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Discuss the dramatic impact of Act 1 Scene 3 and its importance to the whole play of Othello

Categories: Othello

Othello is a tragic play by Shakespeare, set in Venice during the Elizabethan time. It portrays the growth of unjustified jealousy in the noble protagonist, Othello, a Moor serving as a general in the Venetian army. The innocent object of his jealousy is his wife, Desdemona. In this domestic tragedy, Othello’s evil lieutenant Iago draws him into mistaken jealousy in order to ruin him. Othello is destroyed partly through his gullibility and willingness to trust Iago and partly through the manipulations of this villain, who clearly enjoys the exercise of evildoing just as he hates the spectacle of goodness and happiness around him.

At the end of the play, Othello comes to understand his terrible error; but as always in tragedy, that knowledge comes too late and he dies by his own hand in atonement for his error. In his final act of self-destruction, he becomes again and for a final time the defender of Venice and Venetian values.

During the Shakespeare time, there was no electricity and therefore, the special effects that ‘invigorate’ up of a scene and which we take for granted these days, was not possible to do.

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This ‘invigorating’ up a scene attracts the audience’s attention, which was very crucial for Shakespeare to embark on as his theatre was open, which meant that his audience could come and go as they pleased. So in order to refrain them from leaving and to enchant their interest, Shakespeare had to include something important and dramatic in every scene, which would grab and retain the audiences attention and also build up a scene of suspense.

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Therefore Shakespeare, in act 1 scene 3 commence with these stage directions:

“Enter Duke and senators, set a table with lights, and attendants”

This immediately notifies the audience that if it is night time and introduces the theme of dark and light, where dark symbolizes bad or evil and light symbolizes good and innocent. The main action that occurs at the beginning of this scene is the meeting between the Duke and the senators of Venice, in the council chambers. Council meetings are usually held during the day; but the fact that it is night time now, makes the audience think that the topic of this meeting is so important that the council members cannot wait till it is morning to discuss it. This strategy used by Shakespeare motivates the audience to focus on the scene.

The purpose of this meeting is to decide the future of one of the Venetian colonies, Cyprus. Cyprus is a trading island, where merchants from all over the world come to trade and therefore Cyprus has become the target of the Turkish fleet to conquer, as Turkey has an interest in Cyprus’s wealth in this meeting. It is to be decided what the Venetian’s will do to protect their colony from the imminent attack of the Turkish fleet. The Turks are non-Christians and therefore considered to be malevolent during the era, and anybody who’s not white and a Christian, were always associated with evil. Shakespeare subtly introduces the theme of racial discrimination on the grounds of religiously.

The council members are in a predicament as to what to do, as each member have a different report of the size of the Turkish fleet and also its destination. The first senator’s report says that there are:

“My letter says a hundred and seven galleys”.

The second senator’s report states that there are:

“And mine, two hundred”,

And the Duke’s report states that there are:

“A hundred and forty galleys”.

They also are not sure about the destination of the Turkish flotilla, as some of them believe that they might be heading for Rhodes and not Cyprus. This creates the theme of confusion and forms suspense, as the audience will want to know the actual number of galleys in the Turkish fleet. This theme of confusion is carried all throughout the play, as Iago confuses Othello about the doings of his trustworthy wife, Desdemona and his good friend and lieutenant Cassio by poisoning his mind.

When Brabantio, Cassio, Iago, Othello, Roderigo and the officers enter the stage, it attracts the audience attention immediately because all the male characters of the play are present at the same time and same place, also there is a dramatic irony taking place.

By placing the key characters on the stage at the same time it is obvious to the audience that something ‘big’ is about to occur and will be very significant to the outcome of the play. This would keep the audience interested in the play, something that was really hard in those days.

The audience know that Brabantio has bought Othello to the Duke because of Othello’s secret marriage to Brabantio’s daughter, Desdemona.

