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Shakespeare: Othello

3. Act 1, Scene 1: Iago and Roderigo Plot

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore the opening scene of the play, in which Iago converses with Roderigo, up to the end of Iago’s long speech at lines 40-64 (“I follow him to serve my turn upon him”). In particular, we think about character of both Roderigo and Iago, Iago’s motivations for hating Othello, his comments on proper vs. improper authority (“We cannot all be masters, nor all masters | Cannot be truly followed”, 42-43), and the theme of ‘seeming’ (i.e. pretending) vs. actually being. (“Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty | But seeming so”, 58-59).


In this twenty-one part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s Othello. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, political and intellectual context of early 17th-century England, before going through the play scene-by-scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: We used the Arden edition of the play (Third Series, Revised Edition, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2019, January 27). Shakespeare: Othello - Act 1, Scene 1: Iago and Roderigo Plot [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Othello – Act 1, Scene 1: Iago and Roderigo Plot." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Jan 2019,

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