Summary Act 1


When Roderigo learns that Desdemona’s hand in marriage, for which he had handsomely paid Iago, has been given to Othello, he accuses Iago of fraud, of making him--Roderigo--believe that Iago’s hatred of Othello would stand in the way of Othello’s love for Desdemona and pave the way to the consummation of his--Rodrigo’s--ardor for Desdemona. Offended, Iago explains the cause of his hatred for Othello (the promotion of Michael Cassio at his--Iago’s--expense), and to give undeniable proof of his hatred, he exhorts Roderigo to follow his example and slander the Moor. Roderigo follows Iago’s example, alarming Brabantio who is told that Othello has abducted his daughter. Brabantio warns that Roderigo will have to answer to the law if his ugly words are a mere pretext to an ulterior motive, i.e. if Roderigo is seeking to win Desdemona’s hand yet again despite knowing full well that the answer is ‘No.’ Iago and Roderigo stand firm, however, urging the senator to confirm the truth of their words. When Iago and Roderigo’s words prove to be true, to the extent that Desdemona is indeed mysteriously absent from home, Iago, with Roderigo’s consent, slips away to join the Moor while Brabantio joins Roderigo with whom he organizes a posse for the purpose of corralling Othello.


Iago is informing Othello of Roderigo’s slanders, saying how if it wasn’t for his code of conduct that prevented him from killing a man other than for the cause of war, that he--Iago--would’ve run his sword through Rodrigo a multiple number of times. He then cautions Othello of Brabantio whose political clout is such that if he were to speak out against Othello that the harshness of the law that Othello would find himself opposing would be even greater than if the Duke himself had spoken against him. Unperturbed, Othello explains, that because his service to Venice is considerable and because his affair with Desdemona is honorable, he has nothing to hide or dissimulate. Presently, they espy the approach of a party of men which Iago anticipates is the Brabantio-led posse. Actually, it is a party comprising of Cassio and messengeres from the Duke. They’ve come on behalf of the Duke who requires that Othello appear before him and the counsel of senators--and with great haste. Othello will do as he is bade but as he and his party set out they are waylaid by the Brabantio-led posse. Arms are drawn, threats are made. Othello alone maintains his composure, disparaging the show of violence on both sides as something ignoble and unmanly. He seeks an explanation for all the brouhaha. When told that he has unlawfully enchanted Desdemona with magic and sorcery, Othello proposes that they all go before the Duke and the senators and there present their respective cases. Brabantio agrees.

The Duke and the senators are in a conference as the activity of the Turkish fleet is posing a threat to Venice’s interests. Though the reports coming in are disjointed and even contrary to what Venice would expect Turkey to do, the Duke and the senators are convinced that the Turkish Fleet has targeted Cyprus. A report comes in confirming that Cyprus is indeed the target, not Rhodes. Anon, the Duke and the senators are joined by Othello, Brabantio, et al. Othello is apprised of the situation, and a hearty welcome is extended Brabantio who proceeds to inform the Duke and the senators of his personal tragedy: Othello, the man that the Duke and the senators are now counting on to defeat the Turkish purposes, has by means of magic and sorcery, abducted Desdemona, his daughter. Unperturbed, Othello proclaims that if Desdemona’s testimony incriminates him in anyway, then let death be his punishement . Desdemona is fetched for and in the meantime, Othello expounds on their courtship. It is one of tenderness and pity. Having overheard Othello relate one his adventures to her father, Desdemona, her curiosity piqued, makes a habit of eavesdropping whenever Othello is invited to regale her father with one of his adventures. Noticing this, Othello sets aside an occasion wherein she might hear his life-story in full. Throughout she is so moved that she finds herself unable to avoid shedding tears. She is in love as is he. Eventually, Desdemona is brought before the Duke and the senators. There she informs her father that she owes her duty to Othello with whom she has exchanged holy vows. The issue is settled. Brabantio sanctifies the union. Desdemona will accompany Othello, even to the wars. Meanwhile, devastated by the turn of events, Roderigo contemplates suicide. Iago calls him a fool and dissuades him, arguing that things will change to Roderigo’s advantage, that he--Iago--has the means to make things change to Roderigo’s advantage, so that Roderigo need only make money which Iago will glady receive in payment for his services rendered.

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