Brabantio is really angry about the marriage but the senators don’t know this. Therefore, when they meet on the stage, the audience is feeling really excited because they would want to know how the duke responds. Brabantio is always referred by his name because he has a lot of respect due to the wealth he has. Almost every single time Othello is called by the racist term “the moor”. But when they enter the sagitary the duke is one of the first people that call him by his name:

“Valiant Othello”

Here the duke had used the powerful adjective ‘Valiant’, which indicates that he is brave, strong and honourable and consequently praises Othello’s abilities in war. This also shows that the duke has a high opinion of Othello. The duke talks to Brabantio in a respectful way by saying:

“Welcome, gentle signor”

This shows us that the duke speaks to both Brabantio and Othello in a very respectful way. On the other hand, there is also a lot of evidence showing that Venice is a racist society for example in act 1, scene 1 when Iago says:

“Your heart is burst; you have lost half your soul,

Even now, now, very now, an old black rum

Is Tupping you white ewe”

This is showing Iago’s racism by saying to Brabantio a black man is having sex with his daughter. Roderigo also shows his racism by calling Othello a

“Lascivious moor”

Again this stereotypes Othello. Brabantio has already shown his racism in Act 1, Scene 2 when he says to Othello that Desdemona was frightened of him:

“Whether a maid so tender, fair, and unhappy,

So opposite to marriage that she shunned

The wealthy curled darlings of our nation,

Would ever have, t’incur a general mock,

Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom

Of such thing as though – to fear, not to delight”

This is saying that Desdemona had turned down a lot of wealthy people from their nation. Othello is not a rich person, is a foreigner and this is saying that Brabantio thinks that Othello has put a curse on Desdemona. Brabantio continues with these insults in Act 1, Scene 3 when he is telling the duke about Desdemona. Brabantio asks how it is possible for Desdemona

“To fall in love with what she feared to look on?”

But after all these insults made by Brabantio, Othello responds very calmly and explains how he won Desdemona. He also says that if he is lying they should kill him. This shows he has too much dependence, one of his weaknesses as Iago conjures him later on in the play. The tension is then raised when Iago is sent to get Desdemona. At this point, the audience are thinking ‘Nooooo, don’t send him!!!’ this is obviously because Iago has already committed himself to destroying Othello’s life, so the audience thinks he will try and hurt Othello through Desdemona.

Through telling Iago to go and get Desdemona, Shakespeare shows that Othello has a very trusting character and is not a suspicious person.

Brabantio has said a lot of things about what he thinks Othello used to get Desdemona. Another is

“I therefore vouch again

That with some mixtures of powerful o’er the blood

Or with some dram conjured to this effect

He wrought upon her”

This is saying that Brabantio thinks Othello has used a curse on Desdemona. Brabantio continuously accuses Othello of either drugging or putting a curse on Desdemona.

Othello is being accused of using witchcraft on Desdemona but he speaks calmly and good-naturedly and wants to tell his side of the story to the senators. After being racially accused by Brabantio, Othello starts by using a 3 part list, iambic pentameters and alliteration. This shows that Othello is very composed and is in control of his speech he describes the senators in a positive way by using a 3 part list:

“Most potent, grave, and reverend signors”

This shows that Othello is very self-composed even though Brabantio has racially abused him. This also shows Othello treats the people in front of him with great respect, he is also clever and modest, and he also says that he is not good with language but really he is good. For example when Othello echoes Brabantio’s words:

“What drugs, what charms, what conjuration and what mighty magic”

This shows that Othello knows he hasn’t done what he is being accused of. It also shows how Othello is in control of his language. But Othello loses this control of his language in act 4, scene 1 and that leads him to hitting Desdemona. Othello also tells us story about his life. Othello is a very composed person because he can accept being racially abused and doesn’t react. In act 4, scene 1 of the play this all changes and Othello loses his tranquillity when Lodovico gives him a letter about Othello having to go home after the war and Cassio to be put in his place.

Othello is angry with Desdemona and ends up hitting Desdemona. Othello then says:

“And she can weep, sir, weep”

At this point there is no structure in what Othello says. He has lost his patience and does not care what he says and starts repeating his words this shows he has lost his composure because he is using repetition. Where Othello says:

“You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys!!”

