Othello Act & Scene Summaries

Act 1, Scene 1

  • Includes: Iago, Roderigo, Brabantio. Setting: streets of Venice.
  • Iago and Roderigo speak of how much they hate Othello; the 'Moor' (he is not referred to by name, only by racial slurs). Iago complains that Cassio has been awarded the position of Leiutenant above him, and he feels hatred towards Othello because of this. They state that Othello has secretly married Desdemona, and Iago convinces Roderigo to rouse her father (Brabantio) to inform him of the marriage. 
  • Brabantio does not believe Roderigo initially, but after seeing that Desdemona is missing he rouses his people to set off and find Othello. 
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Act 1, Scene 2

  • Includes: Iago, Othello, Cassio, Brabantio. Setting: the streets of Venice.
  • Scene begins with Iago and Othello disucssing how Othello is now married to Desdemona, but there is no suggestion that their marriage has been consummated yet. Iago warns Othello that Brabantio is enraged but Othello is not concerned, as he believes the services he has done the state will absolve him of any blame or punishment. 
  • Cassio appears and states that the Duke of Venice has requested Othello's presence at the Senate, to dicuss the war on the Turks. Othello makes move to go to the court, but Brabantio appears.
  • Brabantio accuses Othello of stealing Desdemona through his use of potions and charms - racial prejudice. Othello calmly suggests that they go to the Duke to settle the matter. Brabantio is shocked that council is being held this late at night, and as a Senator he knew nothing about it - illustrates his insignificance. But, he agrees and they all set off to the council.
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Act 1, Scene 3

  • Includes: Othello, Brabantio, the Duke, Desdemona, Iago, Roderigo. Setting: the Senate.
  • The scene begins with the senators discussing the war on the Turks; no clear information is available - symbolic of the perceptions around Othello's character.
  • Othello and Brabantio enter the council. Brabantio openly accuses Othello of stealing Desdemona through use of magic, but Othello defends himself nobly and suggests bringing Desdemona to the council, to speak for herself. He sends Iago to bring her, and in the meantime speaks of how they fell in love. It is revealed that Brabantio often invited Othello to his home to speak with him, and this is how Desdemona came to love him.
  • Desdemona then arrives and shows loyalty to her husband over her father, and states that she does not wish to be separated from Othello in him having to go to Cyrpus to fight the Turks. The Duke agrees, and the matter is settled.
  • Before the court disbands, Brabantio warns Othello: 'Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has decieved her father, and may thee.' This is a foreshadowing of what is to come, but Othello insists upon Desdemona's faith.
  • Iago and Roderigo then become the only two people in the scene - Iago's 1st soliloqy takes place. He states that he plans to make Othello believe that Desdemona has been unfaithful. We learn that Othello is easily believed by appearance and that Iago is a manipulative, calculating character.
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Act 2, Scene 1 & 2

  • SCENE 1: Includes: Cassio, Desdemona, Iago, Othello, Roderigo. Setting: the shores of Cyprus. 
  • Scene begins with soldiers discussing the destruction of the Turkish fleet - victory. But, the ships from Venice have been separated in a storm. Othello and Desdemona travelled on different ships - symbolic foreshadowing.
  • Cassio and Desdemona's ship is the first to arrive safely. Cassio greets Iago and Emilia flamboyantly, and he and Desdemona converse with them. Cassio's language and attitude differs greatly from Iago's.
  • Othello then arrives and speaks with Desdemona about how happy he is that they are safe and together. They then exit, leaving Iago and Roderigo alone once again.
  • Iago convinces Roderigo that Cassio and Desdemona are in love, for Desdemona cannot possibly be genuinely in love with Othello. Iago preys on Roderigo's desire for Desdemona, and convinces him to later get Cassio angry so that Othello will displace him and promote Iago. Roderigo agrees and exits.
  • Iago's 2nd soliloqy then occurs. He speaks of how Othello supposedly slept with Emilia, and how Iago loves Desdemona for providing him a route for revenge. He begins to form his plan that he shall convince Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair. 
  • SCENE 2: A herald announces that it is 'Othello's pleasure' that a party will be held to celebrate his marriage to Desdemona. This announcement is slightly ominous; love and war are linked in this celebration.
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Act 2, Scene 3

