Act-wise Summary of Othello by William Shakespeare

Summary of Othello

Othello play is comprised on five acts. Act (I) has three scenes, act (II) has two scenes, act (III) has four scenes, act (IV) has three scenes, and act (V) has two scenes.

Act I of Summary of Othello

First scene of act 1 opens on a street in Venice. Two men, Roderigo, a nobleman, and Iago, an ancient (captain) in the defense forces, are arguing. Roderigo is in love with a noble lady Desdemona, daughter of Brabantio, a Senator, and to win her love, he has paid heavy sums of money to Iago to pass his gifts to her and praise him to her. Roderigo wants to win her love and hopes to marry her. However, they now have news that Desdemona has eloped with Othello, a Moor (an African) who is a General in the defense forces. Roderigo is worried that he has lost his hope to marry her. Iago tells Roderigo that he hates Othello for promoting Cassio to the rank of lieutenant, a position that Iago thinks he himself deserves for this rank. Now Iago plans to bring about Othello’s downfall, and assures Roderigo that he will have Desdemona. They rush to Brabantio’s house and shout loudly until he comes out onto the balcony. Iago reveals to him that her daughter, Desdemona, has run away with Othello a Moor. Brabantio is enraged and organizes a search party to find them. Roderigo joins them. Iago immediately move towards Othello and informs him about the outbreak of their secret marriage and the Brabantio’s reaction.

Iago warns Othello that Brabantio may take a legal attempt to spoil their love marriage, but Othello is confident due to his strong position in military force. Cassio comes to call him foran an urgent meeting about the prevailing situation in Cyprus. Iago reveals Othello’s secret marriage to Cassio. Brabantio’s party arrives there; Brabantio threatens Othello and accuses him of using witchcraft to seduce her daughter, Desdemona. Brabantio orders to arrest Othello but leaves him for the Duke’s summons to the emergency meeting in Cyprus.

There are several reports from Cyprus that a Turkish fleet is expected to attack. The meeting was called for how to be prepared and neutralize the attack. Othello joins the meeting accompanied by Cassio, Iago, Brabantio, and many others, and the Duke appoints Othello to lead the forces immediately to defend Cyprus from the expected attack by Turkish fleet. Brabantio tells all the matter to the duke that Othello seduced her innocent daughter, Desdemona, using witchcraft and married her by foul means. At initially Duke promises him to support him if he really used witchcraft. When Brabantio discloses that the man is Othello, Duke calls him immediately to defend himself. Othello appears in front of Duke and reveals his courtship of Desdemona in a very sober and persuasive way. He tells that he did not use any witchcraft or any foul mean to marry her, but she was in love with him due to his adventurous life, and requests the Duke to call Desdemona so that she may justify herself. Duke agrees with him and orders Iago to bring Desdemona here. Iago, with a group, leaves to fetch her. After listening to Othello’s views, Duke declares in favor of Othello: “I think this tale would win my daughter too”. Meanwhile Desdemona arrives and reveals the entire story in front of Duke that she was never seduced by any other means but she is in true love with Othello. She thanks to her father for her upbringing, but now that she is married, her loyalty is to her husband, just as her mother’s loyalty was to Brabantio. Fathers must give way to husbands. Duke accepts their marriage and permits Desdemona to go with her husband, Othello. Duke orders Othello to go immediately to Cyprus to command its defense, and Desdemona requests to join his husband as well. The Duke grants her permission to join Othello. Othello, who was leaving for Cyprus that night, Stopped Iago to accompany and tell him to bring Desdemona later in another ship. He tells to Iago that Emilia, Iago’s wife, will be maid of Desdemona. As Othello departs, Brabantio warns him, “She has deceived her father, and may thee”, but Othello is confident of Desdemona’s love.

