MODERN OTHELLO PLOT SUMMARY
In Venice, Iago and Roderigo are plotting. Iago wants revenge against Othello, a Moor who is his superior. Roderigo wants to sleep with a Desdemona, whom Othello has just married. They go to Brabantio's window, a senator and Desdemona's father and wake him up. They tell him his daughter has run off, and when he goes to check Iago leaves. Brabantio finds out his daughter is gone and demands that she be found.
Meanwhile, Othello is summoned to a midnight call by Cassio on behalf of the Duke. Brabantio and Roderigo come up and order Othello arrested. They agree to go before the Duke and let him decide. At the palace, the Duke is talking with his councilors. The Turks have amassed a fleet and are planning on attacking Cyprus. The Duke is glad to see Othello because he needs a good commander. Brabantio brings forth his case, claiming Othello stole his daughter with witchcraft. Othello tells how Desdemona fell in love with him after hearing his tales of exotic lands and battles. The Duke refuses to arrest Othello, telling him to command in Cyprus instead. Othello agrees, on the condition that Desdemona go with him. Iago convinces Roderigo to tell all his land and come with them in pursuit of Desdemona. He is dishonest and is using Roderigo for money.
In Cyprus, a tempest destroys the Turkish fleet. Desdemona, Iago, Cassio and Othello all arrive safely. They are greeted by Montano, who is giving his rule to Othello. During these exchanges, Iago reveals that he plans to accuse Desdemona of sleeping with Cassio. The city celebrates and Iago gets Cassio drunk. He convinces Roderigo to enrage Cassio, which he does, and Cassio tries to kill him. Instead, he hurts Montano. When Othello comes to see what the fuss is about, he strips Cassio of his rank. Iago advises Cassio to plead with Desdemona to get back in Othello's good graces.
The next day, Cassio follows Iago's advice and speaks with Desdemona, who promises to help him. Iago times it so that he and Othello walk by as they are talking, and Cassio leaves. Othello recognizes him, and Iago plants suspicions in Othello's mind that Desdemona loves him. Desdemona enters, and notices that Othello is acting queer. He says he has a headache, and she wipes his forehead with her handkerchief. Othello waves it away and it falls to the floor, where it is picked up by Emilia, Iago's wife. Iago has asked her to steal the handkerchief, although she does not know why. When she gives it to him, the next part of his plan is set into motion.
Othello comes to Iago, enraged at the nagging in his head, and demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago tells him that Cassio has her handkerchief, and Othello takes his word for it. He vows to kill Cassio and Desdemona. The next day Othello asks Desdemona to use her handkerchief, and she cannot produce it. He claims it was a token from his father to his mother and contained ancient magic. When he leaves, Emilia recognizes that he is jealous, but Desdemona convinces herself nothing is wrong. Cassio meets his mistress, Bianca, and gives her the handkerchief he found in his room to copy.
The next day, Iago tells Othello to hide while he talks to Cassio about Desdemona. Instead of Desdemona, Iago asks Cassio about Bianca the prostitute, knowing that he will laugh and joke. Seeing this, Othello has no more doubts. A messenger named Lodovico enters with order for Othello to return to Venice and for Cassio take his place in Cyprus. Desdemona is happy, and Othello hits her. Lodovico is bewildered, as Othello does not act like the man he once knew.
Othello goes to question Emilia, who swears Desdemona is innocent. He questions Desdemona but does not believe her. Desdemona asks Iago for help in figuring out what is wrong. Roderigo approaches Iago because he realizes he is being duped. Iago, however, convinces him to kill Cassio.
That night, Othello sends Desdemona to bed. On the streets, Roderigo stabs Cassio, who is wearing armor. Cassio stabs Roderigo and Iago stabs Cassio. Iago then pretends to "find" Cassio and kills Roderigo before calling for a stretcher. Othello smothers Desdemona in their bed, and Emilia comes in with news that Roderigo is dead. She finds Desdemona and calls out murder. Several men enter, and through talking Emilia figures out that it was her husband who was lying to everyone. Othello despairs and lunges for Iago, who stabs his wife. Emilia dies, Iago escapes, and Othello is locked in the room.
When the men bring Cassio and Iago in, the truth of everything is revealed. Lodovico announces that Othello will be taken to Venice for trial and that Iago will be tortured. Othello begs them to tell everyone that he was a man who loved too much, and threw away something precious. He stabs himself with a hidden weapon and dies kissing Desdemona.
