Otello Opera


Cast of Characters (in order of vocal appearance):

Montano, Bass, Otello's predecessor as Governor
Cassio, Tenor, a Captain
Iago, Baritone, Otello's ensign
Roderigo, Tenor, a Venetian gentleman
Otello, Tenor, A General in the Venetian Army
Desdemona, Soprano, wife of Otello
Emilia, Mezzo-Soprano, Iago's wife and Desdemona's attendant
Herald, Baritone
Lodivico, Bass, Ambassador of the Venetian republic
Soldiers and sailors from Venice and the people of Cyprus.

'Perhaps the most remarkable feature of 'Otello' is not its great set pieces, wonderful as these are, but the fluid melodic and dramatic recitative that links them and binds the whole together. Giuseppe Verdi - OtelloLibretto by Arrigo BoitoFrom Teatro Real MadridDesdemona. Ermonela JahoOtello. Gregory KundeIago. George PeteanEmilia.

The Opera takes place at the end of the Fifteenth Century. It occurs in aseaport in Cyprus.

  1. Based on Shakespeare's play, Verdi's opera depicts the devastating effects of jealousy, '.the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds upon'. Believing Otello has promoted the fast-rising Cassio over himself, Iago plots to destroy both Cassio and Otello.
  2. Otello (Italian pronunciation: ) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.

Act I Act II Act III Act IV

Act I

a seaport in Cyprus. It is night and a storm rages.

The Cypriots are gathered at the harbor awaiting the arrival of Otello'sship. The storm grows in intensity as the safety of the ship is in doubt.Women from the island join the men in a chorus calling upon God to deliverthe ship and their General (Dio, fulgor della bufera!). The mainsail breaksand the ship heads toward the breakers. The crowd cries for help as Iagocomments to Roderigo, 'Let the sea be her tomb!' At that moment, the ship issaved to everyone's reflief. Otello bursts upon the scene proclaimingvictory over the Turks. (Esultate!) The Cypriots join in the cheersproclaiming, 'Long Live Otello!' The storm begins to disperse.

Iago approaches Roderigo and asks about his thoughts (Roderigo, ebben).Roderigo is upset about Desdemona and how to win her love. Iago promisesDesdemona to him: 'No woman's weak vow is too difficult for my talents.' Headds that the reason for his hatred of the Moor is Cassio. 'Cassio usurpedmy rank - rank I earned many times over in battle.' He adds, 'I would notwant an Iago around me.' He leads Roderigo upstage to plot their course as abonfire begins to blaze and roar. The Cypriots gather around it praising thefire (Fuoco di gioa).

Iago calls upon Roderigo to fetch more wine for Cassio (Roderigo, beviam!).Cassio protests that he has had enough wine. Iago goads him into drinkingmore by toasting the marriage of Otello and Desdemona. Cassio praisesDesdemona's radiance as Iago tells Roderigo to beware of Cassio: 'He willget in your path. If he gets drunk, well, he is lost! Make him drink.' Iagobegins the brindisi (Inaffia l'ugola!) (1). Roderigo keeps filling Cassio'scup. The crowd joins the lively song as Iago and Roderigo succeed - Cassiobecomes drunk. Iago tells Roderigo to start a quarrel with Cassio.

Montano arrives to escort Cassio to his turn at guarding the castle. Cassiostaggers toward Montano who inquires, 'What do I see?' Iago retorts thatCassio is like this every evening. Montano says that Otello should beinformed of this. Roderigo laughs at Cassio, who charges him as the twotrade insults. Montano separates them, but is drawn into the brawl byCassio. The crowd also joins in the foray as sword fights and general mayhembecomes the rule of thumb. Iago commands Roderigo to spread confusion andhorror through the harbor. Iago then calls for the fighting to end. Montanois wounded as alarms sound and the chaos spreads.

