The act begins with news of a huge storm that has destroyed the Turkish fleet and that the war is already over. One of the gentlemen tells the others that Michael Cassio has arrived in Cyprus but that Othello is still at sea as they were separated.
Iago criticises women in this scene to both Desdemona and his Emilia and gives us an insight into his views and how he thinks that women use their sexuality to get what they want.
Iago is delighted to see Cassio and Desdemona talking. Cassio takes her hand, which was a symbol of respect and manners but Iago says that this is a web which will ‘’ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.” In an aside, he tells the audience that he will use Cassio’s good manners against him. He is hoping that these flirtations will lead to Cassio losing his job, which he wants to take from him.
Othello arrives in Cyprus and he says that being reunited with Desdemona is the happiest he’s ever been and likely to ever be. “If it were now to die, ‘twere now to be most happy for I fear my soul hath her content so absolute that not another comfort like to this succeeds in unknown fate.” Othello shows his unrealistic view of love and marriage when he says, “I hope these kisses I’m about to give you are the closest we ever come to fighting.”Iago gives the audience another aside when he says he’s determined to ruin Othello’s happiness.
Iago tells Roderigo to meet him at the harbour later that night and that Desdemona is in love with Cassio. This shocks Roderigo but Iago says that it is only natural for Desdemona to be fed up looking at Othello.“Her eye must be fed and what delight shall she have to look on the devil.”
Iago tells Roderigo to go to the harbour that night where Cassio is on duty and to insult him by questioning his military skills. Iago wants Cassio to react “and haply may strike at you.” He wants Cassio to lose his job as lieutenant.
Iago gives another soliloquy and announces his plans to bring down Cassio and Othello. Iago tells us that he really believes that Cassio is in love with Desdemona before admitting that he is also in love with her simply because he believes that Othello slept with his wife. This shows how he views women as objects or possessions. “Till I am evened with him, wife for wife.” He says that if he can’t do that he’ll make Othello so jealous that he can’t think straight.
He tells the audience that he is using Roderigo to carry out his plan, which is to have power over Cassio and then he will say negative things about him to Othello. He says that Othello will, ‘thank me, love me and reward me,” even though Iago is against him.
A herald announces that there will be a party for the people of Cyprus that night to celebrate the destruction of the Turkish fleet and the marriage of Desdemona and Othello.
Iago meets Cassio and tells him to have a drink but Cassio says that he has “poor and unhappy brains for drinking.” He also tries to convince him that Desdemona is promiscuous and open to cheating on Othello. Cassio defends Desdemona’s honour but succumbs to the pressure of drinking.
When he leaves, Iago tells the audience that his plan is to get him so drunk that ‘He’ll be as full of quarrel and offence as my young mistress’ dog.” He wants Cassio to get involved in a fight that will offend the people of Cyprus and result in him losing his job as lieutenant.
Iago, Cassio, Montano and a group of gentlemen are all drinking as Iago sings songs. Eventually Cassio decides to leave to do his duty, insisting that he is not drunk. Iago confides in Montano that Cassio has a drinking problem and that he drinks every night before he goes to sleep. Montano says that Othello must be informed as soon as possible about this issue.
Roderigo enters and Iago in an aside, tells Roderigo to go after Cassio. Montano explains the dangers of having Cassio as his lieutenant while Iago pretends to stand up for him, saying that he would do whatever he could to help him. A noise is heard and Cassio enters driving Roderigo back while shouting at him. He says that he is going to fight Roderigo who pretends to be innocent and Montano intervenes.
Cassio, aggressive from the overindulgence in alcohol threatens Montano who says Cassio is drunk. They then begin to fight while Iago tells Roderigo to ‘cry a mutiny.’ He wants the whole city to see what is happening. He rings the bell and Iago pretends to be annoyed that the fight will be seen by everyone.
Othello enters, extremely annoyed at being woken and demands to know who has caused this commotion. To look for the truth he picks Iago, who he trusts to tell him the correct story.
Before Iago responds, Montano warns him to tell the truth despite his friendship with Cassio. This makes Iago’s version of events even more believable as Othello thinks that Cassio is close to Iago. “I rather have this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offence to Michael Cassio.” Othello pretends that he doesn’t want to say anything bad about Cassio.
He then tells Othello that Cassio came running after a man threatening to kill him and that Montano intervened. Iago ran after the mystery man and when he returned both men were fighting and Cassio was cursing. He ends by saying that Cassio must have been offended in some way to behave the way he did, again trying to appear as if he is an ally of Cassio’s.
Othello addresses Cassio saying, “Cassio, I love thee, But never more be officer of mine,” meaning that he is sacked as lieutenant, exactly what Iago had planned.
Cassio tells Iago that he has hurt what is most important to him; his reputation. Iago tells him that reputation is not important, highlighting the different morals of the two men. Iago asks him who he was running after and Cassio insists that he does not know. Cassio says that wine is a liquid of the devil and is disgusted with himself for his actions.
Iago tells Cassio that there is a way to gain Othello’s trust again and it is through his wife, Desdemona. He tells him that Desdemona is so honest and caring that if he were to open up to her about what happened, she would plead his case and that Othello would reinstate him. Cassio, believing that Iago is a good friend thinks that this is good advice and says that he will go to Desdemona early in the morning to plead his case. Cassio leaves with the parting words, “Good-night, honest Iago.” We again see the dramatic irony of Cassio calling Iago an honest man.
In another soliloquy, Iago reveals his cunning plan. His plan is to get Othello to see Cassio spending time with Desdemona and he will help to pour poison in his ear. “I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear: that she repeals him for her body’s lust.” And the more she tries to convince Othello to forgive him, the more suspicious and jealous the Moor will become.
He’s going to use Desdemona’s goodness to make the net that will catch them all. Again, we see how evil people can use people’s honesty and goodness against them. “So I will turn her virtue into pitch, and out of her goodness make the net, that shall enmesh them all.”