Olivia and Tyla
Othello Act 1 Summary Response
In Act 1 of William Shakespeare’s play, Othello, Iago’s scheme to destroy Othello begins to take place. He reveals Othello’s and Desdemona’s marriage to Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, and then pretends to warn Othello about Brabantio’s anger. In this process, he pretends to help Roderigo, acts like a friend to Othello, and “helps” Brabantio protect his daughter, but all for his own purposes.
In Act 1 of Othello, the character Iago is portrayed as a very deceitful person. He lies to many of the other characters to get back at Othello for choosing Cassio as lieutenant over himself. He is manipulative because he is friendly with everyone, but really sees everyone as a way to get what he wants.
- Claim 1: Iago uses his understanding of the human mind to turn people into tools.
- Set-up He is the servant of Othello, and was hoping to become lieutenant, but Othello chose Cassio over him. This enraged Iago, making him determined to get revenge on Othello by revealing his secret marriage to Brabantio. To further anger Brabantio, he exaggerates the situation unnecessarily.
- Evidence: Lead-in When Iago and Roderigo go to Brabantio’s house and wake him up, Iago says, “Your heart is burst. You have lost half your soul. / Even now, now, very now, and old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!” (Shakespeare 1.1.96-98)
- Explanation of quotation to prove claim The harsh wording and the way Iago compares Brabantio’s daughter to an animal is meant to anger Brabantio, and it does. Iago is exaggerating what is going on with Desdemona, so that Brabantio will get angry at Othello, and assist in Iago’s plan to get revenge.
- Counterclaim 1: However, one could say that he was just trying to warn Brabantio for the sake of his daughter.
- Set-up Although Iago seems deceitful, it could be that he really does have Brabantio’s best interests in mind. His exaggeration could be an honest result of alarm, and his only goal may be to warn Brabantio of Othello’s actions.
- Evidence: Lead-in When Brabantio does not believe what they are saying about Desdemona, Iago continues to warn him by saying, “I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.”(Shakespeare 1.1.129-131)
- Explanation of quotation to prove counterclaim It could seem that Iago is simply warning Brabantio of the situation his daughter is in. He only exaggerates out of his own alarm, and so that the message gets across and Brabantio can go rescue his daughter quickly.
- What are the strengths/ flaws of this argument?
At first glance, this explanation can seem reasonable. It can not be denied that readers do not know Iago’s heart, and he could be helping Brabantio rescue Desdemona out of his own good will. However, it is much more likely that Iago is purposefully making Brabantio angry so that he will be able to use Brabantio’s anger for his own purposes. His strong, harsh words and extreme exaggeration prove that.
- Concluding sentence: restate main idea
Iago does not warn Brabantio out of good will, but rather warns him in a way that he knows will turn Brabantio into a tool that he can exploit.