone to bed? (4)

[Need help?]

"I have made bold, Iago,
To send in to your wife: my suit to her
Is, that she will to virtuous Desdemona
Procure me some access."
  • Explain in your own words what Cassio has said to Emilia. (2)

[Need help?]

"I'll devise a mean to draw the Moor
Out of the way, that your converse and business
May be more free."
  • Iago tells Cassio that he will get Othello out of the way so that Cassio may speak to Desdemona. What is his real purpose in doing this? (2)

[Need help?]

"The Moor replies,
That he you hurt is of great fame in Cyprus,
And great affinity, and that in wholesome wisdom
He might not but refuse you; but he protests he loves you
And needs no other suitor but his likings
To take the safest occasion by the front
To bring you in again."
  • According to Emilia, what is the major problem in Cassio getting his job back? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What advantage does Cassio nevertheless have? (2)

[Need help?]

"Yet, I beseech you,
If you think fit, or that it may be done,
Give me advantage of some brief discourse
With Desdemona alone."
  • What is the major danger of Cassio's plan to see Desdemona alone? (4)

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