MODERN OTHELLO CHARACTER ANALYSIS
The tragic hero of the play, Othello is a respectable Moor high up in the Venetian military. He falls in love with Desdemona and marries her in secret. Although his love in genuine, he is poisoned by suspicions and jealousy planted in his head by Iago. Because of this, he transforms from a rational man into a man driven solely by passion and rage. After he realizes his mistakes, he kills himself, thereby keeping his more noble aspects and letting him die an honorable death. Shakespeare uses Othello to explore many racial stereotypes and prejudices that existed in their society.
Desdemona is a beautiful and virtuous young woman. She turns down many conventional suitors to marry Othello in secret, and she fell in love with him because of unusual past and his bravery. Desdemona proves to be an independent and strong young woman, capable of holding her own. However, she holds her chastity and virtue above all else. She represents the perfect traditional wife of the time, totally obedient and faithful to her husband despite her independent nature. Even when Othello smothers her, she does not blame him but continues to love him.
The main villain in the play, Iago spends most of his time manipulating and lying to the other characters, playing them like a master puppeteer. He is fueled by unfounded jealousy of Othello and other characters whose status is higher than his own. He himself admits his motives are confused: he suspects Othello slept with his wife, he lusts after Desdemona, Cassio is more handsome, Othello doesn't deserve to have a higher position as Moor. His jealousy causes all the conflict in the play, and Iago is eventually captured for his crimes and doomed to spend the rest of his life in a torture chamber.
Emilia is Iago's wife and does not becomes important until the end of the play. She travels to Cyprus to act as Desdemona's hand-maid, and spends all her time with the young bride. She is not as virtuous as Desdemona and has a more realistic view of the world. She helps Iago unwittingly by snatching Desdemona's handkerchief, but is shocked and outraged when Iago turns out to be the one behind all the trouble. She denounces her husband and proclaims Desdemona's loyalty and virtue until her dying breath.
A young Venetian gentleman who is madly in love with Desdemona. Really, he just wants to sleep with her, but because of this Iago uses Roderigo as a tool. He convinces Roderigo that he is his ally and tells him to sell all his land for money and jewels. Roderigo travels to Cyprus in pursuit of Desdemona, although she doesn't even know his name. Eventually he realizes that he is being duped by Iago, but by then he is penniless. Iago kills him to prevent ruining his schemes.
Othello's young, handsome lieutenant. He is always polite to women, and because of his new position he inspires Iago's jealousy. Iago sets Cassio up to be stripped of his rank and turns Othello against him with suspicions of an affair. Cassio is good-natured and courteous, does not drink much, and loves Othello. When he is kicked out of the army, he goes to Desdemona to beg her help. Eventually, when all comes to light, he forgives Othello for his actions and thinks he is an honorable man, even in death.
Bianca is Cassio's mistress or prostitute—it is never stated clearly which. She sleeps with Cassio and wishes to be his legal wife, though Cassio would never marry her. Bianca is the only promiscuous woman in the play and serves as a scapegoat for her immoral lifestyle. In reality though, she comes across as a moral woman who has a certain pride in herself, no different from any of the other women in the play. Just as Othello defies his stereotypes as a Moor with his actions, so too does Bianca with her stereotype as a whore.
A senator of Venice, Brabantio is Desdemona's father and a powerful man with a good reputation. He is outraged when he learns of his daughter secret marriage, and is convinced that Othello seduced her with magic or witchcraft of some sort. He eventually gives his reluctant consent for their marriage but dies of grief shortly after.
The Duke of Venice
Othello's superior, the Duke has an immense respect for the Moor. He looks past his skin color to see that Othello is a good, strong man, and sends him to Cyprus to rule because of his trustworthiness. Although the Duke only appears in one scene, he is the only character to totally dispel the stereotypes to which Othello is subject. He refuses to punish Othello for practicing witchcraft and treats him as an equal.
Othello's predecessor in Cyprus, Montano welcomes Othello to the city with open arms. He is injured by Cassio during his drunken rage and taken off in a stretcher.
Lodovico is a politician from Venice, and a kinsman to Brabantio. He comes with a message for Othello to return to Venice and Cassio to take his place of command in Cyprus. Lodovico, as the first character entering from the outside, is shocked at the change that has taken place in Othello. In the end, it is Lodovico who dispenses judgment and wraps up the situation and the play, vowing to take Othello's tale back to Venice.