  • Includes: Iago, Cassio, Roderigo, Montano, Othello, Desdemona. Setting: Cyprus, late evening.
  • Othello places Cassio on gaurd duty during the celebrations, and leaves to supposedly consummate his marriage with Desdemona. Iago and Cassio discuss Desdemona, with Cassio calling her a 'most exquisite lady'.
  • Iago convinces Cassio to take a drink, knowing that he reacts poorly to it, because it is a night of celebration. Cassio eventually agrees, and he, Iago and Montano drink steadily to Othello's health etc. Cassio gets increasingly drunk, and leaves as Roderigo enters the scene; but Iago sends Roderigo after him immediately.
  • Both then re-emerge, with Cassio chasing Roderigo, shouting insults at him. Montano tried to stop Cassio but is attacked by him, while Roderigo escapes. The bell is rung and Othello enters the scene.
  • Othello asks Iago what has happed, but he claims he didn't see. Montano cannot give a clear answer either, and Cassio is too drunk to speak. Regardess, Cassio is indireclty blamed and Othello strips him of his title. Desdemona enters and Othello is angered at her having been disturbed by the events, and whisks her away.
  • Iago and Cassio are left alone. Cassio weeps of how he has lost his reputation, but Iago tells him to stop complaining and suggests speaking to Desdemona, for she could convince her husband to reinstate Cassio; Iago uses this as a part of his plan. Cassio agrees to the idea, and exits the scene.
  • Iago's 3rd and final soliloqy occurs. He tries to convince the audience (and himself) that he is not a villain for giving Cassio this advice, illustrating that he is deluded and has no morals. He speaks of his plan to use Cassio and Desdemona as bait, and when Roderigo enters (to tell Iago he has no money and must leave) he convinces him to stay and further his plans; he sees Cassio's removal as a victory already.
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Act 3, Scene 1 & 2

  • SCENE 1: Includes Iago, Cassio, Emilia and Desdemona.
  • Iago and Cassio meet, and Cassio states he has asked Emilia to speak to Desdemona on his behalf. Iago then agrees to draw Othello out of the way when Cassio and Desdemona communicate.
  • Emilia enters and states Desdemona has agreed to help Cassio, but he asks for some 'brief discourse' with Desdemona alone. Cassio is clearly decieved by Iago; he states he 'never knew a Florentine more kind and honest.'
  • SCENE 2: Includes Othello and Iago, in the citadel. They speak briefly of some business of the Senate.
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Act 3, Scene 3

  • Includes: Desdemona, Cassio, Emilia, Othello, Iago. 
  • Desdemona, Cassio and Emilia emerge first. Des. has agreed to help Cas. as much as possible. Cas. is grateful, and leaves as soon as Othello enters. Des. immediately turns the conversation to Cas., insisting that they meet. Othello eventually agrees, and Des. and Emilia leave satisfied.
  • Iago and Othello are left alone. Iago begins asking Othello about Des. & Cassio's  relationship (planting doubt). Othello demands that Iago speaks honestly, so he suggests that there may be something between Des. and Cas. but warns Othello to 'beware of jealousy'. 
  • Othello refuses to consider the thought, stating that he believes Des. to be fair and honest, but Iago suggests that Othello observes her with Cassio. Othello thanks Iago for his honesty, but still asks him to watch out also.
  • When Othello is alone he begins to spiral and doubt his wife, but is not prepared to admit this to Iago yet. Des. then enters and sees Othello is distressed, and dabs his forehead with her handkerchief. He is distant with her and she drops the handkerchief, so Emilia picks it up knowing how stressed Des. would be to have lost it, but also knowing that Iago has bid her many times to steal it. When Iago enters, Emilia gives him the handkerchief (effort to please?) and he is happy. He then addresses the audience again with his plan.
  • Othello re-enters and speaks to Iago of how he is now very doubtful, and devastated at having his mind disturbed by these thoughts. He asks Iago for ocular proof of the adultery. Iago says that he has many a time hear Cas. moan Des. name in his sleep, and has seen him with the handkerchief that Des. dropped. Othello is enraged, and makes Iago his leiutenant as he sets out for revenge.
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Act 3, Scene 4

