How does Shakespeare establish a setting of conflict in act 1 of Othello?

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Shakespeare establishes the conflict in act 1 of Othello by presenting a range of different quarrels, great and small, principally through the speeches of Iago, the major agent of conflict throughout the play.

Othello opens with an argument between Iago and Roderigo. Although this particular conflict is quickly over, Iago, who thrives on chaos, quickly creates more. It is clear throughout act 1 that conflicts in Venice are not generally solved, but merely displaced by greater conflicts. Roderigo's squabble with Iago is displaced by Brabantio's far more serious quarrel with Othello over Desdemona. This quarrel is no sooner brought to an uneasy conclusion than Othello is dispatched in his professional capacity to a more deadly conflict: fighting against the Turks who are invading the island of Cyprus.

The major characters in the play—Othello, Iago, and Cassio—are all soldiers, and the setting for the play is military and political. Principally through the speeches of Iago and Brabantio, Shakespeare shows in act 1 that the conflicts and jealousies within the Venetian army are at least as severe as any malice they bear against the Turks.

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