What are the imagery, atmosphere, character development and themes or recurring ideas in Act 2 scene 1 lines 89-97 of Othello?Act 2 scene 1 lines...

What are the imagery, atmosphere, character development and themes or recurring ideas in Act 2 scene 1 lines 89-97 of Othello?

Act 2 scene 1 lines 83-97


She that I spake of, our great captain's captain,
Left in the conduct of the bold Iago;
Whose footing here anticipates our thoughts
A se'nnight's speed. Great Jove, Othello guard,
And swell his sail with thine own powerful breath,(85)
That he may bless this bay with his tall ship,
Make love's quick pants in Desdemona's arms,
Give renew'd fire to our extincted spirits,
And bring all Cyprus comfort.

Enter Desdemona, Iago, Emilia, Roderigo.

O, behold,(90)
The riches of the ship is come on shore!
Ye 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!(95)

Modern Text

She’s the one I was talking about, the general’s wife. The brave Iago was put in charge of bringing her here, and he’s arrived a week sooner than we expected. Dear God, please protect Othello and help him arrive here safely, so he and Desdemona can be in each other’s arms, and Othello can cheer us up and bring comfort to Cyprus.

Look, the precious Desdemona has arrived on shore. We should all kneel before her, men of Cyprus! Greetings, my lady, and may God always be with you.

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here in Act II.i of Othello, Cassio uses multi-faceted imagery:

  • mythological ("Jove")
  • religious ("heaven," "let her have your knees")
  • supernatural ("spirits")
  • wealth ("riches")
  • body ("Desdemona's arms")
  • nautical ("captain," "shore")
  • light/dark ("fire")

All told, the atmosphere is one of religious observance and celebration, for not only has Venice defeated the Turk at sea, but their fleet has escaped a storm, and Desdemona has safely arrived.  Cassio is serving as a kind of Chorus, narrating the action, and priest, reifying Desdemona, much like the Virgin Madonna.  After all, many miracles have happened so that Desdemona (a civilian) could be allowed to follow her military husband to a remote island during a war.  Other miracles include her being allowed to marry a black-a-Moor in the first place.

The atmosphere is also filled with verbal irony and foreshadowing.  Cassio glorifies Desdemona so much that it will prove nearly fatal for him in the end.  Iago will expose Cassio's reverence, using it as fodder for Othello's jealousy.

The speech foreshadows the destruction that will come later on Cyprus.  Ironically, this scene is "as good as it gets" for the characters Cassio, Othello, and Desdmona.  They think, with defeat of the Turk, that they have won the war and the island will be a kind of paradise.  Little do they realize that Cyprus will be filled with the themes of chaos, jealousy, and death.  Cassio will stab the governor and nearly be killed by Roderigo and Iago.  Desdemona and Emilia will both be killed by their husbands.  So, Cassio's religious imagery here is but a "red herring," setting up the audience for a temporary and false happiness.