Act 3 Scenes 1 and 2

Synopsis of Act 3 Scenes 1 and 2

Scene 1 begins with some bantering, word play and punning, mostly from the clown, a minor character. Cassio asks the clown to fetch Emilia to see him, but Iago arrives and promises not only to send Emilia to him but also to devise it so that Cassio can have some private conversation with Desdemona. Emilia sympathises with Cassio’s plight and is confident that he will be restored. She too offers to arrange an opportunity for him to talk privately to Desdemona. In Scene 2, Othello sends Iago on a mundane errand, but instructs him to return straightaway.

Commentary on Act 3 Scenes 1 and 2

Why, masters, ha’ your instruments been in Naples, that they speak i’ th’ nose thus? – The clown is making fun of the musicians in a light-hearted way, and the bantering continues for a few minutes. This is a common method used by Shakespeare and others to bring a little light relief to a play that is heavy with tragedy. The audience is allowed to relax a little before they have to return to the tension and strong emotions of Scene 3, which will then continue almost unabated to the tragic end of the play.
I never knew a Florentine more kind and honest. – Cassio, like everyone else except Emilia, is fooled by Iago’s apparent friendliness and willingness to help.

he loves you, / And needs no other suitor but his likings – The irony Emilia reveals is that Othello was already inclined to forgive Cassio; thus the further (tragic) intervention of Desdemona and Emilia was not required. It also portrays Othello as a man led by his feelings.
These letters give .. Repair there to me. - Iago seems to be in every scene, always there to assist or to give advice. He has already become indispensable to Othello, for after his errand he is told to immediately return. This is all part of Iago’s plan, for by making himself ever-present and available, he traps all the other characters in his web of lies and deceit.
Investigating Act 3 Scenes 1 and 2
  • Study Emilia’s speech, starting from ‘Good morrow, good lieutenant …’ until ‘To bring you again.’ Role-play the conversation between Othello and Desdemona that breakfast time, to which Emilia refers.
  • Summarise Othello’s position regarding Cassio’s disgrace and possible re-instatement.
  • ‘She speaks for you stoutly.’ How might this be misinterpreted by Othello when he begins to suspect Desdemona of adultery?
  • What impression do you get of Emilia at this point in the play?
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