'Othello' Act 2 Summary

Analysis of 'Othello' Act 2, Scene 1 and 2

Desdemona and Othello, by Antonio Muñoz Degrain
Desdemona and Othello, by Antonio Muñoz Degrain. Public Domain

Iago's evil plan begins to take shape in Othello Act 2. Our summary works through Act 2 scene-by-scene to guide you through the complex plot that drives Shakespeare’s Othello.

Act 2 Scene 1

Montano the Governor of Cyprus and two gentlemen discuss the tempestuous weather which has defeated most of the Turkish fleet. A Third gentleman enters to decry the end of the war; “News lads! Our wars are done. The desperate tempest hath so banged the Turks that their designment halts.” He explains that a noble Venetian ship weathered the storm and Michael Cassio, Othello’s Lieutenant has arrived on shore. Cassio is said to be concerned about Othello’s ship which was caught up in the storm.

Cassio enters concerned about Othello “O let the heavens give him defence against the elements, For I have lost him on a dangerous sea”. A sail is spotted at sea, the hope is that it is Othello’s ship; however, Cassio identifies the ship as Iago’s. On the ship are Roderigo, Desdemona and Emilia among others.

Cassio explains to Montano about the marriage between Othello and Desdemona and his arrangement for Iago to provide for her shelter and protection.

Desdemona enters asking about her husband, Cassio says; “The great contention of the sea and skies parted our fellowship”. Cassio introduces himself to Emilia, Iago puts his wife down by telling him that she talks too much he then goes on to say of women in general: “You are pictures at the door, bells in your parlours; wildcats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries; devils being offended, players in your housewifery, and hussies in your beds.”

Iago is encouraged by the women to further develop his cutting and satirical use of ‘praise’ for their amusement. Cassio and the ladies go off as Iago ruminates on his plot to make Cassio appear to be having an affair with Desdemona.

Othello’s trumpet sounds, he has arrived. Desdemona and Othello have a loving exchange of words and Iago says in an aside that despite their obvious love now, he will ruin their union. Othello confirms that the Turks are defeated. The group leave Iago and Roderigo alone on stage. Iago tells Roderigo that Desdemona is clearly in love with Othello, Roderigo refuses to believe it.

Iago believes that Cassio does love Desdemona but that she loves Othello and acknowledges that Othello would prove to be a good husband to her. Iago admits to loving Desdemona too but not out of lust more out of revenge that because Othello ‘slept with his wife’ then he should sleep with his; “For that I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leapt into my seat, …And nothing can or shall content my soul Til I am evened with him, wife for wife.”

Failing this, Iago wants to put Othello in to a jealousy so strong that he will not be able to trust his wife again. Iago will use Michael Cassio as Desdemona’s supposed suitor in order to get closer to Othello and to put Cassio’s character in to disrepute.

Act 2 Scene 2

Othello’s Herald enters to read a proclamation; he invites the victorious soldiers to come and celebrate his nuptials with him. He encourages them to dance and feast and enjoy themselves. He blesses the isle of Cyprus and Othello.

Continue reading by visiting our contents page of scene guides to Shakespeare’s Othello.

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Jamieson, Lee. "'Othello' Act 2 Summary." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/othello-act-2-summary-2984771. Jamieson, Lee. (2023, April 5). 'Othello' Act 2 Summary. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/othello-act-2-summary-2984771 Jamieson, Lee. "'Othello' Act 2 Summary." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/othello-act-2-summary-2984771 (accessed May 29, 2023).