Act I, Scenes 1-3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What reason does Iago give for his hatred of Othello?

2. What information do Roderigo and Iago give to Brabantio regarding Desdemona’s whereabouts?

3. How does Iago make himself look favorable in Othello’s eyes?

4. What news does Michael Cassio bring when he enters?

5. To what does Brabantio attribute Desdemona’s affections for Othello?

6. What is the military issue that the Duke of Venice and his senators discuss?

7. What accusation does Brabantio make against Othello to the duke?

8. What explanation does Othello give as cause for Desdemona’s affection for him?

9. To whom does Desdemona pledge her duty?

10. In the final speech of Act I, what does Iago plan to do to further his plot against Othello?

1. Iago tells Roderigo that he hates Othello because “Michael Cassio, a Florentine / … that never set a squadron in the field / Nor the division of a battle knows,” has just been chosen by Othello as his lieutenant. His bitterness is evident when he tells Roderigo that “’tis the curse of service” that promotion is made by personal liking not by seniority.

2. After Roderigo calls out in the night that thieves have robbed Brabantio’s household, Iago tells Brabantio, in gross images of animal lust, that “an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe.” When he refers to Othello as the devil, he incites Brabantio further against the Moor. Roderigo then informs Brabantio that Desdemona has been “Transported … / To...

(The entire section is 660 words.)

Act II, Scenes 1-3 Questions and Answers

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...

(The entire section is 598 words.)

Act III, Scenes 1-4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What function do the musicians and clown serve?

2. How does Iago’s duplicity become evident when he speaks to Cassio?

3. What does Emilia’s remark about the rift between Othello and Cassio suggest about their relationship?

4. Identify and explain two examples of irony found in Act III, Scene 3.

5. Explain how Iago manages to arouse Othello’s suspicion in the conversation between Cassio and Desdemona.

6. How does Iago use Othello’s racial differences against him?

7. How is the dropping of the handkerchief ironic?

8. What literary device is used to ease some of the dramatic tension that has been established?

9. How is the conversation about jealousy between Emilia and Desdemona ironic?

10. Explain the significance of the handkerchief to Othello.

1. The musicians and the clown serve as comic relief after the dramatic events of Act II. The musicians’ serenade depicts an Elizabethan custom of awakening people of rank with music on special occasions. The clown’s comment on the musicians’ instruments provides bawdy humor for the audience and commentary on the health conditions of sixteenth century Naples.

2. Iago pretends to be acting on Iago’s behalf when he tells him he will keep Othello away while Cassio and Desdemona speak. His real motive is to set up the circumstance in which Othello can find Cassio and Desdemona together for Iago to use as additional “ocular proof” of their infidelity.

3. When Emilia says that Iago is as upset by the rift between Cassio and Othello “as if the cause were his,” she demonstrates how she too has been fooled by Iago’s pretense....

(The entire section is 726 words.)

Act IV, Scenes 1-3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does Othello react to Iago’s images of infidelity?

2. Why does Iago speak to Cassio about Bianca?

3. Explain how the handkerchief has increased in significance.

4. How has Othello changed up to this point in the play?

5. Explain the difference in the relationship between Desdemona and Othello compared to when they first arrived in Cyprus.

6. Why is Emilia’s belief about what is causing Othello’s behavior ironic?

7. What clue does Emilia offer about Iago’s own jealousy?

8. Why is Roderigo annoyed at Iago?

9. What is the dramatic significance of the “willow” song?

10. To what does Emilia attribute the fact that women betray their husbands?

1. When Iago suggests that Desdemona and Cassio “kiss in private” and lie naked together, Othello falls into a trance.

2. Iago carefully contrives to have Othello eavesdrop on a conversation between Cassio and him. When Iago elicits responses from Cassio about Bianca, Othello thinks he is speaking disparagingly about Desdemona. Iago does this to convince Othello more conclusively of their secret love.

3. When Bianca enters, she jealously berates Cassio for having given her “some minx’s token” and instructs him to “give it to your hobbyhorse.” Of course Othello believes the hobbyhorse to be Desdemona and is...

(The entire section is 542 words.)

Act V, Scenes 1-2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Explain Iago’s attitude toward Roderigo and Cassio.

2. How does Othello come to think that Iago has kept his vow?

3. What function does the presence of Lodovico and Gratiano serve?

4. Why does Iago stab Roderigo?

5. How does Iago cast aside suspicion of his own part in the plot to kill Cassio?

6. When does Othello show a change of heart towards Desdemona?

7. Why does Othello mention the handkerchief so often?

8. Why does Othello kill Desdemona?

9. How are all the plots and schemes revealed at the end of the play?

10. Why does Othello kill himself?

1. Iago demonstrates a callous attitude toward Roderigo and Cassio. Up to this point, he has used them to achieve his goals, so to him their deaths would be more valuable than their lives. If Roderigo is dead, then Iago would not have to compensate him for the jewels he tricked from him. If Cassio is dead, there is no risk of his being informed about Iago’s plan by Othello.

2. When Othello hears Cassio cry out after being wounded by Iago, he believes that Iago has kept his vow to kill Cassio.

3. Lodovico and Gratiano enter the street at the cries for help. Lodovico’s comment “Let’s think’t unsafe / To come into the cry without more help” suggests the danger that exists. Their presence also provides an “audience”...

(The entire section is 540 words.)