In Othello, what is Cassio’s "bold show of courtesy" to Desdemona?

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bohemianteacher4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In Shakespeare’s play “Othello,” a Moor marries a beautiful woman named Desdemona.  They live together happily in Venice.  Othello is ambitious and well-revered.  He is appointed as the commander of his military troops.  His new position requires him to move to his station in Cyprus, and he is given permission to take his wife with him.  Othello seems to have it all; a great career and a lovely wife at his side.  However, what he does not know is that one of his ensigns, Iago, loves Othello’s wife and is jealous of Othello. 

Othello has to leave his wife, who will follow later, so he entrusts Iago to ensure that Desdemona has a safe passage to Cypres.  Iago begins to plot against Othello. Iago’s wife is a servant to Othello’s wife.  Roderigo is also in love with Desdemona, but she only loves her husband.  However, Iago sees the weakness, in Othello’s deep love for Desdemona.  One day when Desdemona is playing with one of Iago’s children, she drops her handkerchief.  Iago’s wife retrieves it, but he takes it from her.  When Iago’s rival, Cassio, is given a position that Iago desires, he begins to plot revenge on Cassio and the destruction of Othello.  He starts to plant the notion to Othello that Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio.  Iago desires Cassio to be killed.

When Desdemona first arrives on the ship, Cassio is present to greet her.  He makes a bold statement by complementing her.  His speech of greeting is his first bold show of courtesy.  

"Oh, behold, the riches of the ship comes on shore! You men of Cyprus, let her have your knees. Hail to thee, lady, and the grace of heaven,Before, behind thee, and on every hand, Enwheel thee round!"

One night Othello assigns Cassio to stand over the guards for the night after a party.  He tells them they may drink but not be drunkards.  Cassio is weak when it comes to alcohol consumption, so Iago engages in getting him drunk.  Iago then reports to others of Cassio’s drunkard behavior and further exploits it by stating that it has frequently been occurring.  Othello becomes angered at Cassio’s behavior, and Cassio’s actions have disrupted Othello’s wedding night. 

Cassio feels disgraced and does not understand the change in his relationship with Othello.  Iago prompts him to speak with Desdemona, who can help arrange a meeting between Othello and Cassio.  In a gesture to reach out to Othello, he arranges a clown to visit Desdemona.  His action is his bold show of courtesy towards Desdemona. 

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