Act 1 Scene 2

Synopsis of Act 1 Scene 2

Iago pretends to Othello that he is concerned for him and he warns Othello about Brabantio’s intentions. Othello reassures Iago of his love for Desdemona and refuses to hide from his pursuers. Cassio arrives to summon Othello to the Duke, who is meeting his advisers to decide what to do about a rumoured invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish navy. Brabantio arrives, intending to have Othello arrested, but Othello informs him of the Duke’s summons, which must be obeyed before anything else.

Commentary on Act 1 Scene 2

I had thought .. ribs – Iago shows his duplicity here by pretending to be Othello’s friend and angry at Brabantio, when actually he has already shown us in Scene 1 that he hates Othello. Iago is clearly duplicitous here and throughout the play.
Magnifico – Title denoting Brabantio’s status.
When I know that boasting … - I have reached. Othello is modest here but states that he is from a noble and moneyed background.
my demerits / May speak unbonneted – Othello’s natural merits/skills are on equal terms to the status he has achieved.
Janus image available through Creative CommonsBy Janus – Iago swears by the Roman god of beginnings, who was depicted with two faces, looking both forwards and backwards – a two faced deity being appropriate for such a duplicitous character.
But that I love ..For the sea’s worth – Othello clearly shows here that his love for Desdemona is genuine and deep.
Faith .. boarded a land-carrack - Another cynical reference by Iago to Othello’s marriage. The ‘land-carrack’ reference has sexual connotations.
You Roderigo? Come, sir, I am for you. – Another example of Iago’s duplicity as he pretends that Roderigo is an enemy and offers to fight him in defense of his master, Othello.
Damned as thou art .. out of warrant. – Brabantio here voices the opinion of many that Othello could only have attracted Desdemona by witchcraft. He also insults Othello concerning his skin colour and his social position.
Bond-slaves and pagans shall our statesmen be – It would be unnatural in Brabantio’s culture to be governed by those excluded by polite society – slaves and non-Christians.

Investigating Act 1 Scene 2

  • Study Brabantio’s speech from ‘O thou foul thief … until ‘out of warrant.’ List the reasons that Brabantio has for being angry that Othello has married his daughter.
    • Which reasons have some justification and which are solely the result of prejudice or racism?
  • In the rest of the scene, how does Othello show himself to be superior to his angry accusers by his tactful diplomacy and peace-making? 
    • Make a list of his wise and conciliatory words.
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