Chapter by Chapter summary/analysis, Setting of Othello by Williams Shakespere plus Contexual questions

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SETTING

The locale of the play is Venice and her overseas territory of Cyprus. The play starts in Venice and ends in Cyprus. The Duke who is the political head of Venice sends Othello to Cyprus to lead military assault on the Turkish invasion. Othello was written about November, 1604.

STYLE

William Shakespeare has been universally hailed as an uncommon dramatist. This is evidently clear on his play Othello. Of all his plays Othello is the most tightly constructed and the narrowest in scope. There is unusual concentration of the actions in the three main characters Othello, Desdemona and lago. Characters are minimized by Shakespeare in the play and the lines are beautifully evocative, example Othello had told his assailants “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them”.

PLOT

Othello, the moor, a black, brave soldier is respected by the Venetian authority for his conquest against the Turks, and so was promoted a General in Venice. Desdemona, the beautiful daughter of Senator Brabantio love to listen about the many tales and courageous feat and gallantry of Othello, but her father, Senator Brabantio, would not like to hear about Othello getting close to his daughter, let alone marrying her, just merely because of f Othello’s black colour and race. Desdemona loved Othello, the Moor, even with his black colour and so Othello and Desdemona got secretly wedded. They kept the information of their wedding secret and could not tell Desdemona’s father, Senator Brabantio. This secret was revealed by lago – to Senator Brabantio at a time when the Turks were close to Island of Cyprus to take the Island from the Venetians. All eyes are on Othello as everybody expects him to use his military skills to silence the Turks. It is in these perilous times that Senator Brabantio decides to bring to the knowledge of the Ruling house of Venice, his anger against Othello. Concerning his alleged use of witchcraft to hoodwink his daughter for marriage. Othello uses this august occasion to narrate his military escapades before the elites and so they reasoned that such stories of conquests and adventures are capable of winning any woman’s lust. Even Senator Brabantio agrees no less. He says ‘I think this tale would win my daughter too’. In one fell swoop, they exonerated Othello from the charges levelled against him by Senator Brabantio. They charged him to lead the Venetian armies against the Turks. Othello leaves with his entourage including his wife for Cyprus.

Before Othello could arrive Cyprus for the battle against the Turks, news had it that the Turkish fleet had been scattered by a storm and so Othello celebrated the two events of wedding and war victory without shooting an arrow.

Othello has another war to fight and that is lago and cassio war. Cassio is an orderly to Othello and Othello promoted him to the position of Lieutenant which made lago green with envy, as his own position of staff-Sergeant is a lower position. He therefore plans to implicate and set Cassio up. lago is also not happy with Othello for being fond of Emelia, lago’s own wife. lago being a crafty and zealous fellow, he wants to scatter the whole peaceful atmosphere and relationship, and possibly cause the death of either Cassio or Othello. So lago uses the occasion of party merriment to execute his evil plan. Othello had charged Cassio earlier not to engage the soldiers in excessive drinking lago got Cassio drunk and then brings Roderigo to start a fight with Cassio. Roderigo and Cassio fought and were being separated by Governor Montano and in a bid to separate him, Cassio stabs the Governor and lago makes Roderigo to raise alarm about town. The alarm attracted Othello who eventually strips Cassio of his rank of Lieutenant. Not knowing the whole thing was planned by lago narrates his plight to lago. Cassio was assured by lago that the solution lies with Desdemona, who will plead his cause. In a bid to get back the loyalty of Othello, Cassio turns to Desdemona. In a telling soliloquy, lago informs us that he will frame Cassio as making secret love with Desdemona.

Desdemona is sympathetic to Cassio’s misfortune as Cassio tells her to assist him. Immediately Othello and lago return to see Cassio with Desdemona. As Cassio sighted Othello, he was uncomfortable and leaves without even greeting Othello. Othello becomes upset. lago thus suggests that Desdemona and Cassio were into some form of relationship. Desdemona and Othello go to dinner were Emilia picks up a missing which she gives to lago. Othello demands Ocular proof of his love affairs with Cassio, lago tells him that he has seen Cassio wipe his beard with Desdemona’s handkerchief, which was Othello’s gift to her Othello vows to avenge on Cassio and his wife Othello later demands from Desdemona, the handkerchief but a Desdemona could not give account of it, which makes b Othello conclude it might be true. Cassio says on stage that he has found the handkerchief in his Chamber. He tells a prostitute by name Bianca to copy an embroidery on the handkerchief. Later lago had planned with Othello to catch the duo of Cassio and Desdemona red-handed and so Cassio prompted by lago was laughing and thus confirming Othello’s suspicion. Bianco enters with Desdemona’s handkerchief and begins to taunt Cassio for making her copy embroidery of a love gift to him by another woman. Emilia who has blamed the whole saga on lago wanted to talk but was silenced by lago. Othello maintains that lago was right, citing the handkerchief episode, but when Emilia tells the real story, he tries to kill lago but was disarmed. lago kills Emilia and absconds but was caught by Lodovico and Montano.