Otello bursts upon the scene, commanding everyone to drop their weapons(Abbasso... le spade!). He asks Iago to explain what has happened. Iago claimsignorance and adds, 'I would rather have lost my legs than have them carryme to this sight.' Otello turns on Cassio and asks how he could haveforgotten himself so. He offers no explanation and instead asks for pardon.Otello discovers that Montano has been wounded. His anger increases.Desdemona enters as Otello strips Cassio of his rank. Iago declares triumphas Otello orders him to restore peace to the village. He then orders thearea cleared immediately.

The scene empties and Verdi begins one of the most expansive love duets hewrote. The duet is divided into three main sections. Otello declares thatsilence has finally arrived (Già nella notte densa).He rejoices in theembrace of his spouse and her love for him. Desdemona praises her superbwarrior. She also remembers the lonely evenings apart and rejoices in theirembrace. The duet turns to talk of their courtship (Quando narravi). Otellodescribes the battles he had told her about. She adds also of the time hespent as a slave. Desdemona praises him for the dangers he survived andOtello says he loved her for it. The mood changes as Otello is caught up inthe esctasy of the moment (Venga la morte!). They both pray thattheir love will be eternal. Otello asks for a kiss and yet another kiss.They retire slowly to the castle, arm in arm as the curtain slowly descends.

Act II


a hall on the ground floor of the castle that opens to a garden in theback

The scene opens to Iago consoling Cassio (Non ti crucciar). Iago tells himto trust him and he will once again bask in the presence of Mistress Bianca.He convinces Cassio that Desdemona is the only means to get reinstated. Hetells Cassio to wait for Desdemona in the garden as it is her custom to restthere every day at noon. Iago sends him off prophesying his end.

Alone, Iago tells us of his beliefs (Credo in un Dio crudel).'God is crueland man was created in his image. And when man dies? Then what? Heaven is anold wives tale!'

Desdemona enters the garden and begins talking with Cassio. Iago wishesOtello here and calls upon Satan to assist his plot. Otello enters as Iagomutters to himself, 'I like it not' (Ciò m'accora).Otello asks if it wasCassio talking with his wife to which Iago responds that it could not havebeen. 'That man left like one with a guilty conscience.' Iago asks if whenin courtship with Desdemona, did Cassio know her? Otello answers yes andreveals that Cassio would often carry gifts to Desdemona for him. Otelloquestions Iago's opinion of Cassio's honesty. Iago skirts around thequestion with obvious discomfort arousing Otello's suspicions further.Otello demands Iago reveal his thoughts and to not hold anything back. Iagoquietly warns Otello to beware of jealousy (Temete, signor, la gelosia!).Otello cries that false accusations benefit no one. After proof of the doubtcomes time for Otello's supreme law. Iago warns that he has no proof, but toremain on guard. One word can mean guilt or innocence.

They are interrupted by the voices of women, children and sailors whosurrond Desdemona offering her flowers and gifts (Dove guardi splendono).Taken by the beauty of their song and the beauty of the scene, Otelloremarks that she cannot be false. Iago warns Otello to watch her closely.Even though he is also taken by the scene, he quietly vows to shatterOtello's world.

Desdemona leaves the adoring crowd to come to Otello. 'I bring a petitionfor pardon from Cassio' (D'un uom che geme). Otello asks if it was Cassiowhom she was just talking with. She replies that it was and insists thatCassio's remorse is real enough to warrant forgiveness. Otello indicates notnow. Desdemona, however persists asking why he sounds upset. Otello repliesthat his head hurts. She begins to bind his head, but he throws thehandkerchief to the floor which Emilia picks up. Desdemona expresses concernonly to be told once again to leave him alone. Desdemona realizes somethingis wrong and in a beautiful phrase, she asks to be forgiven for whatever sinshe may have committed against him (Se inconscia, contro te). Otello blamesDesdemona's alleged affair on his growing old and the color of his skin.Iago orders Emilia to hand over the handkerchief. She refuses, knowing he isup to something. Iago ends up taking it from her by force. Desdemona leaveswithout knowing the reason for Otello's rage. Iago warns Emilia to besilent.

