Act 1, Scenes 1-3 Summary and Analysis Scene 1 New Character:
Iago: newly appointed ensign to Othello, Moor of Venice Roderigo: gentleman, disappointed suitor to Desdemona Brabantio: Venetian Senator, father to Desdemona Summary Iago discloses to Roderigo the nature of his hatred for Othello. It seems that despite the petitions of three influential Venetians, Othello has bypassed Iago for promotion to lieutenant. Instead, he has chosen Michael Cassio, a Florentine, and has appointed Iago to the less important position of ensign. Iago then enlists the aid of Roderigo in waking Brabantio with the news that his household has been robbed. Roderigo then informs Brabantio that Desdemona has eloped with Othello. Brabantio recognizes Roderigo as the suitor he forbade to come to his home. Iago interjects Roderigo's information with images of animal lust and leaves, telling Roderigo it would not be politic for him to stay since he is officially Othello's inferior in rank.
When Roderigo responds to Iago by saying, "Thou told me thou didst hold him in thy hate," it employs how Iago has previously mentioned his hatred for Othello. Iago weaves an intricate plot to undo the Moor. What drives Iago throughout the play is the manipulative duplicity that is inherent in his nature. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called this aspect a "motiveless malignancy" since as the play progresses, Iago seems to be motivated by his pure evil rather than by any external factor or reason he may give for his actions.
The first pawn he enlists in his plan is Roderigo, who had been previously denied the courtship of Desdemona by Brabantio. Playing on Roderigo's frustration, Iago gains his trust by telling him that he hates the Moor because Othello prefers to promote Michael Cassio to his honorable lieutenant.
We learn that despite the "personal suit" of three influential Venetians who interceded on Iago's behalf, Othello chose "a great arithmetician / One Michael Cassio" as his lieutenant. The biting tone Iago uses to describe Cassio reflects the contempt he feels for him. Moreover, Iago feels that Othello," "loving his own pride and purposes, chose to ignore the petitions of the noblemen and made his choice with "a bombast circumstance." The implication here is that Othello did not make his decision on appropriate grounds. Iago reveals not only his hatred for Cassio. Iago feels that he has been denied promotion to lieutenant by a man "that never did set a squadron in the field, / Nor the division of a battle knows." He ignores the fact that Othello chose Cassio for this expertise as a tactical soldier and theorist. Iago's contempt for Cassio is evident in the way he demeans Cassio's abilities without recognizing that Othello's choice for lieutenant did not depend on field experience. Iago offers his own experience in battle "At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds" as evidence that he should have been chosen as a lieutenant. This jealousy and hatred...