Another gentleman who appears at the end of the play, Gratiano is Brabantio's brother and, therefore, Desdemona's uncle. He witnesses the end of their tragedy, and reveals to the audience that Brabantio is dead of grief. After Othello commits suicide, Lodovico names Gratiano the Moor's heir because of his relation to Desdemona.
A jester that occasionally acts as a messenger throughout the play.
EXCERPT FROM OTHELLO IN PLAIN AND SIMPLE ENGLISH
Scene I. Venice. A street.
Enter RODERIGO and IAGO
Tush! never tell me; I take it much unkindly
Be quiet! Don’t tell me this – I am already annoyed
That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse
That you, Iago, who already uses my money
As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.
As if it were yours, knows about this.
'Sblood, but you will not hear me:
My god, you won’t listen to me.
If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me.
If I even so much as dreamed this were true, which I didn’t, then go ahead and hate me.
Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.
You told me that you hated him.
Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city,
You can hate me if I was lying: I do hate him. Three of the city’s noblemen
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Approached him personally and asked him to make me his next-in-command,
Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,
Even took their hats off to him. Moreover, I promise you,
I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:
I know my own value and that I deserve that position.
But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,
But he, because he is prideful and loves his own reasons most,
Evades them, with a bombast circumstance
Avoided their request with puffed up speech
Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;
Full of military jargon and patriotic quotes,
And, in conclusion,
Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,
Rejected the noblemen, saying, “In fact,
'I have already chose my officer.'
I have already chosen my lieutenant.”
And what was he?
Who did he choose?
Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
None other than the great statistician
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
Michael Cassio, from Florence,
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;
A man almost cursed with such a beautiful wife,
That never set a squadron in the field,
A man who never moved troops in combat
Nor the division of a battle knows
And knows less of how an actual battle plays out
More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,
Than an unmarried woman – unless you count theories he read in books
Wherein the toged consuls can propose
That any gown-wearing politician can explain
As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,
As well as he can. He speaks simply to speak, and has no actual fighting
Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:
To back up his military life. But it is he, Roderigo, who was chosen:
And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof
And as for me, whose bravery and talent he saw
At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds
At Rhodes and Cyprus and all over,
Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd
On Christian ground and foreign land, I must act calm
By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,
In front of this accountant. So Cassio, this numbers-man,
He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,
Will become his lieutenant,
And I--God bless the mark!--his Moorship's ancient.
While I – how stupid – must hold the flag for the Moor general.
By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman.
I swear, I would rather be his executioner.
Why, there's no remedy; 'tis the curse of service,
And there is no cure for it all. It’s the curse of the military life:
Preferment goes by letter and affection,
Promotions come from how liked one is,
And not by old gradation, where each second
And not from simple hierarchy where one
Stood heir to the first. Now, sir, be judge yourself,
Moves up to the next rank. Now, Roderigo, you tell me
Whether I in any just term am affined
If I am in any position
To love the Moor.
To love and respect the Moor general.
I would not follow him then.
If it were me, I would not serve him.
O, sir, content you;
Now don’t be hasty:
I follow him to serve my turn upon him:
I serve under him now, but for my own purposes –
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
After all, we cannot all be leaders, and leaders
Cannot be truly follow'd. You shall mark
Cannot all be followed. Take note
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,
Of the servant who bows and does his duty,
That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,
Who fully attend to their obedience, their slavery,
Wears out his time, much like his master's ass,
And in the end is worn out like his master’s donkey,
For nought but provender, and when he's old, cashier'd:
Both working for nothing but their food, and then terminated when too old.
Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are
We should punish such obedient servants. But there are others
Who, trimm'd in forms and visages of duty,
Who know how to give the appearance of obedience
Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,
While focusing on themselves.
And, throwing but shows of service on their lords,
They give a performance of doing their duty to their masters
Do well thrive by them and when they have lined their coats
And in reality prosper by quietly stealing
Do themselves homage: these fellows have some soul;
And thus working for themselves. Servants like this are gutsy and bold,
And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir,
And I admit I am one like that. To be sure,
It is as sure as you are Roderigo,
As sure as your name is Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:
If I were in the Moor’s position, I would not want to switch places with Iago.
In following him, I follow but myself;
By serving him, I am really serving myself –
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
God knows I do not serve him for love or duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
But just make it look like that while serving my own goals.