Left alone, Otello begins to seriously think about the accusation (Desdemonarea!). While Iago observes Otello, he reveals the handkerchief must behidden in Cassio's lodgings. 'Thus it will provide the proof of the sin.' AsOtello's agitation begins to increase, Iago cynically says his poison hasbegun to work. Iago tells Otello not to think about it any longer. Otelloexplodes, ordering Iago away from him (Tu? Indietro! fuggi!). Otello thenwonders if he ever had a premonition of what was occuring while he was away.Otello bids a farewell to his glory, battles and subsequently his sanity(Ora e per sempre addio).

Otello Opera Cast

Iago tries to calm Otello, but is thrown to the floor and choked by Otello.Otello releases him and he turns as if to go. He then resigns his commissioncalling upon the world to see his reward for honessty. Otello comes to hissenses and asks Iago to remain, suggesting perhaps he is honest. Otello'srage returns as he believes Desdemona true and yet false. He believes Iagoto be true and yet false also. Otello calls for certain proof as Iagowonders what the proof could be. 'Perhaps - to see them embrace?' At this,Otello becomes even more enraged as Iago goes on to comment on thedifficulty of arranging this and relates a story.

Cassio and Iago were sharing sleeping quarters when Cassio, in the midst ofa dream, began to talk (Era la notte). 'We must hide our feelings SweetDesdemona.' The dream grew more passionate as Cassio added, 'I curse thefate that sent you to that Moor!' Iago adds, 'It was but a dream.' 'A dreamthat exposes fact,' Otello counters. Iago adds that the dream cansubstantiate other evidence. He then asks if Otello has seen in Desdemona'spossession a handkerchief of exquisite beauty embroidered with flowers.Otello answers it was the first gift he gave to Desdemona as a token of hislove. Iago reveals that he saw that same handkerchief yesterday in Cassio'shand! Otello's rage reaches a new peak as he calls upon God to give Cassio athousand lives, '...for one is not enough to vent my anger upon.' (Ah! Millevite gli donasse Iddio!). Otello swears off love and calls for blood. He vowson bended knee to get his vengance (Sì, pel ciel marrmoreo guiro!). Iagojoins him, also on bended knee, pledging his support. Otello turns as if toleave, but points to Iago with an expression that conveys warning: 'Don'tmislead me or you will pay the consequences.' The curtain falls swiftly.


the great hall of the castle

Otello and Iago are talking when a Herald approaches to report that theVenetian Ambassador's ship has been sighted. The Herald leaves and Iagotells Otello of his plan to lead Cassio into gossiping. He will hide Otelloso he can hear and observe what occurs. Before leaving, Iago reminds OOtelloto be patient and remember the handkerchief. Otello angrily retorts that hecould not forget it.

Desdemona enters with a warm greeting for Otello (Dio ti giocondi). Otellotakes her hand and upon examining it, comments on it's beauty. Desdemonareminds him it was this hand that gave him her heart. Otello appears calmand composed. This is not to last as Desdemona once again mentions Cassio.Otello tells her his head aches again, 'Bind my forehead.' She offers ahandkerchief, but he rejects it demanding the one he first gave to her.Desdemona fails to produce it and Otello's mood becomes quiet and dark. Heexplains that to lose it or give it away means terrible misfortune. He askswhere it is and demands she fetch it at once. Desdemona thinks it isOtello's way of deflecting the issue of Cassio's pardon.

Otello's anger reaches the first of many peaks as he demands thehandkerchief at once. Once again, she asks for Otello to pardon Cassiodeclaring, 'There is rage in his voice.' Otello seizes Desdemona and forcesher to look him in the eye. 'Who are you?' he asks. 'The faithful wife ofOtello!' She responds. He tells her to, 'Swear it and damn yourself.' Shecalls upon Otello to believe her and for God to help her. She feels hisfury, but does not understand it. In beautiful phrases, Desdemona prays toheaven and adds how much she suffers for him. Otello declares if her demonwere to see her now, he would think her an angel. She responds that heavensees her honesty and asks for justice. She wonders if she is the cause ofhis grief asking, 'What is my fault?'

