Othello begins on a street in Venice, in the midst of an argument between Roderigo, a rich man, and Iago. Roderigo
has been paying Iago to help him in his suit to Desdemona. But Roderigo has just learned that Desdemona has
married Othello, a general whom Iago begrudgingly serves as ensign. Iago says he hates Othello, who recently
passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced soldier Michael Cassio.
Unseen, Iago and Roderigo cry out to Brabanzio that his daughter Desdemona has been stolen by and married to
Othello, the Moor. Brabanzio finds that his daughter is indeed missing, and he gathers some officers to find Othello.
Not wanting his hatred of Othello to be known, Iago leaves Roderigo and hurries back to Othello before Brabanzio
sees him. At Othello’s lodgings, Cassio arrives with an urgent message from the duke: Othello’s help is needed in the
matter of the imminent Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Not long afterward, Brabanzio arrives with Roderigo and others,
and accuses Othello of stealing his daughter by witchcraft. When he finds out that Othello is on his way to speak with
the duke, -Brabanzio decides to go along and accuse Othello before the assembled senate.
Brabanzio’s plan backfires. The duke and senate are very sympathetic toward Othello. Given a chance to speak for
himself, Othello explains that he wooed and won Desdemona not by witchcraft but with the stories of his adventures
in travel and war. The duke finds Othello’s explanation convincing, and Desdemona herself enters at this point to
defend her choice in marriage and to announce to her father that her allegiance is now to her husband. Brabanzio is
frustrated, but acquiesces and allows the senate meeting to resume. The duke says that Othello must go to Cyprus to
aid in the defense against the Turks, who are headed for the island. Desdemona insists that she accompany her
husband on his trip, and preparations are made for them to depart that night.
In Cyprus the following day, two gentlemen stand on the shore with Montano, the governor of Cyprus. A third
gentleman arrives and reports that the Turkish fleet has been wrecked in a storm at sea. Cassio, whose ship did not
suffer the same fate, arrives soon after, followed by a second ship carrying Iago, Roderigo, Desdemona, and Emilia,
Iago’s wife. Once they have landed, Othello’s ship is sighted, and the group goes to the harbor. As they wait for
Othello, Cassio greets Desdemona by clasping her hand. Watching them, Iago tells the audience that he will use ―as
little a web as this‖ hand-holding to ensnare Cassio (II.169 ).
Othello arrives, greets his wife, and announces that there will be reveling that evening to celebrate Cyprus’s safety
from the Turks. Once everyone has left, Roderigo complains to Iago that he has no chance of breaking up Othello’s
marriage. Iago assures Roderigo that as soon as Desdemona’s ―blood is made dull with the act of sport,‖ she will lose
interest in Othello and seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere (II.i222 ). However, Iago warns that ―elsewhere‖ will likely
be with Cassio. Iago counsels Roderigo that he should cast Cassio into disgrace by starting a fight with Cassio at the
evening’s revels. In a soliloquy, Iago explains to the audience that eliminating Cassio is the first crucial step in his
plan to ruin Othello. That night, Iago gets Cassio drunk and then sends Roderigo to start a fight with him. Apparently
provoked by Roderigo, Cassio chases Roderigo across the stage. Governor Montano attempts to hold Cassio down,
and Cassio stabs him. Iago sends Roderigo to raise alarm in the town.
The alarm is rung, and Othello, who had left earlier with plans to consummate his marriage, soon arrives to still the
commotion. When Othello demands to know who began the fight, Iago feigns reluctance to implicate his ―friend‖
Cassio, but he ultimately tells the whole story. Othello then strips Cassio of his rank of lieutenant. Cassio is extremely
upset, and he laments to Iago, once everyone else has gone, that his reputation has been ruined forever. Iago
assures Cassio that he can get back into Othello’s good graces by using Desdemona as an intermediary. In a
soliloquy, Iago tells us that he will frame Cassio and Desdemona as lovers to make -Othello jealous.
In an attempt at reconciliation, Cassio sends some musicians to play beneath Othello’s window. Othello, however,
sends his clown to tell the musicians to go away. Hoping to arrange a meeting with Desdemona, Cassio asks the
clown, a peasant who serves Othello, to send Emilia to him. After the clown departs, Iago passes by and tells Cassio that he will get Othello out of the way so that Cassio can speak privately with Desdemona. Othello, Iago, and a
gentleman go to examine some of the town’s fortifications.
Desdemona is quite sympathetic to Cassio’s request and promises that she will do everything she can to make
Othello forgive his former lieutenant. As Cassio is about to leave, Othello and Iago return. Feeling uneasy, Cassio
leaves without talking to Othello. Othello inquires whether it was Cassio who just parted from his wife, and Iago,
beginning to kindle Othello’s fire of jealousy, replie