Act 2

Act 2: Scene 1

A storm has arisen at sea and Montano, an official of Cyprus, discusses with a few gentlemen whether any ships can be discerned in the horizon. The sudden and tremendous upheaval in nature mirrors the domestic/societal upheaval, at the heart of which is Othello, Desdemona and Iago.

It is announced that the tempest has drowned the Turkish fleet. The report comes from the Venetian ship which has seen the wreckage: The ship is Cassio’s. He is the first soldier to arrive at Cyprus. His arrival marks him as the most balanced of the play’s characters: He is able to weather and navigate the storm and safely arrive at his destination. The next ship to land is Desdemona’s. Cassio identifies her as “our great captain’s captain” (2.1.82) and asserts that the clouds must have had “a sense of beauty” and parted to allow her safe passage. Cassio further illustrates the balance in his character when he prays for Othello, whose ship was driven away by the tempest: His prayer includes an appropriate view of matrimonial love when it asks that Othello be allowed to “make love’s quick pants in Desdemona’s arms” (2.1.88).

Cassio hails Desdemona and orders the men to kneel. She thanks him and calls him valiant. Iago and Emilia follow Desdemona. Iago remarks in an aside that he shall use Cassio’s gallantry towards Desdemona (he takes her by the hand) as a lure with which to ensnare Othello. When pressed to speak, Iago has nothing but crude criticisms for the women and, though they are taken in jest, it is apparent that he means them. Desdemona calls Iago a “vile slanderer,” which is also stated in jest; yet she asks Cassio what he thinks of Iago’s speech, and Cassio responds that Iago is a better soldier than a scholar. Thus, Iago’s villainous rhetoric is casually dismissed.

Meanwhile, Othello’s ship has arrived. He enters the scene and hails his wife: “O, my fair warrior!” (2.1.197), further...

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