This shows us that Othello is really angry and does not care whether or not he is the general of Cyprus any more. It s clear that the duke used him for the war and then is sent home as soon as it is won. This is in complete contrast to the Othello we met in Act 1, scene 3 because here Othello is really angry and is not calm. There is no poetry in his language as there was in the start. There he was very calm and poetic, using iambic pentameters, 3 part lists and alliteration. He also describes the Duke in a very positive way; this also shows the change in Othello.

The name Desdemona means ‘Unhappy’ or ‘ill fated’, and this is exactly what happens to her. At the beginning of the play she is very content, but by the end of the play, she is very unhappy and ill-fated as her husband didn’t trust her, she was accused to committing adultery, she was disowned by her own father and was also killed by the hands of her husband. Desdemona’s character is the most consistent in the play, she doesn’t change symbolizing the values of the helpless good and wronged innocence throughout. She, just like the other, females of her time, who were considered to be ‘objects’ owned by their fathers or husbands. Desdemona represent the good in the play and is stuck in the middle of everything, she also brings out another theme which is the role of the women.

Also Desdemona seems to be a very naturally strong individual, she says what she wants to do, no matter what the consequences, for example, Desdemona refuses marital proposes from noble and respected Venetians, instead she marries Othello, who is black and though if is not spoken aloud is discreetly a social outcast.

Another example in Desdemona’s dedication in deciding to do as she sees fit is when she stands up to her father, announces her love for the social outcast in front of the most important figures in Venice and just like her mother, chooses her husband above her father:

“But here’s my husband;

And so much duty as my mother showed

To you, preferring you before her father”

The above quotation proves that Desdemona can think for herself, knows what she is doing and is strong enough to live with the decision she makes.

When Desdemona insists on going to battle alongside her husband, she performs, the final act of love anyone could do for their lover, she is willing to die, just so she can spend a while with her husband. Also Desdemona shows she will love Othello whatever situation he may be in, she tries to persuade the senate to allow her to go with Othello by reminding them the meaning of the wedding vows she took and tells them how she would miss him if she didn’t go with Othello:

“The rites for which I love him are benefits me,

And I a heavy interim shall support

By his dear absence let me go with him”

The above quote, once again shows that Desdemona, knows what she is doing and is willing to do anything to be with Othello. It is as though Shakespeare is saying that Desdemona feels that she is the earth and Othello is her sun.

In act 1, scene 3, Desdemona shows she is mentally strong, and her speech is well thought out. Her use of language shows that she is to pushover, she has a sharp mind and that she knows how to make the most of it.

In act 1, scene 3, Desdemona’s character is let out of its leash, she shows the audience and especially to her father, that she is not a little girl, and that she can think for herself.

In Shakespearian times, women were perhaps considered to be backwards, women were thought to be intellectually weak and weren’t taken notice of by men. Women were to be seen more as objects and possession more than anything else. Shakespeare shows this through the character of Brabantio. Brabantio say:

“Brabantio: my daughter! O my daughter

Senators: Dead?

Brabantio: Ay to me

She is abused, stol’n from me and corrupted”

This interjection of ‘O’ shows that just because Desdemona has left Brabantio, in Brabantio’s eyes she is considered dead to him.

Iago is presented to be a very cunning, wicked white man, whose intention is to bring both Cassio and Othello down from their positions they are currently in at the Venetian army, and also to crush their reputation, and also to deceive as much money as he can from his ‘fool’, Roderigo, a Venetian merchant who is secretly in love with Desdemona.

From Iago’s soliloquy at the end of act 1, scene 3, a lot can be learnt and gives a little taster of the true extent of his wickedness that is yet to come. In his soliloquy, Iago states that although Cassio is a:

“…proper man…”

He still has grudge against him as he believes that he was wrongly promoted over Iago to lieutenant. From that soliloquy, we also find out his feelings towards Othello as Iago admits that Othello is a good man:

…The moor is of a free and open nature,

That thinks men honest but seem to be so,

And will as tenderly be led by the nose

As asses are”.

