Othello Act 3, Scenes 1–4 Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act 3, Scenes 1–4 Summary and Analysis

Scene 1

The scene opens with Cassio paying a group of musicians to play music for Othello. A clown enters, and after briefly making fun of the musicians, he pays them on behalf of Othello, who wishes for them to leave. Cassio sends the clown to fetch Emilia. Iago enters, and Cassio admits that he is going to try to use Emilia to speak to Desdemona. Iago tracks down Emilia and sends her to Cassio. Emilia tells Cassio that Othello and Desdemona are speaking and that Desdemona is trying to defend Cassio. Cassio asks Emilia to arrange a one-on-one meeting between him and Desdemona. She agrees, and they leave.

Scene 2

Scene 2 is relatively short. It opens upon Othello, Iago, and some gentlemen from Cyprus. Othello asks Iago to go pay the captain of the ship who brought him to Cyprus. He tells Iago that when he is finished, to come find him on the parapets. They all leave. The scene shows that Othello is now occupied, which allows the next scene to take shape.

Scene 3

Scene 3 opens upon Desdemona, Cassio, and Emilia. Desdemona tells Cassio that she will do everything in her power to convince Othello to reinstate him and that she will not let the matter rest with her husband until it is settled. As Othello and Iago enter, Desdemona invites Cassio to stay, but he leaves, claiming that his presence will not help. Othello notices that Cassio was just speaking to his wife, and when he asks her about it, she pressures him to show Cassio mercy, asking how soon he will reverse his decision to demote Cassio. Othello agrees to reinstate Cassio whenever Cassio is willing to come and plead his case, but he asks to be alone, so Desdemona leaves. 

Iago asks how Desdemona and Cassio know one another, and Othello tells him that Cassio acted as a messenger, delivering messages between the lovers when Othello was wooing her. Iago asks if Othello can trust Cassio, and Othello seems perplexed by the question. Iago simply says that Cassio is an honest man and that people should be what they appear to be. Othello probes deeper, asking Iago to reveal anything he has not yet said. Iago, feigning reluctance, claims that he often overthinks things and states that his reputation is on the line if he reveals all of his thoughts. Iago then advises Othello to beware of jealousy, and not to be the sort of person who suspects that his wife is sleeping with someone else. 

Othello is shocked and says that he would never suspect his wife of adultery, and even if he did, he would want proof of it. Iago suggests that Othello watch when Cassio and Desdemona are together, and he reminds Othello that Desdemona lied in order to marry Othello in the first place. He then reminds Othello that this is all just speculation, and he should not take any of it too seriously. Othello sends Iago away, but he speaks to himself, doubting that Desdemona loves him.

Emilia and Desdemona enter, and Othello complains of a headache. Desdemona attempts to wrap Othello’s head with her handkerchief, but he lets it fall to the ground, and they exit. Emilia picks up the handkerchief, because Iago has asked her to obtain it. She returns to Iago, and after Iago demeans her, he takes the handkerchief from her, makes her promise to say nothing more about it, and sends her away. 

In an aside, Iago then explains that he is going to plant the handkerchief in Cassio’s house. Othello enters, raving about his wife’s infidelity. Othello insists that Iago find proof, because he cannot bear this unfounded suspicion any longer. Iago feigns remorse for planting these ideas in Othello’s head, and says that it would be hard to catch them in the act. However, Iago volunteers that Cassio has been talking about Desdemona in his sleep and says that he saw Cassio with the handkerchief that Othello had given to her. Othello vows revenge, promotes Iago to lieutenant, and asks him to kill Cassio.

Scene 4

Scene 4 begins with Desdemona, Emilia, and the clown. Desdemona tells the clown to find Cassio and let him know that...

(The entire section is 1,406 words.)