A] BACKGROUND OF THE DRAMATIST:
William Shakespeare was born at Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire in April 23, 1564 to the family of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. He was the third child the first son of the eight children[four sons and four daughters. His father was an alderman and a bailiff. He was educated at a local school and never attended university. He invested substantially in Stratford real estate and he led the life of a prominent and respected citizen. He died on 23rd April, 1616 and was buried in the local church. Seven years after his death, his fellow actors collected and published thirty-six of the plays in one large volume.
B] THE PLOT ACCOUNT OF THE PLAY:
Iago, a commissioned officer to Othello wanted to embark on revenge on him because Othello was planning to appoint a new lieutenant. Iago believed the post was for him, having involved in so many wars. He decided to plot against Cassio in order to punish General Othello for the action. Iago accused Cassio of making love to Desdemona, the wife of Othello. His thought was that Othello will kill Cassio and he would become the lieutenant. Othello as a jealous person was deceived, killed his wife and himself. Cassio was promoted and he was punished as well.
C] THE SETTING OF THE PLAY:
1. VENICE[1500-1750]- Venice is an Italian city. It represented the law and civilization. There were many White people in the city of Venice. Venice was a city known for the prostitutes that carried out their trade in the city. The English people often thought that Venice is a city full of promiscuous women.
2. CYPRUS-This was a military camp an island that was precious to Venus the goddess of love. The action of the play was later moved to Cyprus that was far from civilization and all things became wrong. Iago was able to convince Othello that Desdemona cheated on him.
SUMMARY OF ACT I SCENES I-II
Roderigo was a rich man, he paid Iago some money to help him woo Desdemonia. He saw no progress in it and it resulted to argument when he heard that Desdemona had married Othello. Iago told Roderigo that he hated Othello. Iago reason for his hatred towards Othello was his decision to promote Michael Cassio to the post of lieutenant in spite of Iago’s service in battle.l There was recommendation from three important personalities in Venice whom Iago referred to as ‘’three great ones’’. Despite the recommendation, Othello gave the position to Cassio.
Roderigo and Iago came to the street outside the house of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father and cried out that he had been robbed by thieves. Brabantio as a senator of Venice understood what was going on. He had told Roderigo to stay away from his daughter. He taught it was a trick by Roderigo to see Desdemona. Iago informed Brabantio in a crude way that Othello and Desdemona were having sex. He searched for his daughter at home and could not find her. He thought his daughter was stolen by magic and told his men to arrest Othello. Cassio and some officers from the Venetian court were sent to invite Othello to the Duke’s court concerning the invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish. As soon as Cassio left Brabantio and his men wanted to attack Othello. Othello was able to curtail the situation. Brabantio decided to take his case to the Duke’s court when he heard that Othello was going to the Duke.
SUMMARY OF ACT I SCENE III
The Duke held meeting with his senators about the coming of Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The meeting was stopped when a sailor told them that the Turks were heading towards Rhodes, another Island of Venice. A senator said the Turks were using it to deceive the Venetians. While this was going on, another messenger said the Turks have been joined by another army and were heading towards Cyprus. Brabantio, Othello, Cassio, Iago, Roderigo and officers arrived at the court. Brabantio demanded that his grievances with Othello should be discussed. Brabantio accused Othello of using magic to marry Desdemona. Othello denied the allegation. He said it was Brabantio that gave him the opportunity to get closer to Desdemona. He went to explain that the constant invitation given to him by Brabantio to hear of his adventures of growing up and the battle field that made him to look fantastic to Brabantio.
The Duke was convinced that Othello was innocent. Desdemona told the Duke that she married Othello out of free will. Finally, the Duke persuaded Brabantio to support Othello and Desdemona. The Duke directed Othello to go to Cyprus. The Duke said that Desdemona should go to her father’s house to wait for the time Othello would come back from war. Othello, Brabantio and Desdemona did not agree on it. Desdemona begged the Duke to give her permission to accompany Othello to Cyprus.
