In Othello, Act 3, scene 1, lines 1-31: What is the purpose of this conversation between Cassio and the Clown? The thematic, characterological and dramatic purpose of their conversation, to...
In Othello, Act 3, scene 1, lines 1-31: What is the purpose of this conversation between Cassio and the Clown?
The thematic, characterological and dramatic purpose of their conversation, to be more precise.
I know it serves as some sort of a comic relief - I have to write a paper on this and I just can't come up with anything substantial :S
Well, of course this short scene does serve as 'comic relief', but it also serves as a dramatic 'hook' between the end of the last Act (2, iii) - Othello and Desdemona's wedding night - and the morning after, (3,i) when the traditional musicians come to wake the new bride and groom with a 'Good Morrow' - an aubade, a sort of ceremonial alarm call. The time interval between the two Acts is very short, and they must segue into one another.
The main linkage is Iago, and his use of both Roderigo and Cassio in his plotting. We leave Act 2,iii with Roderigo, still besotted with Desdemona and dismayed to have lost a fight with Cassio. But this has ended with Cassio's dismissal for brawling, and Cassio must now find favour again with Othello. To this end he has hired the musicians as a goodwill gesture.
It is Othello's 'Clown' who comes out and sends the musicians away on the grounds that the noise is disturbing his master. (We need to understand 'clown' to mean rough fellow/servant, here, rather than funny-man, although clown roles were characterized by often bawdy wit as well, and usually played by the theatre company's resident clown.) This Clown specialises in ambiguous insults, comparing the music to farting and wind-instruments to bottoms, but there is no need to assume the music is bad as such. The main point here, I think, is that Cassio is wrong-footed by a lowly servant, who suggests not only that Cassio has misjudged his former master's love of music (16-17) but ('I hear not your honest friend, I hear you':22) that Cassio is beneath his contempt and, by implication, Othello's also. In a military context - Cassio is after all an honourable lieutenant - this would be gross insubordination coming from anyone but a 'clown', who enjoyed a certain anarchic freedom.
Now Iago returns, and the main business continues, with the audience knowing that his friendliness to Cassio is a sham.