Othello: Act I - The "trial" of Othello and Iago's intentions?
This is what was directly asked of our class in order to prepare a paper. I read Act I, and the language was hard to understand.
First, Discuss the "trial" of Othello in terms of fairness for both Othello (defendant & his own defense attorney) and to Barbantio (plantiff & prosecutor)
Second, Discuss Iago's sililoquy at the end of Act I. What do we learn about Iago---about what he's up to and why?
The trial is Othello and Desdemona against Brabantio (and Iago and Roderigo by proxy). The judge is the Duke.
Both the prosecution, Brabantio, and the defense, Othello and Desdemona, use highly emotional language, or pathos, to appeal to the Duke. This is ironic, of course, because most trials are based on facts and evidence.
Brabantio claims that Othello has used black magic to seduce his daughter. He has been baited to anger by Roderigo (really Iago), and though he dare not say it explicitly in court, Brabantio is racist. He sees the Moor as a voodoo-charmer, a hypersexual beast.
Othello cleverly admits to using magic on his daughter and even Brabantio--in the form of words. Othello's story of how he was a slave evoked tears from Desdemona and won her hand. Isn't this the goal of tragedy? To evoke pity and fear? By the end of the story, even the Duke says he would want his own daughter to marry him.
Desdemona echoes Othello's rousing monologue with her own, admitting her love for the Moor. This breaks her father's heart, as Brabantio, clearly beaten emotionally and verbally, is forced to consent to the marriage. After all, it's a sly trick by Othello--to privately marry first, and ask permission publicly later.
Act I shows that language is power: he who controls language controls people. Later, when Othello is outside the confines of court (and reason), he will lose his power of oration and become a seizure-enduced mute.
Iago foreshadows his intentions in his soliloquy--that he hates the Moor and he intends to use Cassio much the same way he has used Roderigo, as bait. (In fact, he baits them against each other.) Iago also reveals his motiveless malignancy in the speech. He twists words so as to make suspicion truth, much like the serpent in the Garden.