Othello has the misfortune of arousing Iago’s animosity by choosing another man, Cassio, as his lieutenant, since this makes Iago feel that his better claims have been ignored. Othello’s wife Desdemona is the daughter of a Venetian nobleman who has married him against the wishes of her family. In order to avenge himself on Othello, and even more, just driven by the evil within him, Iago decides-lo cause the downfall of Othello and Cassio. ‘However, he gives no impression to the General that he harbours; .any resentment or hostility against him. Othello himself is too noble to suspect that Iago is playing upon his simple nobility.
Othello is a Moorish nobleman and adventurer in the service of the Venetian state as a General against the Turks. Iago is a young Venetian occupying the position of Othello’s ensign or .ancient.
Othello and Desdemona
Othello was for a long time the guest of a Venetian senator roamed Brabantio. While be stayed there, the host’s youthful daughter Desdemona would eagerly listen to the guest’s stories of great adventure, until she came to fall in love with him. Othello and Desdemona married in secret. The first step in Iago’s plot was to awaken the senator during the night and report his daughter’s elopement. Iago safeguarded himself from suspicion by shifting the blame to a rejected suitor of Desdemona named Roderigo. The angered Brabantio appealed to the Duke of Venice against Othello whom he accused of winning his daughter by black magic. However, he came to know that just then the Venetian senate was about to send Othello to’ Cyprus to protect that island against the threatened invasion of a Turkish fleet. Desdemona steadfastly refused to give up her husband and return to her father. Not only that, she asked the Duke’s permission to accompany her husband to Cyprus. The unsuspecting Othello appointed the ‘honest’ Iago to bring Desdemona after him. Iago persuaded the foolish Roderigo to accompany him, giving him hope that he could still win Desdemona. All the time Iago raked his brains to find a way of displacing Cassio and harming Othello. It was Desdemona’s father who was responsible for planting in Othello’s mind the seed of jealousy which is later turned into a poison tree by Iago, with his remark that Desdemona who has deceived her father may deceive him also.
A terrible storm comes up near the coast of Cyprus. It has the effect of delaying the arrival of the forces from Venice, but it is also responsible for crippling the Turkish fleet and thus enabling the new Governor of the island, Othello, to have no difficulty in, driving them off. After this, Othello orders general rejoicing on the island. He appoints his lieutenant Cassio as officer of the guard to see that the merry-making remains within bounds. By pure chance, the innocent Cassio happens to meet Desdemona and greets her, and Iago, who witnesses this meeting, hits upon the idea of making Othello believe that Desdemona has adulterous relations with Cassio. Iago causes Cassio to get drunk and instigates Roderigo to pick a quarrel with him. Then he rouses Othello who observing the disgraceful situation of Cassio at once decides to demote him. Cassio is greatly ashamed by the demotion and Iago is easily able to persuade him that he can help his cause by asking for Desdemona’s intercession on his behalf. No one else except Iago knows that this is a deliberate trap for Cassio, Desdemona and Othello.
Suspicion Against Desdemona
It is quite natural that Cassio should desire his meeting with Desdemona to remain a secret from Othello. Iago decides to put this to use and reports to Othello that Cassio is going away guiltily on seeing Othello, when he had been talking to Desdemona. He also poisons Othello with the notion that Desdemona is going to plead Cassio’s case with him because of her guilty love for the youngman. The latent jealousy in Othello awakens with full fury and he asks Iago to supply proofs of what he has insinuated, especially because Desdemona does plead Cassio’s case. Iago is able to obtain one such proof by chance. It is a handkerchief which Othello has presented to his wife during the time he was courting her. Desdemona has chanced to lose this handkerchief and it has been-found by Desdemona’s waiting woman, Emilia. Iago conveys this secretly to Cassio’s room where the former officer finds it and gives it to his mistress Bianca to make a copy of it. In the meanwhile, Iago tells Othello that he has seen Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s hand. Othello demands from Desdemona to produce the handkerchief, which she is unable to do. This is enough to convince Othello of his wife’s guilt and he makes a pledge to visit dire vengeance on both Desdemona and Cassio.
Iago thinks that he should make Othello’s suspicion of his, wife’s illicit relations with Cassio more firm by supplying further evidence. With this purpose, he conceals Othello at a place from where he can overhear Cassio. Cassio is in reality deriding Bianca, but his wards seem to allude to Desdemona and Othello can see Cassio’s mistress scornfully returning Desdemona’s handkerchief to him. Othello is now absolutely convinced of Desdemona’s guilt. Iago is able to make him decide to kill Desdemona and give Iago the task of killing Cassio. There is a development which makes Iago more eager to bring his plot to a quick conclusion. It is that Lodovico, a kinsman of Desdemona, arrives with letters from the Duke of Venice recalling Othello to Venice and appointing_ Cassio as his successor in Cyprus. Othello is further angered by the conversation between his wife and her kinsman which he is able to hear. Desdemona says in all innocence that she would do all she can to reconcile her husband and the newly appointed governor, Cassio, for the sake of the ‘love’ (regard, goodwill) she bears Cassio. Othello misunderstands her words and strikes her. He also orders her out of his sight. Emilia comes forward to testify that Desdemona is chaste, but Othello not only refuses to believe her but calls her a whore. Iago now decides to cap his villainy by persuading the foolish Roderigo to ambush and kill Cassio. In the meanwhile, Desdemona sings a pathetic lyric which is to prove her last and which is about a willow. Even though she is wronged, Desdemona still does not blame her husband, and confides this to Emilia. She wonders whether there really are women who wrong their husbands by cuckolding them, and Emilia assures her there are. However, Emilia asserts that if women fall, it is the fault of their husbands who slack their duties.
Roderigo ambushes Cassio as instructed but the confrontation does not go according to plan. Roderigo only succeeds in wounding Cassio, who is able to defend himself and stab the assailant. Iago takes a hand in the fight and wounds Cassio in the leg. Cassio’s cries for help bring Lodovico and others to the scene. It now becomes necessary for Iago to silence Roderigo so that be might not blurt out Iago’s role in the affair. Iago, therefore, at once stabs Roderigo as though in anger on behalf of the injured Cassio. Moreover, he is able to cast suspicion upon Bianca, with whom Cassio supped that night, for the attack. In the meanwhile, Othello refuses to believe Desdemona’s protestations that she is completely innocent and smothers bar to death in her bed. Just then Emilia enters to report that Roderigo is dead and Cassio only wounded in a fight between the two of them. Othello confesses to her that he has killed Desdemona but Desdemona revives for a moment, just long enough to say that her husband is not responsible for her death. Emilia raises a cry which brings Lodovico, Iago and. others to the scene. Othello justifies the wicked deed he has done by referring to the fact that he has seen Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s possession.
Emilia, who still does not know her husband’s part in the plot, reveals the truth about the handkerchief and Iago kills her in order to prevent her from making any further disclosures. Letters are found to the pockets of the slain Roderigo which further confirm Iago’s guilt. Othello strikes at Iago but the blow only wounds the villain. Othello then begs the onlookers to report him to the Venetian Senate as a man who loved unwisely but too well. Othello then stabs himself and dies after kissing the lips of his innocent dead wife. It is Cassio’s duty now as the Governor of the island to torture Iago to extract a confession from him. Iago, however, refuses to say anything and is led to his execution.