Never the less, Iago still wants to destroy both. Othello and Cassio’s lives. He wants to destroy them both because he believes that Othello stole his job from him, which was to be the leader of the Venetian army and that Cassio stole his second, backup job, which was to be the right-hand man of the leader of the Venetian army, that should have been certainly be given to Iago; who felt betrayed by both Cassio and Othello.

Also from the quotation we know that Iago feels that Othello is a very gullible man who believes everybody to be honest. He also insults Othello by saying that Othello is as gullible as an ass. This statement emphasizes on how gullible Iago believes Othello to be and straight away the audience will guess that Iago will use this weakness of Othello to bring him down. Iago’s hatred towards Othello has many reasons. One of them is that Iago suspects Othello of:

“…twixt my sheets

He’s done my office.”

He refers to Othello receiving the commanding role in the battle using a metaphor, the meaning of what Iago means is that Othello has slept with Iago’s wife, Emillia, which is another metaphor for Othello doing what Iago should have done. I personally think that Othello won’t have done something like this because his loves and trusts Desdemona. Iago says this because he hates Othello. Iago however is thought very highly by Othello. This clear when Othello says:

“Honest Iago”

This shows us Othello’s trusting character, as he trusts Iago. Trusted Iago plans on how to bring down Cassio and Othello can also be found in his soliloquy:

“…After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear

That he is too familiar with his wife;

He hath a person and a smooth dispose

To be suspected, framed to make women false.”

In the above quotation, it is revealed that Iago will lie to Othello, accusing Desdemona with committing adultery with Cassio. After hearing this, the audience would become very eager to see how Iago goes about implementing his plan and therefore will not leave the theatre and become more attentive. As for Roderigo, Iago admits that Roderigo is a fool and that he will ‘use’ him for his money.

Also in Iago’s soliloquy he says:

“Let me see now;

To get his place and plum up my will

In double knavery. How? How? Lets see.”

This is how Shakespeare shows that Iago is thinking up his plan because the use of the double punctuation and the question mark shows that Iago is thinking. Iago also uses a lot of dramatic irony. For example when we know that he is going to trick Roderigo for his money; also we know he is trying to split up Desdemona and Othello.

When Iago says these three lines he sounds very evil, here Iago’s facial expressions should be sinister and ,bewildered. His body language should be very minimal; perhaps Iago could have one hand stroking his chin with inside of his index finger diagonally, and he could be looking upwards. His voice should be quiet and powerful and he should pronounce every syllable and should lengthen the ‘s’ sounds, as this would expose his sheering, evil personality, as this shows that Iago means business.

I think that Iago is set out to destroy Othello, Desdemona and Cassio for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think that he wants to be the general that is why he also tries to kill Cassio; secondly I think that Iago doesn’t want a black man to be in charge that is why he is racist towards Othello and lastly I think that he is jealous of the marriage between Othello and Desdemona that is why he tries to split them up. Iago is trying to say that their relationship is just based on sex and not in love. Iago shows his racism but also shows his sexism when his says:


This shows he uses sexist language and also his racism. In Iago’s soliloquy at the end of this scene we find out more of his evil ways. As a reader I also hate Iago more after this soliloquy because of the things that he is planning to bring down Othello and Cassio. At no stage of the play does Iago think about abandoning this cruel act. In another tragedy of William Shakespeare, ‘ Macbeth’, has this plan of being king by killing king Duncan but has second thoughts, but is than encouraged by his greedy wife lady Macbeth.

I also have some regard for Iago’s cleverness because Iago has thought his plan out and each stage things work out so that his plan works. Also no one figures out his plan, including his wife, Emilia. It is only at the end that Emilia tells Othello about the handkerchief and the fact that Iago had asked her to go and get it for him. Iago only gets caught too late when Othello is dead, Desdemona is dead and Emilia is dead.

