Othello Navigator: Links to Detailed Scene Summaries
Act 1, Scene 1: Hopelessly in love with Desdemona, Roderigo is angry that his supposed friend Iago didn't do anything about the elopement of Desdemona and Othello, but Iago convinces him that he hates Othello. . . .  Shouting vulgarities, Iago and Roderigo announce the elopement to Desdemona's father, Brabantio, who declares that he will form a posse to chase down Othello. Iago sneaks off to join Othello so that he can pretend that he is still his loyal ensign.
Act 1, Scene 2: Iago, pretending to warn Othello that Brabantio is coming after him, tries to make Othello angry at his father-in-law. . . .  Cassio and some of Othello's men come to summon Othello to the Senate, which needs him to deal with the Turkish threat to Cyprus. . . .  Brabantio and his men arrive. Brabantio orders his men to seize Othello, and Iago tries to provoke a brawl, but Othello maintains control of the situation. Everyone leaves for the Senate.
Act 1, Scene 3: The Duke and senators receive news of a serious threat against Cyprus, which makes the Duke very glad to see Othello. . . .  Brabantio brings his charges against Othello, and Othello responds by telling the true story of his and Desdemona's mutual love. . . .  Desdemona arrives and confirms Othello's story, then receives permission to accompany Othello to Cyprus. . . .  Iago persuades Roderigo that he can still have Desdemona, if he will just disguise himself and come to Cyprus. . . .  In a soliloquy, Iago develops his plan to make Othello jealous.
Act 2, Scene 1: After crossing a stormy sea, Cassio, Desdemona, Iago, Emilia, and Roderigo arrive in Cyprus. Cassio shows what a ladies' man he is, and Iago plans to use that against him. . . .  Othello arrives, has a joyful reunion with Desdemona, and announces that the threat from the Turkish fleet has been blown away by the storm. . . .  Iago persuades Roderigo that Desdemona is in love with Cassio and that therefore Cassio must be made to lose his job. In a soliloquy, Iago again explains his motives and plans.
Act 2, Scene 2: A Herald announces to the people of Cyprus a celebration of the dispersal of the Turkish fleet and of Othello's nuptials.
Act 2, Scene 3: Iago talks Cassio into drinking too much, then has Roderigo provoke him. . . .  When Montano tries to intervene, Cassio wounds him. Othello comes in and stops the fight, then fires Cassio. . . .  Iago persuades Cassio that he can get Desdemona to talk Othello into giving him his job back. . . .  In a soliloquy, Iago rejoices at his own cleverness. . . .  Roderigo comes to complain to Iago that all he's gotten is a beating, but Iago persuades him that the plan is working.
Act 3, Scene 1: Cassio brings musicians to play in front of Othello's house, but Othello's servant sends them away. Cassio sends the servant to ask if Emilia will speak with him. Iago enters and promises Cassio that he will keep Othello out of the way. . . .  Emilia tells Cassio that Desdemona is already pleading his case to Othello, but Cassio still wants to talk to Desdemona, and Emilia invites him in.
Act 3, Scene 2: Othello sends Iago to deliver some official correspondence, and tells him to meet him later to inspect some fortifications.
Act 3, Scene 3: Desdemona promises Cassio that she will do everything she can for him. . . .  Othello and Iago appear and see Cassio speaking with Desdemona. Iago tries to raise Othello's suspicions, but Desdemona forthrightly declares that it was Cassio she was talking to, argues that Othello should restore Cassio to his position, and apparently wins her point. . . .  Alone with Othello, Iago succeeds in making him believe that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio. . .  Desdemona comes to call Othello to dinner. Othello says he has a headache, and Desdemona offers to bind his head with her handkerchief, but Othello pushes it aside and it drops to the floor. Emilia picks up the handkerchief and gives it to Iago. . . .  Othello returns to Iago, who continues to fan the fires of his jealousy, telling him -- among other things -- that he has seen Cassio with Desdemona's handkerchief. Othello decides that both Cassio and Desdemona must die.
Act 3, Scene 4: Desdemona sends the clown for Cassio, because she hopes that Othello will now restore him to his position. Then she wonders where she could have lost her handkerchief. . . .  Othello questions Desdemona about the handkerchief, and tells her that she should never lose it. She tries to talk about Cassio and tells Othello the handkerchief isn't lost, but when she can't show it to him, he leaves in a fit of anger. . . .  Iago and Cassio arrive. Cassio wants a definite answer to his request, but Desdemona tells him that Othello is out of humor. Iago pretends surprise that Othello is angry, and leaves, saying he will find out what's wrong with him. . . .  Emilia thinks Othello is jealous, but Desdemona talks herself into believing that Othello is only upset by some problem in Cyprus, and she tells Cassio to wait while she goes to find Othello. . . .  As Cassio is waiting his prostitute girlfriend, Bianca, finds him and complains that he has stayed away from her too long. He makes excuses and gives her Desdemona's handkerchief to copy. Bianca gets jealous, but she takes the handkerchief and persuades Cassio to walk her part way home.
