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'Othello' Act 2, Scene 3 Summary

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Act 2 Scene 3

Othello asks Cassio to stand guard that evening and asks him if he can speak to him the following morning but does not disclose why. Othello leaves with Desdemona promising to consummate their marriage; “The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue. That profit’s yet to come ‘tween me and you.”

As Iago enters, Cassio urges him to their watch but Iago insists that they have plenty of time; that Othello sent them out early in order that he could be alone with Desdemona. In conversation, Iago encourages Cassio to praise Desdemona’s good qualities.

Iago then insists that Cassio goes for drinks with him even after Cassio declines his offer having said that he had already had enough to drink. This admission pleases Iago, who wants Cassio to fight Roderigo. Iago hopes that Cassio will offend the great and the good of Cyprus with his brawling.

Montano, Cassio and other Gentleman enter the inn; Iago sings a merry song and goads Cassio in to drinking more. Cassio talks of his love of God and in doing so puts Iago down reminding him of his subordinate position; “The lieutenant is to be saved before the ensign.”

Iago speaks with Montano doubting Cassio’s ability to perform Othello’s duties efficiently and insinuating a drink problem; “I fear the trust Othello puts him in, On some odd time of his infirmity, Will shake this island.” When Montano asks Iago if Cassio is regularly drunk, Iago lies and says that he is most nights.

Montano suggests that Othello should be told of Cassio’s drinking but Iago refuses saying that he is too good a friend of Cassio to do so. In an aside Iago tells Roderigo to go and taunt Cassio.

Montano hears a commotion and arrives to see Cassio with sword drawn against Roderigo. Montano tries to restrain Cassio and Cassio threatens him wanting him to let him go. Iago resolves to go out in the street to cry mutiny making it look like he is pursuing the other gentleman.

Othello arrives with attendants and weapons. Montano has been wounded and believes he will die, he lashes out at Cassio. Othello stops the fray acting as a mediator; he demands to know how the fight started. Montano is weak and urges Iago to explain what has happened and to inform Othello about Cassio’s ‘problem’.

Iago explains that he was talking to Montano when he heard a man crying out for help and that Cassio had used his sword on him, Montano stepped in to stop him while he went after the other man. He explains that the other man outran him and so he returned to the inn where he found Montano and Cassio at loggerheads. He speaks fondly of Cassio saying that he probably did not intend to hurt Montano but was pushed into a quarrel by the man who fled.

Othello is touched by Iago’s loyalty to Cassio but has to dismiss Cassio of his duties. Desdemona enters wondering what has happened. Othello tells Montano that he will act as his surgeon. They leave the stage.

Iago and Cassio remain. Cassio bewails his lost reputation he feels he will never recover from this. Iago tries to reassure him and asks what the man said to him, Cassio can’t remember. Iago makes Cassio believe he is a very good friend and gives him advice. Iago encourages Cassio to get close to Desdemona to ask her to convince Othello to give him his job back. Cassio agrees with the plan.

In an aside Iago explains that he will make Othello believe that Cassio is in love with Desdemona and she with him. This will discredit her in Othello’s eyes when she pleads for Cassio’s job back and corroborate the rumours perpetuated by Iago.

Roderigo arrives penniless and says he will return to Venice without Desdemona. Iago urges him to stay telling him to be patient as his plans are just being put into action.

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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