Roderigo is depressed and Iago tells him that such depression is stupid and convinces him to follow them to Cyprus and you must keep trying to win Desdemona. Iago tells him that soon she will become bored with Othello and there will be a chance for him. Iago assures to help him to get Desdemona and because he hates Othello, says he will help Roderigo have Desdemona and tells again Roderigo to bring plenty of money with him. Now, Iago is on stage, considers the situation in a soliloquy: He has consolidated his source of money, and he has heard a rumor that Othello has had sex with Emilia. Although Iago does not believe the rumor, he acts so just to feed his hatred against Othello. In addition, Iago will have Cassio’s position, which he deserves for him.

Act II of Summary of Othello

Act II takes place in Cyprus, Montano, Governor of Cyprus, is waiting for the arrival of the Venetian forces that was delayed by a violent storm at the sea. A messenger brings the news that the Turkish fleet was so damaged by the violent storm that now Cyprus is not under any threat. Cassio’s ship, and Desdemona’s ship, arrives in Cyprus. Desdemona asks for news of her husband, Othello. Othello arrives there, Desdemona joins Othello, and others go into the fortress.

Iago plans to make use of Cassio. He dislikes him who received the rank promotion he himself wanted. Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona is in love with Cassio and convince him to remove Cassio from the way. Using Roderigo, Iago arrange a fight that eventually results in demotion of Cassio. Iago, in his soliloquy, reveals his hatred for Othello and reveals his plan, but the details are not yet clear to the audience, but Iago plans to grow seed of jealousy and unrest in Othello’s mind.

At night, a celebration was arranged in honor of Othello’s marriage and for the destruction of the Turkish fleet by a violent storm. Othello appoints Cassio to command the night watch during the time of celebration. After party, Othello and Desdemona retire to bed to spend their first night together since their marriage. Now Iago hits a plan and urges Cassio to drink more. Iago incites Roderigo into a fight with drunken Cassio. Othello wakes up and ask to know who started the fight, Iago names Cassio. Othello demote Cassio from his position on the spot. Now Iago give advice to Cassio to ask for help from Desdemona. She will speak on his behalf with her husband to restore his position. Cassio gets agree with his advice, and Iago uses Emilia, his wife, to arrange a private meeting between Desdemona and Cassio.

Act III of Summary of Othello

Now Cassio tries to meet Emilia to take her help to access Desdemona. Iago sends Emilia out to speak with him, and she tells Cassio that Othello and his wife, Desdemona, are discussing what happened last night. Desdemona has already spoken to her husband, Othello, for his restoration of position and Othello gave a positive signal.

Cassio meets Desdemona and requests to her to intercede with her husband, Othello, for restoration of his post. Desdemona agrees because she knows that Cassio is an old friend of Othello’s. Iago manipulate this meeting in such a way that suddenly Othello and Iago enter, Cassio depart quickly because he was ashamed of last light antics. Iago avails the opportunity and passes an undermining comment, “Ha, I like not that”. This comment rankles in Othello’s mind. Desdemona still speaks to Othello in favour of Cassio, Othello is distracted by his private thoughts. The moment Desdemona and Emilia leave, Iago begins to plant seeds of doubt and suspicion in Othello’s mind. Othello is consumed with doubt and suspicion. Iago leaves some sentence half spoken and change the conversation that adds suspicion in the minds of Othello. He is burning is state of jealousy, uncertainty and anxiety and demands for proof from Iago that how Desdemona is unfaithful. Iago tells him to ask for a handkerchief from Desdemona that he gave him as a gift. (Iago has already manipulated the situation because Emilia founds fallen handkerchief of Desdemona and brings it home. Iago snatch it from Emilia and place that handkerchief on the way of Cassio, Cassio finds that handkerchief and handover to Bianca to make a copy of it and says he will return original one to the owner when he will find the owner.) Iago tells Othello that he has seen Cassio using a handkerchief embroidered with strawberries; Othello identifies this handkerchief as the one he gave to Desdemona as a gift.

When Othello enters home, he claims a headache and asks Desdemona to bind his head with a handkerchief. Desdemona tries to ignore his questions about the handkerchief, requesting again for Cassio’s promotion. Othello walks out in fury. Othello’s love has changed into vengeance now. Othello wants to kill Cassio and asks Iago for help and Iago agrees to do it, and then Othello thinks how to kill Desdemona.