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
If I ever act in such a way
The native act and figure of my heart
That shows my inner self
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
Then before long I would be in danger:
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
One who wears his heart on his sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.
Leaves it open for birds to peck at it. I am not who I appear to be.
What a full fortune does the thicklips owe
That thick-lipped Moor is lucky
If he can carry't thus!
If he can go through with this!
Call up her father,
Speaking of which, call after her father
Rouse him: make after him, poison his delight,
And wake him. Annoy him, spoil his happiness,
Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen,
Shout at him in the streets, anger his and his daughter’s family
And, though he in a fertile climate dwell,
Until it seems like, though he lives in a temperate climate,
Plague him with flies: though that his joy be joy,
He is plagued with flies. Though his joy may be real,
Yet throw such changes of vexation on't,
If it changes because of the confusions we put on it,
As it may lose some colour.
It may lose some of its brightness.
Here is her father's house; I'll call aloud.
Here is her father’s house; I’ll call for him.
Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell
Do it as if you are frightened and yell
As when, by night and negligence, the fire
As if a fire started from negligence at night
Is spied in populous cities.
Has been spotted in a city full of people.
What, ho, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, ho!
Brabantio! Mister Brabantio, hey!
Awake! what, ho, Brabantio! thieves! thieves! thieves!
Wake up, Brabantio! Thieves are in your house!
Look to your house, your daughter and your bags!
Look around you and protect your daughter and your possessions!
BRABANTIO appears above, at a window
What is the reason of this terrible summons?
Why are you shouting all of this?
What is the matter there?
What is the matter?
Signior, is all your family within?
Sir, if your family at home?
Are your doors lock'd?
And have you locked your doors?
Why, wherefore ask you this?
Why? Tell me why you are asking.
'Zounds, sir, you're robb'd; for shame, put on your gown;
For God’s sake, sir, you have been robbed! Put your nightgown on.
Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul;
Your heart is broken and you have lost a part of your soul
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
For now, right now, a black ram
Is topping your white ewe. Arise, arise;
Is riding your white female sheep. Get up, get up;
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Wake up the sleeping people with the bell
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you:
Or it will be too late and the devil will give you grandchildren.
Arise, I say.
Get up, I say.
What, have you lost your wits?
Have you gone crazy?
Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?
My respected sir, do you recognize my voice?
Not I what are you?
No, who are you?
My name is Roderigo.
I am Roderigo.
The worser welcome:
I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors:
I have asked you not to come near my house
In honest plainness thou hast heard me say
And very honestly told you
My daughter is not for thee; and now, in madness,
That my daughter is not for you. Now, as if you are crazy,
Being full of supper and distempering draughts,
After dinner and likely drunk
Upon malicious bravery, dost thou come
With the evil courage a drunkard has, you come here
To start my quiet.
And disturb me.
Sir, sir, sir,--
Sir, sir, sir–
But thou must needs be sure
Let me be clear:
My spirit and my place have in them power
I have the desire and the connections that can
To make this bitter to thee.
Make this turn out very poorly for you.
Patience, good sir.
Please wait, good sir.
What tell'st thou me of robbing? this is Venice;
Why are you telling me my house is being robbed? This is Venice –
My house is not a grange.
I do not live out in the country.
Most grave Brabantio,
In simple and pure soul I come to you.
I have come with pure intentions and a simple message.
'Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not
For God’s sake, sir, you are so stubborn that you will not
serve God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to
turn to God if even the devil asks you to. We come
do you service and you think we are ruffians, you'll
for your benefit and yet you think we are troublemakers;
have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse;
so instead of listening, an African horse will mount your daughter.
you'll have your nephews neigh to you; you'll have
Your nephews will neigh at you, you will have
coursers for cousins and gennets for germans.
racing horses for cousins, and all of your close relatives will become horses.
What profane wretch art thou?
Who are you, you rude pervert?
I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter
I am someone, sir, who has come to you to tell you that your daughter
and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
and the Moor general are having sex, like animals.
Thou art a villain.
You are an evil person.
You are--a senator.
And you are a senator and statesman.
This thou shalt answer; I know thee, Roderigo.
Since I know you, Roderigo, you must respond to this.
