Othello Act 2, Scene 3 Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides an overview of Act 2, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare's Othello. In this scene, Iago makes all sorts of trouble. The dastardly things he does here will have a big impact on the rest of the play.

Othello in a Big Hurry

As this scene opens, Othello and his men have just returned victoriously from battle. Othello's new wife, Desdemona is waiting for him. He was called away to battle immediately after their wedding ceremony, so they have yet to enjoy their ''wedding night.'' Othello makes some hasty arrangements with his lieutenant to set up the watch for the night and then he says to Desdemona: ''Come, my dear love. The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue; The profit's yet to come 'tween me and you.'' That's poetic Shakespearean speak for: ''Let's go have sex.''

Iago Begins His Mischief

''Well, happiness to their sheets!'', Iago says of Othello and Desdemona as they go off to consummate their marriage. With that, he sets about his devious plans. It must be noted that here that Iago is angry at Othello because he suspects him of sleeping with his wife. Iago is also upset because Othello gave Cassio the job of lieutenant, which was a position that he coveted for himself. Thus, it is very suspicious that Iago is trying to get Cassio drunk. What is he up to?

Cassio spends a while trying to tell Iago that he gets drunk easily and really shouldn't drink any more: ''I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking,'' he pleads. Iago persists, however, and Cassio unfortunately gives in. Drunken singing ensues. Cassio disentangles himself eventually, but not before the damage has been done. His drunkenness is proven by his adamance that he is sober. ''This is my right hand, and this is my left hand. I am not drunk now.''

A Drunken Brawl

Cassio, still insisting that he is not drunk, goes to serve his shift on the nighttime watch. Roderigo, who is in love with Desdemona and who is also under Iago's influence, goes after the drunk Cassio at Iago's bidding. We don't hear what Roderigo says to Cassio, but whatever it is, Cassio doesn't like it. He strikes Roderigo and chases after him.

Montano, the governor of Cypres (or former governor, as Othello has been sent to replace him), approaches the fighting men. He doesn't approve of this behavior and says so, which makes Cassio even angrier. Cassio turns his drunken brawl on Montano and badly injures him. Iago, full of malice and calculation, says to Roderigo: ''Go out and cry a mutiny.''

Cassio in Trouble

Thanks to Iago, Othello is woken from his bed. He arrives on the scene and sees Cassio drunk and Montano and Roderigo injured at his hand. He is very irritated because he has, after all, been called away from his marriage bed. He asks Cassio what has happened, but Cassio is too ashamed to speak for himself. He tries asking Montano, but Montano is too injured to tell the story. Iago, ironically, is the one who tells the story.

Obsequiously, Iago begins his tale with ''I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth, Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio.'' This is not true; Iago has in fact orchestrated this whole thing. Thus, Othello is left to conclude: ''Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter, Making it light to Cassio,'' meaning Othello thinks Iago tells the story in a way that makes Cassio look better than he is, when in reality quite the opposite is true.

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