Othello makes a final speech on how he will like to be remembered after that, kills himself with a sword. The play comes to an end with a speech by Lodovico who gives Othello’s house and other property to Graziano and directed at lago be executed.

THEMES

1. HONOUR / GOOD NAME:

Brabantio, an influential venetian Senator, does not want his reputation dwindle or intend by marriage of his daughter, Desdemona to a mere ack-Moor, Othello. Even Othello would not like to hear of is wife’s alleged infidelity as he has struggled through hick and thin to build his reputation.

2. RACIAL DISCRIMINATION:

By his military prowess and bravery against the Turks, Othello, though a black man, ad come to be promoted as a General in the Venetian military establishment and is now prominent. This has made him to be hated by the non-blacks in Venice Brabantio the powerful Senator of Venice hates him and so do lago and Roderigo. Indeed, colour prejudice is one of the elements that contributed to the play’s tragedy.

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There is also the theme of black magic occasioned by the handkerchief which Othello inherited from his mother. othello claims that his mother uses the handkerchief to maintain her husband’s fidelity. On his part, Brabantio accuses Othello of using magic to influence his daughter to marry him. He says

‘She is abused stolen from me, and corrupted by spells and medicines bought of mounterbanks / For natures so preposterously to err-/ Being not deficient, blind or lame of sense / Sans witchcraft could not’.

SCENE BY SCENE SUMMARIES

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

This is a scene in an evening time in a street outside Branbantio’s house. Then appears two characters – Roderigo and lago as they discuss Othello, the Moor (Blackman). General and Commander of the Army of Venice. Already lago is complaining about his boss. Othello who favours Michael Cassio. lago discusses this situation with Roderge who loves Desdemona. lago tells Roderigo that he is more experienced than Cassio and wonders why he should be promoted above him by Othello. Cassio according to him has “never set a squandron in the field/Nor the division of a battle knows”. Cassio is “More prattle without practice all his soldiership” On his part, Roderigo is also not happy with Othello for snatching Desdemona from him, as two of them love Desdemona. As lago and Roderigo reach Senator Brabantio’s house. (Branbantio is the father of Desdemona). They inform him that Othello has eloped with Othello for a secret marriage. Initially, the Senator was reluctant till lago drums it aloud, thus: “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs”. The Senator wakes his servants up to go in search of his daughter, accusing the Moor of taking his daughter by the influence of a witchcraft.

SCENE TWO

The Moor enters and shortly afterwards lago enters. Lago informs Othello that he nearly stabbed Brabantio for speaking and missing “against your honour” (Othello). lago thereafter calls the attention of Othello to the advancing party of Senator Branbantio who comes in search of him for wooing and stealing the daughter Desdemona with the aid of a witchcraft. Othello’s security guards resisted the Senator’s men and Othello calms the situation from degenerating into a full blown battle. Brabantio comes and accuses Othello for stealing, his daughter. Othello informs Brabantio that the Duke wants to see him and so with the first officer, all of them proceed to the Duke’s Council meeting.

SCENE THREE

At the Duke’s Council, meeting, Othello defended himself very well; he denied using any form of spell on Desdemona. Desdemona shows that she is interested in Othello and the council rules in Othello’s favour. Brabantio lost his case against Othello and thus is unhappy. However, blesses his daughter. He says: I had rather to adopt a child then get it. Othello urges lago to let Desdemona stay with Emilia, lago’s own and wife, so that he will go to war against the Turks. Now that he is sure of Desdemona’s faithfulness. lago is happy that he advises Cassio

and at the same time wants to hurt him for taking pre-eminence over him. He begins to maneuver her way to ask Cassio to beg Othello through the wife for forgiveness of her drunkenness that led to his boss, Othello, demoting him in the military service. lago will use the opportunity of Cassio coming close to Desdemona to beg for forgiveness through her, to her husband, Othello, to now inform Othello that Cassio is having secret affairs with the wife, so as to set two of them on edge.