Act 4, Scene 1: Iago continues his psychological torture until Othello falls into a trance. . . .  Cassio appears and wants to help Othello, but Iago sends him away and tells Othello that if he hides himself he will see Cassio talking about his encounters with Desdemona. . . .  Cassio returns and Iago arranges it so that while Cassio is talking about Bianca's foolish love for him, Othello thinks he's talking about Desdemona. . . .  Bianca appears and throws the handkerchief in Cassio's face, but invites him to supper, so Cassio follows her. . . .  Othello, thinking that he has just seen the proof of Desdemona's adultery, is heart-broken that Desdemona must die, but Iago gets him to name the time, place, and method of her murder. . . .  Lodovico, accompanied by Desdemona, delivers letters to Othello from the Senate of Venice. Othello, overhearing Desdemona say that she is glad that Cassio has been appointed the new governor of Cyprus, strikes Desdemona and humiliates her, then storms out. . . .  Lodovico is surprised and shocked at Othello's behavior, but Iago suggests that Lodovico hasn't seen the worst of it.
Act 4, Scene 2: Othello tries to get evidence of Desdemona's guilt from Emilia, and then treats Desdemona as though she were a whore. . . .  Desdemona is traumatized by Othello's treatment of her, and Emilia is outraged. Emilia thinks that some villain has been pouring poison in Othello's ear, but Iago assures Desdemona that Othello is only upset by some problem with affairs of state. . . .  Roderigo complains to Iago that he has gotten nothing from all his efforts, and threatens to quit his pursuit of Desdemona, but Iago persuades him that he will bed Desdemona within two nights if he murders Cassio.
Act 4, Scene 3: Othello orders Desdemona to dismiss Emilia, go to bed, and wait for him. Desdemona gets ready for bed and sings "Willow," a song of lost love. Desdemona asks Emilia if there really are women who commit adultery; Emilia tells her that there are, but their sins are the fault of their husbands. Desdemona resolves not to be such a woman.
Act 5, Scene 1: At Iago's instigation, Roderigo attacks Cassio, who wounds him. Iago wounds Cassio from behind and runs away. Othello, thinking that Cassio is dead, goes to kill Desdemona. . . . Lodovico and Gratiano hear Cassio's cry for help, but are afraid of what might happen to them in the dark if they go to him. Iago appears, looking as if he has just gotten out of bed, and goes to Cassio. Roderigo calls out for help, and Iago kills him. . . . Bianca enters and Iago tries to pin everything on her. Emilia enters and learns that Cassio is wounded and Roderigo is dead. Iago sends her to deliver the news to Othello and Desdemona.
Act 5, Scene 2: Looking at the sleeping Desdemona, Othello has a hard time trying to talk himself into killing her. She awakes and defends herself against his accusations. He smothers her. . . . Hearing Emilia call at the door, Othello finishes off Desdemona, then lets in Emilia. Emilia tells him that Roderigo is dead and Cassio is wounded. Desdemona cries out that she has been murdered, clears Othello of the guilt, and dies. Othello declares that he killed her because she was a whore. Emilia refuses to believe that Desdemona was a whore or that Iago ever said so; she cries "murder" and calls for help. . . . Montano, Gratiano, Iago and others answer Emilia's call. Emilia demands that Iago deny he ever said that Desdemona was false, but Iago says that he did say so and tries to shut Emilia up. Emilia declares that Iago is the villain who incited Othello to murder Desdemona. When Othello mentions that he saw the handkerchief in Cassio's hand, Emilia reveals that she found it and gave it to Iago. Othello attacks Iago. Iago gives Emilia her death-wound and runs away. The other men disarm Othello and leave Gratiano to guard him while they pursue Iago. . . . Emilia says farewell to Desdemona, tells Othello that Desdemona was chaste and true, then dies. Othello finds another sword, but can't use it because the sight of dead Desdemona overwhelms him with guilt and grief. . . . Lodovico enters, followed by Montano, Cassio, and Iago, who has been captured. Lodovico questions Othello, gives more proof of Iago's guilt, and announces that Othello will be returned to Venice for trial. As he is about to be led away, Othello asks for a chance to say "a word or two." He speaks of how he wants to be remembered, then stabs himself, kisses Desdemona, and dies.