Act IV of Summary of Othello

Othello becomes faint and furious when Iago tells him that Cassio has confessed to sex with his wife, Desdemona. Iago once again manipulate a situation when Cassio enters and Iago claims that Othello has epilepsy and ask him to leave for a while and come few moments later. Meanwhile Iago tells Othello to hide and listen to Cassio. Iago says he will ask from Cassio about his amorous adventures with his wife, Desdemona. Othello hides himself, and Iago talks with Cassio about love affairs with Bianca, a mistress of Cassio. Othello thinks Iago is asking about Desdemona. Then Bianca enters, with a handkerchief, which she throws back at Cassio. Othello sees his Desdemona’s handkerchief in the hands of Cassio’s mistress and now he is sure that Iago is right that her wife is cheating him. He is now convinced by Iago’s proofs and wants to kill both Cassio and Desdemona that very night.

Othello asks Emilia about his wife, but she assures him that there is no such affair between Desdemona and Cassio. Othello ignores it considering that Desdemona is so cunning that she has deceived even her maid. Othello’s changed and threatening attitude towards Desdemona, and calling her “whore” and “strumpet” makes her frightened. Emilia comes in, and Othello leaves. Desdemona is aware that she is being punished, but she does not know the actual reason. Emilia suspects that some wicked has turned Othello against Desdemona. When Desdemona tries to ask from Iago to advise her to pacify Othello, he cleverly says that these are state affairs that make him angry.

Othello orders Desdemona to dismiss her attendant and go to bed. Desdemona share it to Emilia and feels fear of death and request Emilia to wrap her body in a wedding sheet after her death. Then she sings a song.

Act V of Summary of Othello

In the street at night, Iago convinces Roderigo to waylay Cassio. When Cassio comes, Roderigo attacks at him but luckily Cassio is wounded and Roderigo fails to kill him. Iago, who was observing from behind, stabs Cassio in the leg. Cassio cries and Iago runs away. When Othello hears the cry, he believes that Iago has murdered Cassio.

In the last scene of act V, Desdemona is sleeping on her bed, Othello enters and he is sure what to do next. Desdemona wakens and calls him, but he asks her to pray at once. Suddenly, Desdemona comes to know that he intends to kill her. She is very frightened although she knows that she is not guilty. She weeps and begs him to banish her rather than kill her, or let her live just a little more, but cruel Othello strangles innocent Desdemona with a pillow. During this, Emilia knocks, Othello hides the bed by bed-curtain, and opens the door to see who is knocking. Emilia reports that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Then she hears the voice of Desdemona from the bed. She is saying “falsely murdered” and Emilia shouts for help. Desdemona says that he is innocent and denies telling that anyone has killed her and dies. Emilia says she is an eyewitness and will tell what she has seen. Othello tries to justify that he killed her because of her infidelity. Emilia claims that she was innocent, faithful and loving. Othello tells that Cassio and Desdemona were in bad relations, and your husband, Iago, know it very well. Emilia curses her husband, Iago, calls him a liar, and shouts murder to waken others. Gratiano, Montano, Iago, and others run where Emilia is crying, and she asks her husband, Iago, to defend himself. Iago says that Desdemona was undeniably unfaithful with Othello and she was attached with Cassio, but Emilia knows this is untrue. She tells the whole story of handkerchief, which her husband urged her to steal, and gave it to him. Iago stabs and kills Emilia and runs away. As Emilia dies, she tells Othello that his wife, Desdemona, loved him too much. Othello realizes too late that Iago manipulated his downfall. People catch Iago and bring him back. Cassio and Othello ask why he did it, but Iago does not reveal anything and says he will never speak again. Othello stabs himself falls onto the bed, and dies with his wife. Lodovico handles the situation; he makes Gratiano next of kin of Othello’s house and property. He appoints Cassio as commander and gives him power to sentence Iago. Lodovico returns to Venice with the sad news.