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE

The second moiety of the play takes place at Cyprus. The Governor of Cyprus by name, Montano is expecting the party from Venice led by Othello that are being delayed by storm at the high sea. As Othello and his troops arrive Cyprus, news had it that a powerful storm has destroyed the Turkish fleet and so the impending attack by the Turkish comes to an end.

SCENE TWO

This is a short interlude. A herald – (whose role in a play is to announce the arrival of some important Person(s) announces that there will be a night of festivities to celebrate the arrival of Othello and his recent marriage to Desdemona and also the destruction of the Turkish army.

SCENE THREE

Cassio and lago are given orders by Othello to drink in moderation and to police the celebration well. Othello and Desdemona retire to their abode for the first time as married couple and logo comes on Stage. He lures Cassio to drink and invites others to join in the drinking spree. Montano and his attendants, Loderigo. and three other Cypriots, join them, lago tells Montano of Cassio’s drinking habit which is unbecoming of a soldier of his status. Montano suggests that such unruly behaviour should be reported to Othello. As lago had planned it, Roderigo offends Cassio, and Cassio who is already drunk, pursues Roderigo to beat him.

Motano is eventually stabbed by Cassio, just as Roderigo is sent by lago to ring the alarm bell which summons, Othello and other soldiers. Othello comes into quell the disorder. lago’s report of the fracas does not satisfy Othello. He. Othello, however relieves Cassio of his position and goes back to sleep. lago turns to Cassio and tells him that he should speak on his behalf before Othello lago says: Confess yourself freely to her; importune her help to put you in your place again. She is of so free so kind, so apt, so blessed a disposition, she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested”

By the above advice, lago wants to use such circumstance to finally nail Cassio and report to Othello that Cassio is wooing Desdemona for love making. Meanwhile. Cassio thanks lago for the advice Roderigo announces his plans to go back to Venice. while accusing lago of betrayal. lago in turn asks that his plans pulls through. lago tells the audience that he intends to tell his wife to beg Desdemona for Cassio and to invite Othello to eavesdrop while Cassio meets with Desdemona.

ACT THREE.

SCENE ONE

This is day break. Cassio retreats with musicians. The Musicians play music by Othello’s window to curry favour. A clown had entered as a messenger and asks the musicians whether their instruments have been to Naples- a city made infamous by venereal disease “They Speak the nose thus” meaning that the instruments sound as through they caught some venereal disease. The clown after some banter dismisses the musicians. Cassio asks that the attention of “the gentle woman that attends the General’s wife” That is, Emelia, lago’s wife, be drawn by the clown. Cassio want to get to Desdemona through Emelia, to ask that his position as lieutenant general be restored.

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SCENE TWO

A short Scene. The setting is the Castle in Cyprus. Othello’s duties as a military general is highlighted. Othello, lago and a gentleman enter the Castle and Othello hands some letter to logo and takes a look round. Othello says: “This fortification, gentlemen, shall we see it.”

SCENE THREE

Othello and logo enter to meet Desdemona, Cassio and Emelia. It is to be noted that at first, Othello is happy in his marriage with Desdemona but at last, Othello decides to kill his wife. Desdemona and Cassio. There is a conference meeting between Cassio and Emelia. Desdemona promises Cassio of helping him to restore his position as the General’s Lieutenant. Othello and lago enter but the trio quickly end their talk before the arrival of Othello and lago. Instantly, lago condemns Cassio’s quick exit. Desdemona introduces Cassio’s matter which Othello differs to “some other time”. As Desdemona puts it, he Cassio. “hath left part of his with me to suffer with him”. With much persuasion. Othello agrees to recall Cassio any time soon. Desdemona and Emelia leave while Othello and lago stay to discuss. Alone, lago begins to sow some thought of possible adultery in the mind of Othello in a subtle way. Othello begins to doubt Desdmona’s love for him now now. May be, he reasoned that the father of Desdemona was right that her love for him was unhealthy and unnatural and that he was not the right person for her. Desdemona. Othello is strongly of the view that there is something really between Desdemona and Cassio. Othello now charges lago to kill Cassio. Thus “Within these three days let me hear thee say. That Cassio is not alive” lago pleads for Desdemona’s life, though, he is being pretensions. lago had earlier on convinced Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness when he fabricated that Cassio calls out Desdemona in a dream and the stronger point that he saw Cassio wipe out his beard with the very handkerchief that Othello gave Desdemona and that lago just retrieved same from his wife. His accusations is a fall-out of Othello’s request that lago should produce evidence of Cassio and Desdemona’s affairs.

