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Shakespeare: Othello

7. Act 1, Scene 3: Iago’s Plot

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About this Lecture


In this module, we look at the second half of Act 1, Scene 3, in which Iago delivers his pep talk to a despairing Roderigo, while also outlining his philosophy of life (“Virtue? a fig!”, 320) in two long speeches at 320-333 and 335-362. In particular, we think about: (i) the inherent comedy in the relationship between Iago and Roderigo; (ii) Iago’s basically humanist outlook on life (“’tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus”, 320-21); (iii) the importance of the will, both as a philosophical concept and as a pun on Shakespeare’s name; (iv) the power and importance of money (“put but money in thy purse … fill thy purse with money”, 346-8); (v) another motivation for why Iago hates Othello so much (“it is thought … that ‘twist my sheets | He’s done my office”, 386-7); and (vi) Othello’s credulousness – his lack of awareness of people ‘seeming’ (i.e. pretending) – which makes him vulnerable to Iago’s plan (“The Moor … thinks men honest that but seem to be so”, 398-99).


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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APA style

McRae, J. (2019, January 27). Shakespeare: Othello - Act 1, Scene 3: Iago’s Plot [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Othello – Act 1, Scene 3: Iago’s Plot." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Jan 2019,

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