Otello calmly declares that she is a vile courtesan. She replies she is not,adding that she was baptized in the Christian faith. Otello suddenly changesto an ironic quiet and asks for her hand once more. He takes it and asks tomake amends, declaring he thought she was the cunning whore who marriedOtello.

The music becomes agitated as he leads Desdemona to the door and sends heraway. It then quiets almost as quickly and Otello's mood changes to one ofutter dejection. He asks of God, 'Why have you afflicted me in thismanner?' (Dio! mi potevi scagliar) He works himself into another fit of rage declaringDesdemona will confess her sins and then die! He begins shouting for proofwhen Iago bursts in to report Cassio is headed their way. Iago hides Otellowith a plea to control himself. Cassio arrives and Iago engages him inconversation (Vieni l'aula e deserta). We can only hear fragments ofconversation; just enough to condemn Desdemona. Cassio mentions her by name,saying that he wants to speak to her about his pardon. Iago says to wait forher here. He then asks Cassio about Bianca at which Cassio laughs. Otellosees this and thinks they are speaking of Desdemona and mocking him. He asksGod to restrain his rage. Iago asks Cassio to speak quietly as he leads himfurther from Otello's hiding place. Cassio asks if Iago knows his lodging.Otello thinks he is telling Iago how, where and when Cassio was last withDesdemona. Otello remarks he cannot hear everything and adds, 'What have Ibecome?'

Cassio relates finding the handkerchief in his room. Iago beckons Otellocloser. Cassio wishes he knew to whom it belonged. Iago asks to see thehandkerchief. Making sure he has Otello's attention, he takes the cloth fromCassio and waves it for Otello to see. Otello declares it is his and swearsoff love and pain. 'Nothing will touch my soul again!' Iago teases Cassioabout admiring the cloth too much and getting enmeshed in a spider's web.Cassio continues to praise the enchanting cloth as Otello declares,'Treason! I finally have my proof!'

Trumpets and cannon fire from outside the castle announce the Venetian shipsarrival. Iago sends Cassio on his way lest he should run into Otello. Leftalone with Iago, Otello inquires how he should kill Desdemona. Iago ignoreshis question for a moment, instead asking if Otello heard the laughter andsaw the handkerchief. Otello replies that he saw everything. Otello declaresthat, 'Desdemona is condemned.' He tells Iago to get him a poison for thatvery evening. Iago replies, no, thinking it better to, 'Strangle her in thebed she desecrated. As for Cassio, Iago will provide.' Otello likes the ideaand promotes him to Captain. Otello sends Iago after Desdemona - the betterto keep up appearances. The lights go down on the scene as trumpets announcethe Venetian Ambassadors arrival.

They come back up on the same setting; however, this time the stage is fullof Cypriots, dignitaries and soldiers. The chorus breaks into cheer andpraise for Otello once again (Viva il Leon di San Marco!). Lodivico deliversa parchment to Otello declaring it to be from the Doge. He then turns toDesdemona asking if God is keeping her. She answers yes, as she turns toEmilia and comments on the dark cloud hanging over Otello and her destiny.Iago joins the group and greets Lodivico who asks where Cassio is. Iagocounters he is in Otello's displeasure at the moment. Desdemona adds thatshe feels he will return to Otello's good will soon. Otello, as if he isreading the parchment, asks , 'Are you sure of this?' Desdemona asks what hesaid and Lodivico replies that Otello was reading. Iago adds that Cassio maywell return to grace. Desdemona reminds them of the affection she bearsCassio. Otello, under his breath, tells her to stop babbling. Desdemona asksOtello to repeat what he said, and he makes a menacing gesture toward her.He tells her, 'Demon, Silence!' Lodivico restrains Otello, commenting, 'Icannot believe what I am seeing and hearing.' Otello calls for Cassio toIago's surprise and then tells Iago to watch Desdemona when Cassio arrives.Lodivico inquires of Iago, 'So this is the superb warrior?' Iago shrugs andreplies, 'He is what he is.' Lodivico asks what he means. Iago walks awaysaying, 'It is better to keep quiet.' Otello sees Cassio arriving and tellsIago to search Cassio's soul.

