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'Othello' Act 1, Scene 3 Summary

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Act 1 Scene 3

The Duke discusses the grave situation of the Turks invading Cyprus. News comes that the Turkish army are approaching Rhodes, another island controlled by Venice. They discuss that this is to mislead them as Cyprus is more important to the Turks and less well protected.

Othello and Brabanzio arrive with their entourage. The Duke welcomes Othello and then Brabanzio who entreats the Duke to put aside his army business in order to deal with his own familial issues. At first the Duke is on Brabanzio’s side when he suggests that someone has used spells and potions to abuse and corrupt his daughter. However, when he discovers the accused is the brave and trusted Othello, he is more circumspect. The Duke allows Othello to answer to his accuser.

Othello says he has married Brabanzio’s daughter but not through force or deception but because of love. He explains that Brabanzio befriended him and invited him into his home to share his life stories of valour and conflict. His stories were impressive and exciting and Desdemona invited him to tell her these stories alone. “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them. This is the only witchcraft I have used.” Othello asks that Desdemona be called upon to tell her side of the story to prove he did not force her.

Desdemona explains that she fell in love with Othello consensually. She bravely explains that she will prefer him over her father as her mother had done so before her “And so much duty as my mother showed to you, preferring you before her father, So much I challenge that I may profess Due to the Moor my lord.” Brabanzio rejects his daughter and advises the Duke to send Othello to Cyprus forthwith. They discuss where Desdemona should stay in the meantime. Brabanzio refuses to have her stay with him and Desdemona agrees that she would not like to stay at her father’s due to his disapproval.

She asks to go with Othello but the Duke sends Othello to Cyprus that evening. Othello leaves Desdemona to Iago’s trust and asks him to look after her and send her on to him when it can be arranged. The Duke speaks kindly of Othello but in racist terms; “Your son in law is far more fair than black”.

Brabanzio warns Othello that his daughter has cheated him and could do the same to Othello; “She has deceived her father, and may thee”. They leave Iago and Roderigo on stage. Roderigo is crestfallen about his lost love and threatens to drown himself. Iago chastises him; assuring him that he will get his revenge on Othello and that Desdemona will be left for him when Othello leaves her.

Iago again reminds Roderigo that he hates Othello. Iago suggests that he thinks that Othello has bedded his wife Emilia; “It is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he has done my office” which further explains his hatred of the Moor. When left alone on stage Iago hatches a plan to write a letter to Othello suggesting that Cassio is getting over familiar with Desdemona. He says that Othello believes men to be honest and that he will believe Iago’s claims. “The Moor is of a free and open nature, That thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will as tenderly be led by th’ nose as asses are”.

Looking for the next scene? Please visit our contents page, where you can find a full list of all scene by scene guides to Shakespeare’s Othello. This scene by scene guide is designed to read alongside the play and act as a companion to the original text.

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