Othello Summary

Othello by William Shakespeare is a tragic play of jealousy and deceit set in Venice. The villainous Iago plans and executes his elaborate revenge on Othello.

  • Othello is a respected Moorish general who is newly married to Desdemona. Othello has recently promoted Michael Cassio instead of Iago. Iago enlists the help of Roderigo, who pines for Desdemona, in scheming against Othello.
  • Through various machinations, Iago has Cassio expelled from service. He then sets up a conversation between Cassio and Desdemona, which Othello witnesses, believing the two are having an affair.
  • Othello kills Desdemona, only to discover that he has been deceived.

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Summary

Othello, a Moorish general in Venice, has just eloped with a noblewoman, Desdemona. The play opens with Roderigo, one of Desdemona’s former suitors, speaking with Iago, Othello’s ensign. Iago hates Othello for promoting another soldier, Cassio, to the rank of lieutenant instead of himself, and Roderigo is angry that Desdemona has married Othello. Together, they go to the house of Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, in an attempt to turn Desdemona’s family against Othello. They tell Brabantio about the elopement, and Brabantio gathers a group of men to find and apprehend Othello and annul the marriage. When Brabantio finds Othello, Othello has just been called upon by the duke of Venice. Othello suggests that they all go to the duke together. That way, Othello is able to answer the summons, and the duke can adjudicate the dispute between Othello and Brabantio.

At the duke’s court, it is revealed that several Turkish ships are approaching the island of Cyprus, and the Duke of Venice calls upon Othello for military help. Brabantio airs his grievances to the duke, namely that Othello has run off with his daughter. Othello defends himself, explaining how he and Desdemona fell in love. They also fetch Desdemonoa, who corroborates Othello’s story, and Brabantio eventually gives a reluctant blessing to the marriage. Othello sails for Cyprus immediately, followed by Cassio on another ship and Iago, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Emilia (Desdemona’s attendant and Iago’s wife) on yet another ship.

Eventually, they all come together in Cyprus and learn that the Turkish fleet has been scattered by bad weather. Othello throws a party to celebrate the victory and his marriage. Iago, however, plots against Othello and Cassio, convincing Roderigo that Cassio will be another hurdle to reach Desdemona. Iago gets Cassio drunk during the festivities, and Roderigo goads him into becoming violent. Montano, the governor of Cyprus, attempts to restrain Cassio, but Cassio attacks him, leaving him wounded. Given Cassio’s brazen actions, Othello has no choice but to demote him from the rank of lieutenant. Iago, seeing an opportunity, suggests that Cassio speak to Desdemona, as she might be able to change her husband’s mind.

Cassio takes Iago’s advice, and upon speaking with her, he learns that Desdemona has already started defending him to her husband. As Desdemona and Cassio discuss how he might be reinstated, Othello sees them speaking with one another. Later, Iago insinuates to Othello that Desdemona and Cassio may be having an affair. Othello does not want to believe this, but Iago reminds Othello that their marriage is based on a lie (elopement), and thus it is feasible that Desdemonoa may lie again. Knowing that Desdemona will be speaking favorably about Cassio in an attempt to reinstate him, Iago tells Othello to be vigilant, and note if Desdemona starts talking about Cassio more favorably than usual. Othello soon begins to suspect his wife of sleeping with Cassio.

Shortly thereafter, Desdemona, Emilia, and Othello are together, and Othello complains of a headache. Desdemona attempts to wrap his head in a handkerchief that he gave her while they were still courting, but it falls to the floor, and Emilia picks it up. She delivers the handkerchief to Iago, who has asked Emilia to obtain it on...

(The entire section is 1,157 words.)