Otello begins to relate the message to all when, under his breath, he tellsDesdemona she is acting exceedingly well. The message is that Otello hasbeen recalled to Venice and his successor as governor is Cassio. This upsetsIago who comments, 'Hell and death.' Cassio bows to Otello and says he willobey the law. Otello quietly says to Iago, 'See, the scoundrel does not seemexcited!' As he is announcing his departure the next day, he once againturns on Desdemona: 'Continue weeping.' Lodivico points out Desdemona'sheartbreak when Otello seizes her and throws her to the ground exclaiming,'On your knees and weep!' (2) Desdemona, on her knees begins an ensemblewith each of the following expressing their own feelings and thoughts (Aterra.. sì.. nel livido fango) (3).

Iago approaches Otello to lay their final plans (Una parola). Iago counselsOtello to take vengance immediately as time is flying. He rouses Otello'sanger once again and says that Otello will have news of Cassio's death thatvery evening. Iago then turns his attentions to Roderigo (I sogni tuoisarrano in mar domani). He reminds Roderigo that tomorrow Desdemona leavesand he will remain. He plants the notion that if something should happen toCassio, Otello would have to remain. He then tells Roderigo that he will spyon Cassio and let him know when and where to strike. Each exclaims hiseagerness to see his plan to its end.

Otello rouses himself and turns on the crowd ordering them to leave. Iagooffers that Otello has been struck with a sickness that has robbed him ofhis senses. Otello declares that anyone who does not leave is one of hisenemies. Lodivico tries to lead Desdemona away, but she runs toward Otelloto comfort him. Otello, however, curses her sending all fleeing in terror.Alone, Otello's agitation increases. He declares, 'If only I could flee frommyself.' Several thoughts begin to enter his mind: 'Blood! I like it not!The handkerchief! The two of them embracing!' Otello faints and falls to thefloor.

Iago appears from the shadows where he has silently been observing Otello.He quietly observes his poison is working. The Cypriots continue to praiseOtello. Iago, standing over the inert Otello asks, 'Who could stop me nowfrom killing the Moor?' The Cypriots are heard once again, 'Long LiveOtello! Glory to the Lion of Venice!' Iago takes the handkerchief from hissleeve and waving it over Otello cries, 'Behold the Lion!!' He then flingsthe cloth contemptuously on Otello and heads upstage laughing victoriously.The Cypriots are heard praising Otello as the curtain falls swiftly.

Act IV

Desdemona's bedroom. It is later that evening.

After a brief orchestral prelude, Emilia asks Desdemona if Otello was calmer(Era più calmo?). She replies that he seemed so, adding that he asked her togo to bed and wait for him. She asks Emilia to get her bridal gown and layit on the bed. She asks Emilia to make sure she is buried in it when shedies. Desdemona then tells her of her mother's maid, Barbara (Mia madreaveva). Barbara, it seems, was beautiful and in love with a man who jiltedher. She used to sing 'The Willow Song.' Emilia begins to brush Desdemona'shair as she sings the song (Piangea cantando). They are interrupted by anoise that Emilia says is the blowing wind. Desdemona bids Emilia to leaveand before Emilia can, Desdemona calls her back for an ardent embrace.Emilia reluctantly leaves.

Desdemona kneels before an image of the Madonna and intones a beautifulprayer (Ave Maria). She rises after a few moments and slips into bed.