SUMMARY OF ACT TWO SCENE ONE
The governor of Cyprus Island , Montana saw how the storm took away the Turkish fleet of ship. It was confirmed by Cassio as well. The were not sure whether Othello’s ship survive the storm or not. As they were talking they sighted a ship that brought Iago, Emilia, Desdemona and Roderigo. As they landed Cassio told them that Othello has not arrived. Cassio and Desdemona exchanged pleasantries. Later Cassio took Desdemona to a corner to discuss about Othello’s arrival. Iago saw that Cassio took Desdemona by hand, he planned to use Cassio hand-holding incident to frame him for Cassio to lose the position of lieutenant.
Finally, Othello arrived safely and greeted everybody. He kissed Desdemona to express his love for her. Othello directed Iago to unload the ship. Roderigo and Iago stayed behind while others went to the castle to celebrate the drowning of the Turks. Iago told Roderigo tha Desdemona would be tired of Othello. He told Roderigo that he would make Cassio fight so that he can lose his position as lieutenant to Othello.
SUMMARY OF ACT TWO SCENES II-III
Othello as a general announced the celebration of the defeat of the Turks by the storm. He went further to tell the Cypriots that it would ensure the safety of Cyprus. He insisted that the celebration was for his safety and marriage to Desdemona as well. Othello told Cassio to restrain himself during the celebration. Iago persuaded Cassio to drink and invited revelers to join them. Cassio went out and came back with revelers. Cassio and Montano attendants were drunk. As soon as Montano came in Iago told him that Cassio had serious drinking problem and it will affect his position as lieutenant to Othello. Iago directed Roderigo to the direction of Cassio. Montano promised to tell Othello about Cassio’s drinking problem to safe him and the state. Cassio chased Roderigo across the stage and wanted to beat him. Montano tried to prevent the fight but he was stabbed by Cassio. Iago ordered Roderigo to go away.
Othello was informed, he demanded for an explanation both Iago and Cassio claimed to have forgotten what happened. Iago said Cassio was chasing an unknown man [Roderigo] who might have done something to upset Cassio. Othello fell into Iago’s trap of causing disaffection between him and Cassio. He discovered that Iago loved Cassio more than him. Othello then dismissed Cassio from his service. Cassio lamented to the damage done to his reputation by a quarrel whose cause he could not remember. Iago suggested that Cassio should meet Desdemona to help him appeal to Othello. Iago plan was to use the meeting of Cassio with Desdemona to convince Othello that Cassio and Desdemona are having love affair. He revealed this plan to Roderigo when Roderigo complained that Iago had taken so much money from him to woo Desdemona without positive result.
THE SUMMARY OF ACT III SCENES I-II
Michael Cassio sent musicians to play under general Othello’s window just to get favour from him. Othello directed his servant to send the musicians away. Cassio asked the servant to call Emilia for him. He told Emilia to arrange a talk between him and Desdemona. Iago came in and told Cassio that he would send for Emilia and take Othello out for Cassio and Desdemona to talk privately. After the departure of Iago, Emilia walked and told Cassio that Desdemona and Othello discussed his case but said the influence of Montano and his popularity would make Cassio’s reappointment as a foolish act. She allowed Cassio to wait for Desdemona. Othello, Iago and other gentlemen walked together in the citadel. Othello gave some letters to Iago to deliver to a messenger who would take them to the state. He walked with the men to inspect the defenses of the town.
