OTHELLO: THE PLOT

I’ve arbitrarily divided the plot into 7 stages:

  1. Venice  
  2. Cyprus  
  3. Temptation 
  4. Proof
  5. Degradation 
  6. Accusation  
  7. Death

 PART 1: VENICE

RODERIGO FOOLED

ELOPEMENT REVEALED

SEARCH PARTY

VENETIAN COUNCIL

 SIGNIFICANCE: 

Othello is established as the hero & gains our admiration.

Iago’s deceitful nature & his scheme to wreck Othello’s marriage are revealed. 

Desdemona’s outspoken defence of her marriage gains our admiration.   

PART 2: CYPRUS

STORM – LOVERS REUNITED

CASSIO’S DRUNKEN BRAWL & DISMISSAL

IAGO CONVINCES CASSIO TO APPEAL TO DESDEMONA

DESDEMONA AGREES TO HELP CASSIO

 SIGNIFICANCE:

Iago’s negative view of women & belief he has been cuckolded are revealed.

Depth of Othello and Desdemona’s mutual love is emphasised.

Iago’s plan evolves as he uses Roderigo to get Cassio fired.

Iago’s skills of opportunism, innuendo & false loyalty are evident. 

Iago shows remarkable psychological insight in plan to get D to ‘help’!

PART 3: TEMPTATION SCENE

IAGO PLANTS SEEDS OF DOUBT AS CASSIO LEAVES DESDEMONA

DESDEMONA PLEADS FOR CASSIO

IAGO FEIGNS RELUCTANCE TO SPEAK WHILST HINTING AT HIS THOUGHTS

OTHELLO DEMANDS PROOF – TELLS IAGO EMILIA MUST SPY ON HIS WIFE

DESDEMONA DROPS HANDKERCHIEF – IAGO SNATCHES IT FROM EMILIA

OTHELLO IN DESPAIR – THREATENS IAGO – WONDERS WHO TO TRUST

IAGO INTRODUCES ‘PROOF’: CASSIO’S SLEEPTALKING + HANDKERCHIEF

WRATH: IAGO (PROMOTED) MUST KILL CASSIO, O WILL KILL DESDEMONA

 SIGNIFICANCE: MOST IMPORTANT SCENE IN THE PLAY

Iago’s step by step manipulation of Othello is frightening to behold.

Skills – innuendo, exploitation of victims’ insecurities, reverse psychology, opportunistic use of circumstantial evidence, ability to improvise believable lies.

Othello’s character flaws are exposed and exploited.

Desdemona’s innocent attempts to ‘help’ gain audience’s pity.

Good luck plays a role in the unfolding tragedy.

Othello’s transformation and degradation are almost complete.

PART 4: HANDKERCHIEF / PROOF

EMILIA LIES TO DESDEMONA: SHE HAS NOT SEEN THE HANDKERCHIEF

OTHELLO COLDLY DEMANDS IT: DESDEMONA LIES THAT IT IS NOT LOST

DESDEMONA AGAIN PLEADS FOR CASSIO

BIANCA ARRIVES: CASSIO GIVES HER THE HANDKERCHIEF

 SIGNIFICANCE:

Handkerchief comes to symbolise loyalty & betrayal.

Emilia & Desdemona’s only lies in the play prove fatal.

PART 5: OTHELLO DEGRADED

IAGO DETAILS CASSIO’S BRAGGING: RESULT = EPILEPTIC FIT

OTHELLO SPIES ON CASSIO & IAGO – MISUNDERSTANDS CONVERSATION

OTHELLO RESOLVES TO POISON D – IAGO INSISTS HE STRANGLE HER!

LODOVICO ARRIVES: ORDER = RETURN TO VENICE, CASSIO TAKE OVER.

OTHELLO STRIKES DESDEMONA (WHO EXPRESSED JOY AT THE NEWS)

SIGNIFICANCE:

Misunderstandings dominate. Othello is not thinking straight because of his anger and emotional torment.

Othello’s further degradation of character and control by Iago are evident.

 PART 6: ACCUSATIONS & DENIALS

OTHELLO REJECTS EMILIA’S DEFENCE OF DESDEMONA’S INNOCENCE

OTHELLO ATTACKS DESDEMONA (WHORE…STRUMPET)

DESDEMONA TURNS TO IAGO. EMILIA WONDERS WHO SPREAD THESE LIES

RODERIGO REBELS – IAGO CONVINCES RODERIGO TO HELP KILL CASSIO

DESDEMONA PREPARES FOR BED – DEFENDS OTHELLO.

 SIGNIFICANCE:

Desdemona’s passivity and Othello’s irrationality highlighted.

Contrast between Emilia and Desdemona evident.

Iago underestimates his wife.

Sense of inevitable impending doom pervades the play.

PART 7: DEATH AND DENOUEMENT

RODERIGO ATTACKS CASSIO

IAGO WOUNDS CASSIO, KILLS RODERIGO IN ‘REVENGE’ FOR ATTACK

OTHELLO ENTER/EXIT – RESOLVES TO KILL DESDEMONA

IAGO TRIES TO FRAME BIANCA

OTHELLO WAKES SLEEPING DESDEMONA – INTERROGATES HER

DESDEMONA BEGS FOR HER LIFE – DIES DEFENDING OTHELLO

EMILIA ATTACKS OTHELLO, LEARNS & REVEALS THE TRUTH

IAGO STABS & KILLS EMILIA, RUNS OFF, RECAPTURED

OTHELLO WOUNDS IAGO – IAGO REFUSES TO SPEAK

OTHELLO ASKS TO BE REMEMBERED – THEN KILLS HIMSELF

 SIGNIFICANCE:

Tragic climax as Desdemona is wrongfully murdered.

Emilia behaves heroically but is killed by her husband.

Iago reduced to foolish coward; remains a defiant mystery at the end.

Othello must confront the terrible truth about himself & his deeds.

Othello’s death means Iago’s plan succeeded even though he got caught out!

Audiences may feel conflicted about Othello’s character at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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