Othello: Act 1, Scene 2 – Summary & Analysis

Othello: Act 1, Scene 2 – Summary & Analysis

Iago goes to Othello, declaring that Rogerigo betrayed him with the revelation of the marriage to Brabanzio; Iago says that Brabanzio’s upset will likely result in his divorcing the newlyweds. Soon they spot a group coming towards  Othello’s residence, and the two wait for its arrival after Iago fails to convince Othello to go inside. The group comprise of Cassio and some officers from the Ventian court; they have come to summon Othello to the court to discuss a matter concerning Cyprus (an island owned by Venice) with the duke of Venice. As the group then m ake preparations to depart Iago reveals Othello’s marriage, which is followed soon after by the arrival of Brabanzio and his party, which includes Roderigo. A confrontation seems likely, with Brabanzio commanding his men to seize Othello and Iago threatening Roderigo (which is a false act so as to remain apparently loyal to his commander), however Othello calms both parties. Brabanzio’s anger is uncontrollable and he accuses Othello of bewitching his daughter as she would not have ‘run from her guardage to the sooty bosom of a thing such as thou’; he announces his intention to deal with this matter himself rather than going the usual route of allowing the court to settle matters. However he soon learns that Othello is to meet with the duke and resolves to put forth his case at this time; Othello concludes that something is wrong with Ventian society if the duke does not deem him to be in the right.

Themes

Appearance and reality: Othello is not the barbaric racist he was suggested to be in the first scene. The devilish implications are replaced by allusions to Jesus Christ, with the swords and torches of Brabanzio’s party mirroring the group who took Jesus from the Garden of Bethsamene to eventually be crucified. Similarly, Jesus told Peter to ‘Put up thy sword into the sheath’ when his apostle attempted to challenge the party and Othello likewise discourages confrontation of any kind, declaring to all to ‘Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust ‘em’.  Elsewhere, Iago is linked to Judas with his apparent loyalty contrasting with his plotted betrayal of his leader.

Society’s treatment of the outsider: The titular character is an outsider, which immediately creates a divide between Othello and the world of the text that he is part of. His summons to court emphasizes this division once more, and there is implication that his position as outsider may lead to mistreatment. This is justified considering the misconceptions of Othello in the previous scene, such as Brabanzio’ comments about witchcraft.

Characters

Othello: One of the most notable things about Othello from this scene is his authoritative presence, as he stops the potential confrontation with words alone, ‘were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter’. Despite the aforementioned mistreatment it is suggested Othello may receive, there is also implications that the titular character holds good standing in Venice despite his role of outsider. Brabanzio’s desire for Othello to be arrested for witchcraft (‘thou has enchaned her, practised on her foul charms./ Abused her delicate youth with drugs of minerals’) rather than his eloping with Desdemona indicates a recognition that the duke will accept the viewpoint of Othello due to his role in stately matters (which is suggested in turn by his being summoned by the duke).  Another trait of note is Othello’s pride, as he reveals his delight that Desdemona chose him as a husband, which leads to declarations such as that he would trade her ‘for the seas’ worth’ and that if there is a dissolution of the marriage ‘bondslaves and pagans shall our statesman be’. Othello’s pride is evident later in the play and it is important to keep it in mind.

Iago: The change of surroundings and characters has not altered Iago who is as evil and deceptive as the last scene, confirming such traits as inherent. His presentation of Othello to Cassio as a pirate who stole Desdemona, ‘tonight hath boarded a land-carrack’ shows his willingness once more to betray all around him to further his own ends; this is Machiavellian as Iago wants Cassio to consider Desdemona as attainable if one desires her and Othello as a man who is not the epitome of honor, as this will later facilitate his commander’s downfall. Of note is that he makes mention to Janus, who was the two-faced God, which is an appropriate symbol for Iago as it epitomizes not only his deception but also his power in the text; while he is undoubtedly immoral it cannot be denied that Iago is already the playmaker of the drama, influencing all around him and having a key say in how events unfold.

TutorHQ
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...

You need to login or register to bookmark/favorite this content.

About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
Ask a question
Did this raise a question for you? Get involved in the discussion.