Othello Act 2, Scenes 1–3 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scenes 1–3 Summary and Analysis

Scene 1

The second act opens in Cyprus, with Montano, Cyprus’s governor, speaking to two other gentlemen. They comment on how windy it is and how this wind has stirred up great waves on the ocean. Montano suspects that the Turkish fleet must have been destroyed by these waves, and a third gentleman enters to tell him that indeed, the Turkish fleet is in shambles. He also tells Montano that Cassio’s ship has arrived from Verona, but Othello is still at sea. Montano goes to greet Cassio but worries that Othello is still in the storm. When Cassio enters, Montano asks about how sturdy Othello’s ship is, and Cassio assures him that Othello’s ship is strong and the captain skilled. A messenger enters to tell Montano that another ship has arrived. He hopes that it is Othello’s, and while the messenger goes to see whose ship approaches Cyprus, Cassio tells Montano about how beautiful Desdemona is.

The messenger returns to tell them that Iago, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Emilia (Iago’s wife) have arrived. As Cassio and Montano greet Iago and the women, a messenger comes with news of yet another ship. As they wait for the third ship to arrive, a gentleman greets Emilia by kissing her, but Iago mean-spiritedly jokes with him, saying that her lips flap too much. When Emilia tries to defend herself, Iago argues that women are always playing a role and insinuates that they are all prostitutes. Desdemona asks Iago if he is capable of giving a compliment, but he continues to make generalizations about how promiscuous women are. Cassio observes that Iago is “more the soldier… than the scholar” as he takes Desdemona’s hand, and Iago speaks to himself about how he might be able to use Cassio’s flirtations against him.

Othello finally arrives, and he reunites with Desdemona. Othello claims that with the Turkish navy destroyed by the weather, the war with the Turks is over. He leaves with Desdemona and his entourage. Iago and Roderigo stay behind, and Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona will soon be tired of looking at Othello’s ugly face. He points out that she and Cassio held hands, and he tells Roderigo that Cassio will be another hurdle to reach Desdemona. Iago then instructs Roderigo to try to make Cassio angry; this may cause Cassio to strike Roderigo, which will lower the public opinion of Cassio. Roderigo agrees, and Iago performs a soliloquy about how he suspects Othello and Cassio of sleeping with Emilia. He also notes that if he can slander Cassio, he can make Cassio seem like a villain while making himself appear the hero.

Scene 2

Scene 2 consists only of a herald making an announcement that Othello is throwing a party in celebration of the victory over the Turks as well as his recent marriage.

Scene 3

Scene 3 opens on Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio. Othello tells Cassio to oversee the guards and keep the peace, and he and Desdemona exit to consummate their marriage. As they leave, Iago enters. Iago begins speaking to Cassio about how beautiful Desdemona is. Iago then invites Cassio to drink with him and two other men from Cyprus, but Cassio declines, claiming that he does not like to drink. Cassio admits that he does not hold his liquor well, but Iago eventually convinces him to find the men from Cyprus and make a toast. 

As Cassio leaves to look for the other men, Iago reveals that he has been getting everyone at the party drunk. If he can get Cassio drunk, he can manipulate Cassio to offend the entire party and start a fight. Cassio, Montano, and two other gentlemen return, drinking. Iago sings several drinking songs and talks about how different nations are known for their ability to drink, goading Cassio and the others to keep up. Cassio, steadily drinking, unsuccessfully tries to convince the group that he is not actually drunk based on the fact that he is not slurring his words, and he leaves with the gentlemen from Cyprus.

Now alone, Iago tells Montano that Othello trusts Cassio too much, and he explains that...

(The entire section is 1,629 words.)