Otello enters. He looks at Desdemona and extinguishes the candles. He goesto the bed and to the music from the first act love duet, kisses her threetimes. On the third kiss, she awakes and asks who is there. Otello admits itis he and asks if she has prayed yet. He adds that if she has anything toconfess, that she should do it now. She asks why and he replies that hewould not want to kill her soul. It is at this point that she realizes hemeans it. Desdemona wonders if her sin is her love of Otello, 'Is this whyyou are going to kill me?' Otello replies, 'You love Cassio! You gave himthe handkerchief I gave to you.' Desdemona cries out for Cassio to come andtestify to her innocence. Otello quietly informs her of Cassio's death. Shebegs Otello to let her live for a while longer. But, it is to no avail asOtello strangles her.

We hear a knocking at the door, which Otello does not acknowledge. He looksat Desdemona and observes she is quiet as the grave (Calma come la tomba) .Emilia once again knocks and this time is admitted. Otello asks what hashappened only to be told that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Otello inquiresafter Cassio and Emilia tells him that Cassio lives. Otello's angerresurges. Desdemona, on the verge of death declares, 'Unjustly murdered!'Emilia finds Desdemona and asks who has done this to her. Desdemona answers,'No one, myself.' She then asks Emilia to commend her to the Lord, andexpires. Otello states, 'O Liar!! I killed her because she was the mistressof Cassio. Iago can back this up.' Incredulously, Emilia asks if Otellobelieved him. Otello answers yes and makes a threatening gesture toward her.She runs screaming from the room that, 'Otello's killed Desdemona!'

Lodivico, Iago, Cassio, Montano and guards enter the room exclaiming theirhorror at the sight of the dead Desdemona. Emilia calls upon Iago todisprove Otello's belief that Desdemona was unfaithful. Iago counters thathe believed her so. Otello tells of the handkerchief being in possession ofCassio. Emilia ignores Iago's command of silence and tells of Iago taking itfrom her by force. Cassio adds that he found it in his house. Montano pointsto Iago and reports the dying Roderigo revealed the whole plot of Iago.Otello calls upon Iago to disprove the charges to which Iago responds: 'NO!'Iago leaves followed by the guards who are ordered to stop him.

Picking up his scimitar, Otello asks if anything else will fall on him fromheaven. Lodivico steps forward and demands he surrender his sword. Otellothreatens him and launches into the Death of Otello (Niun mi tema). Hesurrenders the scimitar and goes to Desdemona lying on the bed. He lamentsher beauty and her passing. He draws another dagger from his robe and stabshimself. Dying, he crawls to Desdemona and to the music from Act I, kissesher. He asks for another and yet another kiss. He collapses and expires ontothe bed. Solemn chords close the scene.


  1. Brindisi means a drinking song.
  2. In some productions, Otello actually strikes Desdemona.
  3. This is termed a Largo Concertato wherein the passage of time issuspended and the singers forget about each other and pour out theirfeelings to the footlights in a glorious web of lyrical sound. (Budden 1984,3:306).

synopsis © Stephen L. Parker,1996

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Sydney Opera House
16–29 July 2021

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Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Sydney

Running time

Approximately 2 hours & 40 minutes, including interval.

Production Partner

Good or evil. Life or death.

A flawed hero. An innocent woman. A masterful villain.

Verdi takes the best bits of one of Shakespeare’s most famous works to create a taut, vivid romantic tragedy.

From the almighty storm to Desdemona’s impossibly beautiful Willow Song, the emotional music compounds the tension and coming tragedy.

Verdi’s score demands three outstanding voices, Shakespeare’s story demands they take take you on a dramatic journey. Yonghoon Lee is a remarkable singer-actor, debuting in the role of Otello, against the incomparable Karah Son making her long awaited debut as Desdemona. Marco Vratogna is world-renowned for his chilling Iago. Young conducting sensation Andrea Battistoni conducts.

Harry Kupfer’s timeless production explores all the action on a precarious, monumental staircase that dominates the stage. Yan Tax’s costumes would be at home on the most elegant runway.