THE SUMMARY OF ACT III SCENE III
Desdemona, Emilia and Cassio were together talking before Othello and Iago came in. Emilia vowed to do all she could to help Cassio. Cassio left quickly as soon as Othello was around. He said he could not do anything good in the presence of Othello. Othello asked Iago if it was Cassio that left in haste. Iago said Cassio would not act like a guilty man. Desdemona begged Othello to give the post of lieutenant back to Cassio. Othello gave her assurance but fixed no particular time. Desdemona blamed Othello for replying her in a reluctant manner. When Iago was alone with Othello, he told him that Cassio was his go-between during their courtship. Othello demanded for Cassio’s honesty from Iago. He planted in Othello’s mind the thought of adultery and hypocrisy. Othello screamed and Iago told him to watch his wife closely while with Cassio. Othello told Iago to ensure that Emilia watch Desdemona when she is with Cassio. Othello had in mind that his wife no longer loves him.
Othello complained of pains in his forehand during dinner, Desdemona bound his head with her handkerchief but Othello pushed her away and said it was too small. The handkerchief fell on the floor and it was taken by Emilia. Emilia gave the handkerchief to Iago. Iago plotted the handkerchief in Cassio’s room. Othello wanted Iago to give a concrete evidence to prove that Desdemona was a whore. Iago said he heard Cassio mentioned Desdemona’s name when they slept in the night. He went further to explain that he saw Cassio wiped his face with the handkerchief Othello gave to Desdemona. Othello became angry, cried for blood and vowed to take vengeance on Desdemona and Casssio. In the process he promoted Iago to lieutenant.
THE SUMMARY OF ACT III SCENE IV
Desdemona could not find her handkerchief, she asked Emilia where the handkerchief was but Emilia could not provide it. Othello asked Desdemona to give him her hand. As she did, Othello rebuked her of her moistness which suggested sexual promiscuity. He then demanded for her handkerchief. When Desdemona could not provide it, he told her it was given to his mother to make her desirable and keep Othello’s father loyal to her. He went further to explain that if the handkerchief is missing that Othello’ father would leave her. So the handkerchief was given to him by his mother at her death bed. His mother instructed him to give it to a woman he liked to marry. Desdemona become worried about the story and said she was not with the handkerchief at that moment. Othello did not believe her and went out of her sight.
Cassio came in to press on Desdemona to speak on his behalf to Othello but Desdemona told him that Othello was in bad mood. Iago promised to talk to Othello on behalf of Cassio. Emilia said Othello was jealous but Desdemona insisted that her husband was occupied by the state affairs. As Cassio was waiting, Bianca entered the scene and rebuked Cassio for not visiting her often. Cassio apologized to her and said he was under pressure. Cassio instructed Bianca to copy the embroidery of an handkerchief he found in his room to another handkerchief. Bianca said she cannot copy the embroidery of a love gift from other women, but Cassio told her she was silly.
SUMMARY OF ACT IV SCENE I
Iago reminded Othello that his wife Desdemona can do whatever she likes with the handkerchief given to her by Othello. This made Othello to think about Desdemona unfaithfulness. He wanted to know more about the missing handkerchief and Iago told him that Cassio said he had slept with Desdemona; Othello fell down when he heard what Iago said. Just as it happened Cassio walked in and Iago told him to stay away from Othello that he had epilepsy.
When Othello recovered from the shock, Iago told him that he would make Cassio to retell the story of how he slept with Desdemona. He directed Othello to go into hiding. He approached Cassio , joked with him about Bianca his wife. Cassio laughed loudly and retold how he met Bianca, a prostitute. He said he was not interested in Bianca again. Bianca came in and accused Cassio of giving her an handkerchief, a love token by another woman. She told Cassio to turn up or face sanction by her. Othello recognized his handkerchief. He declared total war on Cassio vowed to poison his wife. But Iago advised him to strangle Desdemona to death on bed and promised to arrange Cassio’s death. As they were talking Lodovico came in and gave a letter to Othello. He was told to come to Venice and leave Cassio behind as his replacement in Cyprus
SUMMARY OF ACT 4 SCENE II
Othello questioned Emilia about Desdemona’s behaviour. She insisted that Desdemona did not do anything wrong. Othello told her to call Desdemona for him. Othello told Desdemona that he was disappointed at her for polluting the fountain where his future children were to flow. Desdemona denied ever being unfaithful to Othello. Othello referred to her as a cunning whore of Venice. Othello left the room angrily and Emilia consoled her.She questioned her husband why Othello treated Desdemona as a whore. She told her husband that Othello must have been deceived by some villain who also made Iago to suspect her as his wife. Iago told Desdemona that Othello was being troubled by some official business.
