Literature Study GuidesOthelloAct 3 Scene 1 Summary

Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 3, Scene 1

Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 3, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's play Othello.

Othello | Act 3, Scene 1 | Summary



Cassio has hired a group of musicians to play outside Othello and Desdemona's room, presumably in order to cheer up his former superior. Othello, angry at being woken up, sends a clownish servant to pay them to stop. Once the musicians have departed, Cassio pays the servant to take a message to Emilia, Iago's wife, who is also Desdemona's waiting woman. Iago enters and wonders whether Cassio has made any progress in getting Desdemona's help. When he learns Cassio needs to speak to Emilia, he goes to get her, also promising to lure Othello away so Cassio can ask for Desdemona's help.


Cassio tries to return to Othello's good graces by arranging music for the newly wedded couple on their first real night together, but it doesn't work. Iago's plan takes another step forward, as Cassio is making progress in gaining an interview with Desdemona. Iago is careful here to use intermediaries in order to hide his connection to the plot.

An important gap is beginning to open here: the audience knows Iago to be a scheming threat to Othello and Desdemona, but the characters in the play grow more certain that he's not only honest, but is actively helping them in their time of need.

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