Cast & Creative

Revival Director
Set Designer
Hans Schavernoch
Costume Designer
Lighting Designer
Toby Sewell
Assistant Director

Otello Opera Rossini

Richard Anderson

Opera Australia Orchestra & Opera Australia Chorus

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Otello Opera Plot

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Act I

Cyprus, late 15th century.

Cypriots watch anxiously from the shore as a fierce storm batters the Venetian fleet sent to defend their island from the invading Turks. The Moor Otello, a Venetian general and governor of Cyprus, lands his flagship safely in the port and announces the destruction of the Turkish fleet.

Iago, Otello’s ensign, confers with the wealthy Roderigo, who is in love with Desdemona, a Venetian beauty recently married to Otello. Promising to help him, Iago assures Roderigo that Desdemona will soon tire of her husband. He reveals his hatred for Otello, who passed him over for advancement, promoting Cassio instead.

While the citizens celebrate the governor’s victory and his safe return home, Iago proposes a toast. Cassio declines to drink, but Iago argues he cannot refuse to salute Otello’s new wife. Cassio consents and grows tipsy as Iago provokes Roderigo to get into a fight with Cassio. Montano, the former governor, tries to separate the two, but Cassio attacks him as well. Otello appears from the castle to restore order, furious about his soldiers’ behavior. When he sees Desdemona disturbed by the commotion, he takes away Cassio’s recent promotion and commands everyone to leave.

Act II

Iago advises Cassio to present his case to Desdemona. He argues that her influence on the general will certainly get Cassio reinstated. As soon as Cassio is out of sight, Iago declares his belief that a cruel God created man wicked and that life has no meaning. He watches as Cassio approaches Desdemona in the garden. When Otello enters, the lieutenant makes casual remarks about Desdemona’s fidelity. Enchanted by his wife’s beauty, Otello greets her lovingly, but when she brings up the question of Cassio’s demotion, he is angered and complains of a headache. She offers a handkerchief to cool his forehead, but he throws it to the ground. Her attendant Emilia, who is Iago’s wife, picks it up.

Othello Summary

As Desdemona tries to calm Otello, Iago seizes the handkerchief from Emilia. Otello asks to be alone and everybody leaves, except for Iago, who remains to observe Otello’s growing suspicion. To fan the flames, he invents a story of how Cassio spoke of Desdemona in his sleep; he mentions that he saw her handkerchief in Cassio’s hand. Exploding with rage and jealousy, Otello swears vengeance, and Iago joins in the oath.


A herald informs Otello of the imminent arrival of Venetian ambassadors. Iago tells the general that soon he will have further proof of his wife and Cassio’s betrayal. Desdemona enters, and Otello speaks calmly until she revives the subject of Cassio. When Otello demands the handkerchief he gave her, she again pleads for Cassio. Unable to control his fury any longer, Otello accuses her of infidelity and dismisses her. Left alone, he suffers a fit of desperation and self-pity, then hides as Iago returns with Cassio. Iago flashes the handkerchief he stole and leads the conversation with Cassio in such a way that Otello overhears only fragments and incorrectly assumes they are talking about Desdemona.

As trumpets announce the dignitaries from Venice, Otello, whose rage continues to grow, vows to kill his wife that very night. He then greets the ambassador Lodovico, who recalls him to Venice and appoints Cassio to govern Cyprus. Losing control at this news, Otello pushes his wife to the floor, hurling insults. He orders everyone out and collapses in a seizure, while Iago gloats over him.


Otello Opera Synopsis

Emilia helps Desdemona prepare for bed. Frightened, Desdemona sings of a maiden forsaken by her lover, then says an emotional goodnight to Emilia and recites her prayers. As soon as she has fallen asleep, Otello enters and wakes Desdemona with a kiss. When Otello starts talking about killing her, she is horrified and protests her innocence, but Otello strangles her. Emilia knocks with news that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Shocked to find the dying Desdemona she summons help. Iago’s plot is finally revealed and Otello realizes what he has done. After reflecting on his past glory he pulls out a dagger and stabs himself, dying with a final kiss for his wife.