 SCENE FOUR

The setting is still at the Castle in Cyprus. Desdemona, Emelia and Clown enter. Emelia and Desdemona engage in a talk which centres on the lost handkerchief. Othello enters and asks Desdemona to lend him her handkerchief. But she could not produce it, and Othello explained to her how he came about the handkerchief. An Egyptian woman had given his mother the handkerchief and told her that it will make her husband to be loyal and anytime it is lost, then her husband will leave her. Othello’s mother had given him the handkerchief before her death. She told him to give to his wife whenever he marries. Desdemona is disturbed when she heard the magical power of the handkerchief. Desdemona while maintaining that the handkerchief is not lost. changes the subject to Cassio and his reinstatement. Othello is insistent on the handkerchief and walks out on her. Emelia tells Desdemona that Othello’s action is based on jealousy. ‘Tis not a year or two shows us a mar/They are all but stomachs, and we all but food/They eat us hungerly and when they are full/They belch us” lago enters with Cassio who begs Desdemona again to put a word for him to the husband. lago searches Othello who obviously is angry and Desdemona urges lago to go after his boss may be he is burdened by the governance of the State. Cassio’s mistress, Bianca enters and Cassio asks her to copy Desdemona’s handkerchief for him. Bianco suspects Cassio but Cassio assures her that the handkerchief is not a “love-token” Cassio likes the design on the handkerchief.

ACT FOUR

SCENE ONE

The scene is before the Castle in Cyprus. Othello and lago are in dialogue and lago says that seeing a woman naked with a man without a sexual intercourse is not a crime. He objectively argues that if he gives a handkerchief to a woman, it is immaterial what she does with it. Othello asks lago if Cassio had ever commented on his relationship with Desdemona to which lago says that Cassio had claimed that he slept with Desdemona. The information breaks Othello’s heart, and he falls into a trance. lago tells Cassio that Othello is attacked by fit of epilepsy. Othello recovers from the attack and lago tells him that he will meet with Cassio and know when he intends to have another affair with Desdemona. lago tells Othello to hide and eavesdrop, Othello leaves. lago tells the audience that his plan is tomake Cassio to joke about Bianca and her performance on bed.

Unaware of lagos’s plot, Cassio talks freely about his mistress which to lago refers to Desdemona. Shortly afterwards. Bianca appears with the handkerchief that Othello had earlier asked the wife about.” By heaven… That should be my handkerchief”, Othello shouts. Bianca had just returned the handkerchief to Cassio. And following a conversation that ensued. Bianca walks out in anger. Othello comes out of his hiding and reveals that he would kill Desdemona and Desdemona. Lodovico, a relative of Brabantio and a cousin to Desdemona arrives Cyprus from Venice He has a letter meant for Othello which states that the Duke has recalled Othello to Venice and promotes Cassio to his position. While Desdemona is happy about the news. Othello cuts her joy short with a strike. Lodovico is embarrassed by Othello’s conduct in reply to Lodovico’s reply to what must have happened to Othello’s wisdom. lago replies thus: “Faith, that was not so well: yet would I knew/That stroke would prove the worst. Othello had accused the wife of being a prostitute.

SCENE TWO

The Scene is the Castle in Cyprus. Othello enters with Emilia, Lago’s wife. Othello casts doubt on the character of Desdemona and accuses Emelia of not helping to advise Desdemona properly. Othello maintains that his wife has tuned into a harlot and blames whoever has deceived her. He says. “If any wretch have put this in your head / Let heaven requite it with the serpent’s course!” Othello wonders on Emelia’s testimony about Desdemona. Desdemona tries to know from lago why her husband is calling her a prostitute. Emilia points accusing fingers to lago whom he says is deceiving Othello to behave the way he is behaving. lago tells them that Othello is troubled by State affairs. Emelia and Desdemona leave, just as Roderigo enters. Roderigo funning with anger accuses lago of collecting some money from him and failing to help deliver Desdemona to him but lago keeps deceiving him, thus that Othello will soon leave for Africa and Cassio is to replace Othello. lago then asks Roderigo to eliminate Cassio so as to take Othello’s position.