Meanwhile, Roderigo was furious because he was unable to achieve his aim. He wanted to propose to Desdemona himself. He also wanted her to return all the jewels that Iago was supposed to have given to her. In other to cover up his evil deed, Iago told Roderigo that Cassio had been told to take over from Othello at Cyprus. He lied to Cassio that Othello had been transferred to Mauritania in Africa. He told Roderigo that the best way to prevent Othello from taking Desdemona away to Africa was to get rid of Cassio.
THE SUMMARY OF ACT 4 SCENE III
Othello planned to walk with Lodovico and send Desdemona to bed. He told Desdemona that he would be her at bed later and directed her to dismiss Emilia. Desdemona was suspicious of her husband plan, told Emilia to use one of her wedding sheets to prepare her shroud. She became worried to the point of death and sang a song titled ‘’Willow’’.
The song was about a woman who was forsaken by her lover. The song made Desdemona thought about adultery. She asked Emilia whether she would cheat on her husband for the entire world. Emilia told her she would not deceive her husband for jewels or rich clothes. Emilia said the world was a huge prize and would outweigh the offence. She further explained that both women and men have appetite for sex and infidelity. She said men that deceived their wives will always blame themselves if their wives cheated on them. After all said and done, she prepared herself for bed.
SUMMARY OF ACT V SCENE I
Iago and Roderigo were outside a brothel waiting for Cassio. Iago instructed Roderigo to Cassio, he gave him a sword. As soon as Cassio appeared, Iago went inside. Roderigo stabbed Cassio but failed to go through Cassio’s armour. Cassio stabbed and wounded Roderigo. Iago rushed out stabbed Cassio in the leg, he fell down and Iago disappeared. Cassio did know the person that stabbed him. Othello came into the scene, he heard the cries of murder by Cassio and believed that Iago had killed Cassio. He rushed in to carry out his own plan of killing Desdemona.
Lodovico and Gratiano heard the voices of Cassio and Roderigo. They could not see anything because of the darkness. They thought it was a trap and were afraid of helping those that were crying. Iago came out with a light pretending to discover Cassio who begged him for help. He stumbled on Roderigo whom he stabbed immediately. Later Lodovico and Grantiano questioned Cassio about his injuries. He could not provide any explanation for the attack. Iago blamed Roderigo for it. Cassio denied knowing Roderigo. The attendants carried away Cassio and Roderigo’s dead body.
SUMMARY OF ACT V SCENE II
Othello refused to believe Desdemona. He told her that Cassio had been killed by Iago. Desdemona wept for Cassio,l this irritated Othello. She blegged Othello to allow her to live a little longer. Othello strangled his wife, Emilia called from outside the door. He left her half way to show mercy; smothered her again. Desdemona cried that she had been murdered. Emilia accused Iago of the master planner of all that happened. Othello wept upon the bed that contained the dead body of his wife. He mentioned the case of handkerchief which he believed to have been given away by Desdemona to Cassio.
Emilia explained how she found the handkerchief and gave it to Iago. Othello ran after Iago but was prevented by Montano. Iago stabbed Emilia, she fell down dying. Iago fled and was chased by Montano and Gratiano. Iago was held as a prisoner, Othello stabbed Iago. Lodovico ordered some soldiers to disarm Othello. Othello stabbed himself and fell on his wife dead body on the bed. Lodovico named Gratiano as Othello’s heir/replacement. He ordered Montano to execute Iago and promised to relay the news to the Duke and the senate.