Act III, Scenes 1-4 Summary and Analysis
Act III, Scene 1
Clown: comedic figure from the castle; servant to Othello
In this scene before Othello’s castle, Cassio enters with two musicians and tells them he will pay them to serenade Othello and Desdemona. A clown enters and comments on the musicians’ instruments and tells them that Othello does not want to hear any more music. After the musicians leave, Cassio asks the clown to tell Emilia he wants to see Desdemona. Iago enters and Cassio tells him what he just asked the clown, and Iago tells him he will go get Emilia, and he will keep Othello away. Emilia enters and tells Cassio that Othello and Desdemona are discussing the incident between Cassio and Montano and that she will arrange a meeting.
This scene provides some comic relief from the drama that has transpired in the previous act. Cassio’s request for the musicians to serenade Othello and Desdemona reflects the Elizabethan custom of awakening people of high rank with serenades on special occasions. When they play, a clown comes out and comments on the quality of their music by asking, “Why, masters, have your instruments been at Naples, that they speak i’ th’ nose thus?” An Elizabethan audience would be quick to pick up on the bawdy pun on the word instruments and the suggestion of the poor health conditions of the city of Naples. The clown then sarcastically says that Othello likes the music so much, he will pay the musicians to stop. After Iago enters, Cassio tells him he requested to see Desdemona, and Iago says he will “devise a means to draw the Moor / Out of the way” so they can speak more freely. Iago makes it seem as if he is helping Iago’s cause; whereas, in reality he is setting up the situation for Othello to find Cassio and Desdemona speaking. When Emilia tells Cassio that Desdemona “speaks for [him] stoutly,” Cassio hopes that his conversation with her will then prove fruitful.
Act III, Scene 2
Within the castle, Othello gives Iago letters to deliver to the senate. Othello and gentlemen walk along the fortress walls.
This brief scene presents Othello in a situation where he carries out the duties of the office as a commander.
Act III, Scene 3
In the garden of the castle, Desdemona tells Cassio that she will do all she can to help him. Emilia adds that Iago is just as distressed by the whole incident. Othello and Iago enter as Cassio leaves, and Iago suggests that there is something suspicious in the way he left. Desdemona asks Othello to call Cassio back, but he says he will speak to him some other time. She insists and pleads Cassio’s case, so having enough, Othello says he’ll give her what she wants, and asks to be left alone. Iago asks about Cassio’s familiarity with Desdemona, and Othello tells him he was in their company many times when they were courting. Othello asks Iago to tell him his thoughts, as vile as they may be, so Iago tells him to watch out for jealousy. Othello says he’ll need more to doubt her, so Iago tells him to observe Desdemona with Cassio and adds that most Venetian women are deceptive using Desdemona’s elopement as proof of how she deceived Brabantio. Othello vacillates between doubt and certainty of Desdemona, and Iago leaves him with his thoughts.
Desdemona enters to tell him the dinner guests are waiting, and Othello replies that he has a headache. Desdemona proceeds to wipe his brow with her handkerchief, but when he pushes it away, the handkerchief drops. Emilia picks it up, and when Iago enters she says she has the handkerchief which Iago immediately snatches from her. Othello returns and asks for more tangible proof of her infidelity. Iago mentions that he saw Cassio wipe his beard with the handkerchief. At this, Othello swears vengence and Iago agrees to help him. They discuss the death of Michael Cassio.
When Emilia comments that the rift between Othello and Cassio “grieves [her] husband / As if the cause were his” we see how Iago...
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