In this Shakespearean play, I think Iago is set upon getting his goal, which is to get Othello and become the general, similar to ‘Macbeth’ who wants to become the king. The thing about this play is that Iago is not encouraged by his wife unlike Macbeth where lady Macbeth encouraged him to kill king Duncan. Iago Infact really works alone although he uses Roderigo to back up parts of his plan.

Iago also speaks in prose to Roderigo because Roderigo is a simple wealthy man. Iago speaks in verse in his soliloquy to show the audience that he on the other hand is not simple.

Iago is also a quick thinking person for example when Roderigo says he will kill himself, Iago persuades him to carry on trying to get Desdemona by going to Cyprus with a ‘fake beard’. But this is a trick by Iago and Roderigo pays the price by going to Cyprus because Iago ends up killing Roderigo in Cyprus after he was told by Iago to kill Cassio in which Roderigo had failed and later Cassio was wounded by Iago which Cassio didn’t see.

The last two lines of act 1, scene 3, makes the audience excited and anxious, this is due to a number of reasons:

> The run up to the last times, which consists mostly of plotting and scheming, which would excite any audience

> The language used in the last two lines:

” I hav’t. it is engendered. Hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.”

The use of language here is very exciting, particularly the wording; “Hell and night” and “monstrous” are exciting words as they are words related to evil, and wherever there is evil, there is good for it to fight against. There are also short and sharp sentences.

There is a rhyming couplet at the end of the two line, which create a little more emphasizes on what Iago says.

Throughout this whole soliloquy, Iago uses iambic pentameters, rhyming couplets and enjambment all of which shows the important of this soliloquy.

His use these techniques in the last two lines of his soliloquy, alerts the audience that this is a very important statement. Overall, his soliloquy summarises the evil doings to come and therefore the audience won’t leave their seats as they would be eager to find out who gets effected and how.

At the end of Iago’s soliloquy, I was hooked into the play and wanted to become one of the characters and warn every one of Iago’s evil plans.

Through the different characters of this play, Shakespeare has tried to teach his white, sexist, racist audience a moral lesson. Through Othello’s character, he shows his racist audience that not all black people are evil. He suggests that some people can be good and in some cases, better than some white people. The example being, Othello has a better heart and mind than Iago. Othello’s character also suggests that black people should be given equal rights and opportunities as a white person, rather than being isolated and ill-treated for the colour of the skin, for the benefit of the greater community. Desdemona’s character suggests to the audience that women should be given equal rights as men, as they are completely capable of doing the same things a man can do.

The perfect example being the fact that Desdemona was called in the trial as the beginning to give here point of view in the matter of her love with Othello, which shows that she is doing exactly what a man can do. The importance of her side of the story emphasizes this, showing the rather sexist male audience that a lot more can be learnt if women have the same rights as men. The twisted two-faced character of the evil Iago reveals to the audience who associates non-Christians and non-white people with evil that even white Christians can be evil and mischievous.

Act 1, scene 3 is nearly the most important scene in the entire play, it is the single scene that proves to the audience how easy it was to destroy lago’s evil plans; if only Othello remembered how much Desdemona sacrificed for him and trusted the right people more than others.

This scene also sets the mood for the rest of the play; it is inevitable that lago’s plans will succeed to some extent, and that the damage he causes will be irresistible.

Another reason why this is so important is because racism was revealed at the beginning then concealed throughout the rest of the pay and then was revealed again, when Othello’s command was taken from him.

On the whole, the importance of Act 1, scene 3 is immense to a great extent, because if this scene was changed then the entire play could have ended up as a romance and not a tragedy, other tragedy of Shakespeare are King Lear and Macbeth.

On the whole ‘Othello’ is about betrayal, betrayal from lago to Othello and Cassio, betrayal from the Duke and Senators to Othello and betrayal from Othello to Desdemona, as she is the one person Othello should have rusted more than anything else. Othello should have thought back to the wedding vows he took and asked Desdemona if she really was having an affair with Cassio, as Desdemona had trusted him in the middle of Act 1, Scene 3.

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Discuss the dramatic impact of Act 1 Scene 3 and its importance to the whole play of Othello. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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