Literature Study GuidesOthelloAct 1 Scene 3 Summary

Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Othello | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary



The Duke of Venice and his senators are meeting in the middle of the night and trying to figure out what the Turkish army is up to based on messages that arrive. When Othello and Brabantio arrive, Brabantio accuses Othello of bewitching his daughter into marrying him. Othello denies this, describing how Desdemona fell in love with him because of stories he told her about his military career and his many adventures. When Desdemona arrives, having been summoned, she supports Othello's account. Brabantio is still angry but knows he is defeated. The Duke and senators instruct Othello to go to Cyprus to fend off the invasion. Desdemona says she will go with her new husband. Roderigo is upset at the way all this has turned out, but Iago tells Roderigo not to worry. He says Roderigo should go to Cyprus too, taking along a purse full of money, which Iago likely intends to relieve him of.


As Othello speaks to the Duke of Venice and the senators, defending his actions, he is very compelling and earnest. It is clear that he is not only successful in military actions, but he is also a charismatic man who has earned the admiration of his men, the Duke, and Desdemona. He's a man of action, but also a man of eloquence. It is his stories of adventure that win Desdemona over. She fell in love after listening to hours and hours of stories about his travels in exotic locations, the dangers he experienced, and his bravery. The fact that his words have such power to convince Desdemona to love him, and to convince the Duke and senators to believe him, is an important character point. Later in the play, as he begins to deteriorate, he will lose some of this eloquence; at one point, being unable to express his wishes in any more compelling way than to say "the handkerchief" over and over.

Desdemona shows she is an intelligent and strong woman in this scene, as she argues quite logically for why she sees her duty to Othello as more important than her duty to her father. Then she insists on going with Othello on his mission to Cyprus, saying, "I love the Moor to live with him." And the strength of her love and admiration for Othello are clearly part of his sense of self-confidence.

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