Act II, Scenes 1-3 Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What dramatic function does the conversation between Montano and the two gentlemen serve?

2. Why does Iago carefully observe the way Cassio greets Desdemona?

3. What information does Iago use to spark Roderigo’s interest in his plan to discredit Cassio?

4. What “proof” does Iago use to convince Roderigo that Cassio and Desdemona are lovers?

5. Why does Iago instigate Roderigo to provoke Cassio to a fight?

6. Why does Iago urge Cassio to drink to Othello?

7. What happens when Cassio enters chasing Roderigo?

8. How does Iago plan to bait Othello into doubting Desdemona’s fidelity?

9. What does Iago tell Cassio to do to restore the reputation he has sullied in Othello’s eyes?

10. How does Iago plan to intensify Othello’s doubt about Desdemona?

1. The conversation between Montano and the two gentlemen serves several functions. It provides a vivid description of the storm as a substitute for staging which would be difficult to accomplish in the Elizabethan theater. It also makes the news of the destruction of the Turkish fleet more credulous. In addition, it provides a reason for Cassio’s concern for Othello’s safety. Moreover, it points out the irony of Othello’s surviving war and the elements only to be destroyed by one whom he trusts most.

2. Iago’s careful observation of Cassio’s greeting of Desdemona points out how he uses situations to his advantage. He takes this friendly greeting and plans “[w]ith as little a web as this … [to] ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.”

3. Iago tells Roderigo that “Desdemona is directly in love with [Cassio]” in order to stir Roderigo’s jealousy toward Cassio so that Roderigo will easily comply with a plan to get Cassio out of the way. As a manipulator, Iago uses Roderigo to suit his own purposes with no concern for Roderigo.

4. When Roderigo finds it incredulous that Desdemona and Cassio could be lovers, Iago adds that “they met so near with their lips that their breaths embraced together.” Iago’s lascivious nature motivates him to give their cordial greeting a lecherous overtone.

5. Iago urges Roderigo to provoke Cassio to a fight so that with “the impediment most profitably removed” Roderigo will “have a shorter journey to [his] desires.” Iago says that he is helping Roderigo, when in fact he is working against him.

6. Iago tells Cassio to drink “to have a measure to the health of black Othello” because “’tis a night of revels.” However, Iago’s true motive is to get Cassio drunk so “He’ll be as full of quarrels and offense” and get involved “in some action / That may offend the isle.” Iago says one thing but means another.

7. Cassio threatens to beat Roderigo, and when Montano intercedes on Roderigo’s behalf, Cassio verbally threatens to “knock [him] o’er the mazzard.” This suits Iago’s plan for Montano to witness Cassio in a compromising position.

8. Iago plans to tell Othello that Desdemona pleads for Cassio because of “her body’s lust” and that the strength of her plea indicates the intensity of her lust.

9. Iago tells Cassio to go to Desdemona and “entreat her to splinter” the rift between him and Othello. Iago appears to be motivated to help Cassio, but in actuality, he wants to further his own plan to discredit him to Othello.

10. While Cassio is pleading his case to Desdemona, Iago plans to bring Othello at the very moment “when he may Cassio find / Soliciting his wife.” In this way, he can nurture the seed that he has already planted in Othello’s mind concerning Desdemona’s infidelity.

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