Phew! I forgot how long it takes to read and absorb Shakespeare! Going through the sample scene in class today, knowing background information, using a dictionary, and slowly taking each page at a time made Act 1, Scene 1 a lot easier to break down and understand.
The three men in this scene, Iago, Roderigo, and Brabantio all hate Othello, the Moor who has just recently eloped with Desdemona. While they all hate the same man, they each have different reasons behind it. Iago is upset because Othello appointed Cassio, an un-experienced “arithmetician” to be his officer, the job Iago longed for and felt he deserved. Rodrigo on the other hand is jealous of Othello because of his relationship with Desdemona and wants to help Iago get back at him. Rodrigo also wanted to marry Desdemona, but Othello ended up taking her first. Lastly, Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, is now furious at Othello when he, a black man coming from a completely different culture, eloped with his daughter.
The men’s common hate for Othello brings them together into a mission to hurt him. However, even though Iago hates Othello, he knows he must continue to follow him because he can’t lose his reputation by doing something considered inappropriate for his position, so he must at least pretend that he’s loyal.
Because the three men in this scene are talking so poorly about Othello, describing him as, “thick-lips,” “an old black ram,” “Barbary horse," and “lascivious," the reader might think that he is an awful, lustful, barbaric person!
To wrap up, the fact that the word “Moor” is used eight times lets readers know that these characters are racist and take every opportunity to point out that Othello is black and of North African descent, implying that he is an anomaly in their society and not fit to marry Desdemona, a white Venetian.