Sir, I will answer any thing. But, I beseech you,
Sir, I will tell you anything. But, please,
If't be your pleasure and most wise consent,
If you are pleased and contented with this arrangement,
As partly I find it is, that your fair daughter,
As I think you might be, that your beautiful daughter
At this odd-even and dull watch o' the night,
At this late hour of the night,
Transported, with no worse nor better guard
Has left with no regular guard
But with a knave of common hire, a gondolier,
But with just hired commoner, a boatman,
To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor--
To the disgusting embrace of the lustful Moor –
If this be known to you and your allowance,
If you already know this and are allowing it
We then have done you bold and saucy wrongs;
Then we have done you a very great evil in coming here.
But if you know not this, my manners tell me
But if you do not know this, I think
We have your wrong rebuke. Do not believe
You are wrongly accusing us. You should not think
That, from the sense of all civility,
That, opposite of any sort of politeness,
I thus would play and trifle with your reverence:
I would disturb you and mess with you.
Your daughter, if you have not given her leave,
Your daughter, if you have not allowed her to leave,
I say again, hath made a gross revolt;
I will repeat, has disgustingly rebelled against you
Tying her duty, beauty, wit and fortunes
By giving her respect, beauty, intelligence, and wealth
In an extravagant and wheeling stranger
To an extravagant and tricky man who is a stranger
Of here and every where. Straight satisfy yourself:
Here and everywhere. Now see for yourself:
If she be in her chamber or your house,
If she is still in her room or in your house,
Let loose on me the justice of the state
Then punish me as the state allows
For thus deluding you.
For tricking you.
Strike on the tinder, ho!
Someone light a match!
Give me a taper! call up all my people!
Give me a candle! Wake my servants!
This accident is not unlike my dream:
What you have told me is similar to a dream I have had –
Belief of it oppresses me already.
Believing it as possible already haunts me.
Light, I say! light!
Give me a light, I say! A light!
Farewell; for I must leave you:
Goodbye, I must go
It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place,
Since it is not good, or right since I serve him,
To be produced--as, if I stay, I shall--
To be seen – which I will if I stay here –
Against the Moor: for, I do know, the state,
As against the Moor. Especially because I know that the senator,
However this may gall him with some cheque,
However this may offend and upset him,
Cannot with safety cast him, for he's embark'd
Cannot easily get rid of him, since the Moor is leaving
With such loud reason to the Cyprus wars,
With clear and understood reason to Cyprus for the wars.
Which even now stand in act, that, for their souls,
Even now these wars are raging and the statesmen
Another of his fathom they have none,
Do not have another general like him
To lead their business: in which regard,
To lead their war efforts. I admit this
Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains.
Even though I hate him as I would the fires of hell.
Yet, for necessity of present life,
So it is necessary for now
I must show out a flag and sign of love,
That I carry his flag and act like I love him,
Which is indeed but sign. That you shall surely find him,
Which as I said is only an act. So that you definitely find him tonight,
Lead to the Sagittary the raised search;
Take the search party to the Arsenal
And there will I be with him. So, farewell.
And I will already be there with him. Goodbye.
Enter, below, BRABANTIO, and Servants with torches
It is too true an evil: gone she is;
And what's to come of my despised time
Is nought but bitterness. Now, Roderigo,
Where didst thou see her? O unhappy girl!
With the Moor, say'st thou? Who would be a father!
How didst thou know 'twas she? O she deceives me
Past thought! What said she to you? Get more tapers:
Raise all my kindred. Are they married, think you?
Truly, I think they are.
Truly, I think they are.
O heaven! How got she out? O treason of the blood!
Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds
By what you see them act. Is there not charms
By which the property of youth and maidhood
May be abused? Have you not read, Roderigo,
Of some such thing?
Yes, sir, I have indeed.
Call up my brother. O, would you had had her!
Call for my brother. Oh, now I wish you married her!
Some one way, some another. Do you know
Some go one way, some go another. Do you know
Where we may apprehend her and the Moor?
Where we will find her and the Moor?
I think I can discover him, if you please,
I think I know where he is. Please,
To get good guard and go along with me.
Get a good party of your guards and come with me.
Pray you, lead on. At every house I'll call;
I beg you to lead us. I will call at every house –
I may command at most. Get weapons, ho!
I can at least command men to join. Hey, arm yourselves!
And raise some special officers of night.
On, good Roderigo: I'll deserve your pains.
Go forward, good Roderigo. You will be rewarded for your hard work.