Othello Act 2 Scene 3: Summary & Analysis

Act 2 Scene 3

In Othello Act 2 Scene 3, Iago’s plan starts working. See how it plays out in this summary provided by our writers. Check the scene’s analysis as well to learn about its themes and motifs.

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🍷 Summary of Othello: Act 2 Scene 3

It’s the night of celebration. Othello asks Cassio to make sure everyone drinks in moderation while the general goes to bed with his wife. He says, “Good Michael, look you to the guard tonight.” It is the first night that Othello and Desdemona spend together since marriage.

Iago, the second in command, helps Cassio to watch over the soldiers. He makes remarks about Desdemona, calling her a beautiful seductress. Cassio says that indeed the woman is gorgeous, but he also thinks she is modest. Iago invites him to share a drink. At first, Cassio refuses the invitation saying that he has no tolerance for alcohol. Nevertheless, Iago insists, and he finally accepts it.

Iago addresses the audience alone. He reveals the part of his plan in which he will make Cassio drunk. He will also ensure the lieutenant offends the people of Cyprus so that they’ll expel him from the island.

Cassio returns with Montano and the revelers. He is in an excellent spirit, but he is not drunk. As he leaves, Iago tells Montano that Cassio is a beautiful soldier but has a terrible alcohol problem. He is worried that the lieutenant might not be able to manage all his responsibilities. Upon learning this, Montano wants to report this to Othello. However, Iago says that he cares for Cassio too much to do that.

In the meantime, following Iago’s direction, Roderigo starts a fight with Cassio. Several moments later, they rush to the stage, ready to start fighting. However, Montano intervenes and states that the lieutenant is drunk. Cassio feels offended and begins a fight with Montano instead, injuring him during this fight.

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Others join the fight, too, and Othello is awakened. He and his men come to the place of conflict, which ends the quarrel immediately. Othello wants to know who started the fight. At first, Iago and Cassio say that they do not know, while Montano is too injured to speak. So, Iago points at Cassio, claiming that it pains him to say that.

Iago explains that Cassio chased in with someone. He does not reveal that he knows Roderigo and adds that the unknown man probably offended the lieutenant. Othello says that he loves Cassio, but he has to take away his rank.

Desdemona appears for a short time, awakened by the noise. Othello takes her back to sleep, and everyone except Iago and Cassio leaves too. Cassio is upset:

“O, I have lost my reputation!
I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”

Cassio says that he wants to speak to Othello, but Iago urges him to talk to Desdemona instead. He says that the woman is so kind, and she will ask on his behalf. Additionally, Othello loves her so much that he will do anything to please her.

When Cassio exits, Iago delivers another soliloquy, in which he claims that the advice he gave to Cassio is a great one. As Desdemona tries to help the lieutenant, Iago will convince Othello that his wife is unfaithful. At the end of the speech, Roderigo enters the stage. He is upset: he got beaten up by Cassio, gave all his money away, and Desdemona is still with Othello. Iago ensures him that everything goes according to the plan.

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As Roderigo exits, Iago explains his future actions to the audience. He will ask Emilia to arrange a meeting between Cassio and Desdemona. As well as he will make sure Othello watches them.

🎭 Active Characters

Iago, Cassio, Montano, Roderigo, Othello, Desdemona

🔥 Active Themes

Othello themes: appearance vs reality.Othello themes: jealousy.
Appearance vs. RealityJealousy

🍾 Analysis of Othello: Act 2 Scene 3

At the beginning of Act 2 Scene 3 of Othello, Iago sexually speaks about Desdemona. For instance, he says, “she is sport for Jove.” Cassio disagrees with that, and Iago fails to make him view Desdemona in this way. One of the reasons for that is Cassio’s loyalty and respect for both Othello and his wife. Unlike Iago, he is honest in his attitude and intentions.

Later in the scene, Iago attempts to convince Cassio to drink with him. However, at first, all the attempts are unsuccessful. Cassio innocently explains his reasons for refusal:

“I have very poor and
unhappy brains for drinking: I could well wish
courtesy would invent some other custom of
entertainment.”

However, Iago does not give up, and eventually, Cassio accepts a drink. Before that, Iago used prejudice to manipulate people. With Cassio, it does not work; that is why he uses alcohol.

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Iago continues to mislead everyone about who they are. He makes Cassio believe that he is honest and forces Montano to think the new lieutenant is an alcoholic. Besides, Iago keeps in secret his familiarity with Roderigo and claims he loves and cares about Cassio. In Act 2 Scene 3, he behaves like a director. He sets the action and leads the dialogues, tricking characters into acting in a way that benefits his plan. The whole scene looks a bit chaotic, especially during the fight, but it helps Iago’s plan. In Act 2 Scene 3, there were some profound advancements in his plot.

When Othello arrives at the scene, he asks Iago who initiated the fight. Iago replies:

“I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth
Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio.”

Othello demonstrates absolute trust in him and even calls him once again “honest Iago.” This scene also shows the proximity of Othello and Iago. With Cassio out of the picture, Iago gets a place next to the general.

As Cassio cries about his reputation, Iago remarks:

“Reputation is an idle and most false
imposition, often got without merit, and lost without
deserving.”

However, later in his discussion with Othello, he takes an entirely different point of view. It depicts Iago as a two-faced person who will take any position if it serves his interests. The villain has a distinct personality demonstrated to each character. Every other person is blind to this side of Iago’s nature, and that is why all of them fall into the trap. In this scene, Cassio loses his reputation and his position because he trusts Iago.

In Iago’s soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 3, he addresses the audience once again about his new plan. He describes in detail how he will “pour this pestilence into his ear.” He will make Cassio ask Desdemona for help while making Othello jealous.

Thanks for reading the article! For more information about Othello or a summary of the next scene, check the links below.

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IvyPanda. "Act 2 Scene 3." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/act-2-scene-3/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Act 2 Scene 3." June 22, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/lit/othello-study-guide/act-2-scene-3/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Act 2 Scene 3'. 22 June.