  • Includes: Desdemona, Emilia, Cassio, Othello, Iago, Bianca.
  • Scene begins with Des. asking a clown to go and find Cas., and her saying to Emilia she has lost her handkerchief.
  • Othello enters and Des. plies him with questions about Cas. again. Suspicious due to Iago's plotting, Othello asks to see Des. handkerchief that she dropped. We learn that the token belonged to Othello's mother, who was told by an Egyptian enchanter that if she kept it her husband would always be faithful, but if she lost it then her husband would stray. Othello gave it to Des. as a token of love. Knowing how upset Othello would be if she admits she lost it, Des. insists that it is not lost but she cannot give it to him - works to her disadvantage and angers Othello. When she then suggests that Othello meet with Cas., he storms off in a rage.
  • Cassio and Iago then enter the room to join Des. and Emilia. Cas. begs Des. to continue to help him, but Desdemona notes that something is wrong with her husband; Iago leaves the room after hearing this.
  • Des. expresses confusion at Othello's anger, but nonetheless promises to keep helping Cassio. She and Emilia exit.
  • Bianca then enters, where Cassio stands alone. She berates him for not coming to visit her, and he attempts to pacify her with the handkerchief - which he 'found' in his chamber (placed there by Iago) - but she assumes it is a token of another lover. He asks her to make a copy because he likes the pattern, and bids her leave so he can attend on Othello.
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Act 4, Scene 1

  • Includes: Othello, Iago, Cassio, Bianca, Desdemona, Lodovico.
  • Scene begins with Othello and Iago. Othello is now convinced of Des. infidelity, speaks of how Cas. has the handkerchief. Iago suggests that Des. and Cas. must have slept together.
  • Othello becomes so angry he has an epileptic fit. Iago takes the moment to revel in his plan and pretends to try and wake Othello when Cas. enters. Cas. then tries to wake him but Iago insists he be left alone to go through it.
  • Iago then states he needs to speak with Cas. when Othello is gone. Cas. leaves and Othello awakes. Iago encourages Othello to hide. Othello withdraws, and Iago addresses the audience with his plan to make Cas. talk about Bianca while Othello believes he is talking about Des. Cas. then enters and Iago strikes up a conversation beginning with Desdemona's name but then Iago whispers about Bianca - which becomes the topic of the discussion, unbeknown to Othello. Cas. speaks of how Bianca loves him and wants to marry him, but he sees himself as more of a customer and she is too attached to him. Bianca then enters and yells at Cas. about the handkerchief being 'some minx's token' - Othello recognises it as his own, and Cas. chases after Bianca.
  • Othello emerges from the shadows intent on murdering Cas. and Des. and asks Iago's advice on doing so. A trumpet then sounds and Lodovico and Des. enter. Lod. hands Othello a letter saying he must return home. Des. mentions to Lod. how Othello and Cas. are split, and that she is trying to fix it for the love she bears Cassio. Othello is enraged (but Lod. thinks this is due to the letter) and Des. says she is glad Othello had been called home; he thinks she wants rid of him and strikes her, commanding her to get out of his sight, which she does. Lodovico notes his disappointment in Othello with Iago, who agrees. 
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Act 4, Scene 2

  • Includes: Othello, Emilia, Desdemona, Iago, Roderigo.
  • Scene begins with Othello questioning Emilia on Des. faithfulness. Emilia argues in favour of Des. loyalty but Othello dismisses her as a 'simple bawd who cannot say much', and calls Des. a 'sublte whore'.
  • Des. enters, Othello bids Emilia to not let anyone else in. Othell questions Des. asking her what she is; she claims to be a 'true and loyal wife' but Othello states that 'thou art false as hell' - he cannot be convinced otherwise now.
  • Othello weeps and speaks of how he is being challenged, while Des. begs to know how she has been unfaithful. He calls Des. a 'whore' but she insists she has done nothing wrong. He does not believe her, and exits as Emilia enters.
  • Emilia attempts to comfort Des., but she is just upset and confused. Iago enters and pretends to reassure Des. that Othello is simpy stressed . Emilia speculates that 'some villain' has planted this jealousy in Othello's head, but Iago quickly silences her. She and Des. exit.
  • The scene ends with Iago and Roderigo together. Roderigo has lost faith in Iago's plans, but Iago manages to convince him to remove Cas. so that Roderigo will finally be with Des. They plot to kill Cas. and the scene ends. 
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Act 4, Scene 3