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 SCENE THREE

The scene is a room in the Castle at Cyprus. Othello tells Desdemona to dismiss Emelia and to wait for him in the bedroom. Desdemona is afraid, though she thought that Othello has calmed down. She tells Emelia that she loves her husband not minding his stubbornness. As she undresses for him, she sings a love song “Willow” which is about a woman abandoned by her lover. She learnt the song from her mother’s maid named “Barbary”. Emelia tells Desdemona that she will never indulge in infidelity in marriage. And Desdemona says also that she will never do such a deed no matter any material inducement.

ACT FIVE

SCENE ONE

A street in Cyprus, lago and Roderigo enter the arena. lago urges Roderigo to attack Cassio. Roderigo tells lago to stay around fora possible assistance to get rid of Cassio. When Cassio enters Roderigo stabs him but misses the shot and lago stabs Cassio on the leg. lago pretends not to have wounded Cassio and calls Lodovico and Gratiano for assistance on Cassio, who according to him has been hurt by villians. Though it is he that wounded Cassio. He asks Cassio whether he knows the person who wounded him, but Cassio says “No”. He tells lies everywhere as to the person that wounded Cassio. He describes Cassio’s wounds to be the point of whoring), that is, a result of his flirtations. lago also asks Bianca whether she knows where Cassio had his supper that night and Bianca says she was the host and so lago puts their house under arrest. lago sends Emelia to tell Othello and Desdemona what had happened.

SCENE TWO

The Bedroom of Othello and Desdemona his wife is the next Scene Desdemona is asleep and Othello enters with a light. He talks on adultery and finds the wife guilty. Desdemona wakes up on accout of Othello’s treatise. Othello accuses her of adultery and Desdemona denies it but, Othello never believed her. It is lago who had made Othello believe the wife committed adultery with Cassio. She pleaded that Cassio be invited to take oath possibly but it is too late. Emelia was late in coming because Othello had already killed Desdemona for no just cause other than unbuttered and unproven guilt of adultery. Emelia was to give him the correct information about lago’s insincerity and Desdemona’s innocence. By the time Emelia enters, Desdemona hadn’t quite died. Desdemona declares she killed herself, and then dies. Though Othello announces that he murdered his wife. When everybody gathers. Emelia tells everybody that her husband is a liar. lago reinstate that Cassio and Desdemona were having an affair and so Desdemona is unfaithful. And Emelia now state how he found the handkerchief and handed it to lago. lago stabs his wife, Emelia, who before she died. tells them the whole truth and this makes Othello to regret his actions. lago is arrested and brought to Othello to defend himself. Lodovico takes charge and quickly relieves Othello of his command while Cassio is to rule in Cyprus. Othello kills himself in the face of all these troubles and lago is handed over to Cassio to sentence him and Lodovico gives Othello’s property to his next of kin.

 

Context Questions

(FOR PRACTICE)

Question 1

I do beseech you, send for the lady to the Sagittary,

And let her speak of me before her father:
If you do find me foul in her report,

The trust, the office I do hold of you

Not only take away, but let your sentence

Even fall upon my life.

a. Who is the speaker?.

b. Mention other people present on this occasion.

c. What allegation has the speaker been levelled against?

d. Who is the lady being referred to in the above statement

e. Where does the speaker make this statement?

Answers

a. Othello
b. Brabanzio, the duke, his senators and other attending officers.
c. The speaker, Othello has been accused by Brabantio stealing, corrupting and abusing his daughter through the use of charms and medicines.
d. Desdemona.
e. A council chamber in Venice.

Question 2

My noble father,

I do perceive here a divided duty.

To you I am bound for life and education.

My life and education both do learn me

How to respect you. You are the lord of my duty,

I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband,

And so much duty as my mother showed

To you, preferring you before her father,

So much I challenge that I may profess Due to the Moor my lord. (I. iii. 179-188)

a. Identify the speaker

b. To whom does the statement refer to?

c. Where is the speaker?

d. What does the statement show of the speaker’s character ?

Question 3

I am glad I have found this napkin.

This was her first remembrance from Moor,

My wayward husband hath a hundred times

Wooed me to steal it, but she so loves the token –

For he conjured her she should ever keep it –

That she reserves it ever more about her

To kiss and talk to. I’ll ha’ the work ta’en out,

And give’t lago. What he will do with it,

Heaven knows, not I.

I nothing, but to please his fantasy. (III. iii.294-303)

 

a. Identify the speaker

b. What does the speaker mean by ‘napkin’?

c. What do you understand by the statement?

d. Where are the speakers?

 

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