In Act 1 Scene 3 of Othello, we have soliloquies from both Othello and Iago showing their inner feelings, and goes deeper into Iago’s character. Firstly, we have Othello’s soliloquy towards the Duke. This is prompted by Brabantio’s accusation that Othello has stolen his daughter, Desdemona, by use of spells and potions bought from charlatans. The duke is initially eager to take Brabantio’s side, but he becomes more sceptical when he learns that Othello is the man accused. The duke gives Othello the chance to speak for himself.
Othello admits that he married Desdemona, but he denies having used magic to woo her and claims that Desdemona will support his story. He says that “her father loved me; oft invited me”, explaining that Brabantio frequently invited him to his house. Othello then continues that Brabantio “still question’d me the story of my life from year to year”, saying that Brabantio oft questioned him about his remarkable life story, full of harrowing battles, travels outside the civilized world, and dramatic reversals of fortune.Order now
Othello vividly describes these events to the Duke and tells tales of “hair-breadth scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach”, “of being takenâ€¦and sold to slavery, of my redemption thence”, and tells the Duke that “It was my hint to speakâ€¦and of the Cannibals that each other eat, the Anthropophagi and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders”. He then tells the Duke that Desdemona overheard parts of the story and found a convenient time to ask Othello to retell it to her. Desdemona was moved to love Othello by his story; this is shown by Othello saying “Shel’d come again, and with a greedy ear devour up my discourse”.
He tells him that he “often did beguile her of her tears when I did speak of some distressful stroke that my youth suffer’d”, telling the Duke that he would embrace Desdemona when she found the stories harrowing. He says that she wished that she did not have to hear the stories, “yet she wish’d that heaven had made her such a man”. This is the way “that would woo her”, and says that she loved him because of his braveness in his adventures. Desdemona then enters the room, and tells the Duke to “let her witness it” if he did not believe Othello’s story. However, this is not needed.
The duke is persuaded by Othello”s tale, dismissing Brabantio’s claim by remarking that the story probably would win his own daughter. After the Duke decides that Othello is right, they all leave, except for two of the characters. The stage is cleared, leaving only Roderigo and Iago. Once again, Roderigo feels that his hopes of winning Desdemona have been dashed, but Iago insists that all will be well, reassuring him that “it is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will”. Iago mocks Roderigo for threatening to drown himself Drown thyself!
Drown cats and blind puppies, and Roderigo protests that he can”t help being tormented by love. Iago contradicts him, asserting that “I could never better stead thee than now”, meaning that people can choose at will what they want to be. “Put but money in thy purse,” Iago tells Roderigo repeatedly in the paragraph that spans lines 329â€“351, urging him to follow him to Cyprus. He tells Roderigo that “it cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor”, again distancing himself from Othello, calling him “the Moor”. Iago promises to work everything out from there.
When Roderigo leaves, Iago delivers his first soliloquy, declaring his hatred for Othello I hate the Moor and his suspicion that Othello has slept with his wife, Emilia, saying “it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets he has done my office”. His hatred towards Othello is strengthened by these false beliefs Iago holds. He says himself that “I know not if’t be true; but I, for mere suspicion in that kind will do as if for surety”, meaning that even though he admits it is just a suspicion, he will treat the situation as if it were true.
He lays out his plan to cheat Roderigo out of his money, or as Iago puts it, “To get his place and to plume up my will”. He also wants to convince Othello that Cassio has slept with Desdemona, and to use Othello”s honest and unsuspecting nature to bring him to his demise. He thinks that Othello will fall for the plan, as he thinks that “The Moor is of free and open natureâ€¦and willâ€¦be led by the nose as asses are. ”
We have already seen two interpretations of how these soliloquies can be delivered in the two film versions of the play; the Miller production for the BBC, featuring Anthony Hopkins as Othello and Bob Hoskins as Iago, and the Nunn version for the RSC, featuring Willard White as Othello and Ian McKellern as Iago. Anthony Hopkins has seen the speech as a mere explanation to the Duke and Brabantio, trying to get out of trouble with both of them; his body language is very relaxed as he simply leans on the Duke’s table, and his voice is very calm.
He is trying to explain his way out of the situation, and is coolly putting his point forward. It is almost as if he is trying to patronise his superiors, asserting his own superiority. Although he is relaxed, he still has a commanding physical position. This calm and collected speech is quite a contrast to Willard White’s interpretation. Although he is very calm in his manner, his body language is as if he is stalking around the room. With the emphasis on certain points, combined with the movements, it seems as if his aim is to intimidate the Duke.
The two interpretations of Iago’s speech are also differently interpreted in certain ways. Whilst talking to Roderigo, Bob Hoskins’ manner was that of a personal friend, with his arm around Roderigo, constantly patting him on the back and even giving him money on the line “fill your purse”. He sends Roderigo off on a high note, and is still jubilant after in his second soliloquy. But he then stops, and his attitude is that of an enraged man, and says “I hate the Moor” with spite. He speaks softly as he thinks, but his volume rises as he formulates his plan to blackmail Othello.
But, whereas Iago seemed friendly, at least at the start of the BBC version, it is very different in the RSC version. Ian McKellern never treats Roderigo as a friend, treating him in the same threatening manner as Othello did towards the Duke. Then, as he delivers his second soliloquy, he directly addresses the audience, which makes him seem even more intimidating. He almost snarls his words, and then rises to a crescendo as he says “I HAAAAAAAAAAAATE the Moor! ” But as he tells the audience of his plan at the end, his tone rises to an almost jubilant one. This brings across even more strongly the conniving ways of Iago.