  • Includes: Othello, Desdemona, Lodovico, Emilia. Known as the 'Willow Scene'.
  • Othello, Des. and Lod. emerge after dinner. Othello orders Des. to dismiss Emilia and go to bed, and he exits with Lod.
  • Desdemona and Emilia speak of how Othello seems 'gentler' now, and Des. talks of how she still loves him dearly. Their wedding sheets have been laid on the bed.
  • Des. has a song stuck in her head; it is one that her mother's maid dies singing, after her lover went mad and forsook her. She sings it as Emilia tends to her.
  • Des. then speaks of how there must be wives who abuse their husbands or cheat on them, but how she would not do such a thing for the whole world. Emilia disagrees, and states that she believes that is 'husbands faults if wives do fall' and that husband should know that 'their wives have sense like them'. This progressive stance would have been controversial to an Jacobean audience. 
  • After this speech, Emilia leaves and Desdemona is left alone. 
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Act 5, Scene 1

  • Includes: Iago, Roderigo, Cassio, Bianca, Emilia, Lodovico, Gratiano.
  • Iago and Roderigo lie in wait for Cassio so they can attack him. Iago speaks quietly that is doesn't matter whether Roderigo dies to Cassio dies, for 'every way makes my gain.'
  • Cassio emerges and Roderigo attacks, but misses so Cas. wounds Rod. Seeing this, Iago strikes at Cassio's legs from behind and runs off. Cas. and Rod. cry for help, and Othello enters - but, seeing that Iago has made good on his promise to get rid of Cassio, he leaves. Lodovico and Gratiano hear the noise but hesitate to help for fear of their own safety - but then, Iago enters and encourages the other to help Cassio, making sure he isn't implicated in the attack. He then stabs Roderigo for 'attacking' Cassio, as Lod, and Grat. come to help. 
  • Bianca enters, and weeps at seeing Cassio injured, but Iago dismisses her as Cassio is carried off.
  • Emilia enters and asks what happened. Iago states Cassio had been 'whoring' and got stabbed by Roderigo, who was killed. Bianca is accused of being complicit in the crime, and is taken away as Emilai accuses her of being a 'strumpet'. 
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Act 5, Scene 2

  • Othello enters his bedroom, Des lays sleeping. He speaks of killing her but not shedding her blood, and weeps of the task ahead of him. Des awakes, and Othello asks if she has prayed tonight and asks her forgiveness. Des is startled and begs him for mercy. He directly accuses her of giving the handkerchief to Cas, but she denies it and begs he send of Cas - which he doesn't. She denies ever being adulterous with Cas and Othello tells her that he saw Cas with the token and he is now dead. He interprets Des' weeping as her mourning her lover. She continues to beg him not to kill her, at least for a short time, but he begins to smother her regardless.
  • Emilia interrupts so Othello stops, but continues so that Des is not lingering in pain. He lets Emilia in, and she tells him that Roderigo is dead but Cassio isn't - she sees Des dying and rushes to her. Des blames herself, not Othello, and dies in Emilia's arms. Emilia confronts Othello and he tells her of Des and Cassio's affair, which Emilia denies, and suggests she ask Iago about it. Emilia is alarmed - she knows Iago is false, and tells Othello this but he doesn't believe her. He draws his sword and she shouts for help. Montano, Gratiano, Iago and others enter. Emilia accuses her husband but Iago threatens her with his sword , until the handkerchief is brought up by Othello - Emilia confesses she stole it and gave it to Iago. Othello lunges at Iago but is disarmed, and Iago stabs Emilia and flees. The men leave to chase after Iago, and with her dying breath Emilia sings the Willow Song. Othello searches for another weapon, and the men soon return demanding his surrender. He weeps of his misfortune and lunges at Iago, wounding him. He asks Iago why he has done thus, but Iago refuses to speak. The story unravels through Cassio, and ultimatley Lodovico states Othello will be stripped of authority and punished. But, Othello kills himself before being taken, and dies next to Desdemona. 
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