English Literature – Othello How is Othello’s behaviour in Act Two different from his behaviour in Act One? How do you account for this change? What consequences do you think it will have? In Act One, Othello appeared to be in control of his emotions. When Brabantio confronts Othello, accusing him of stealing and raping his daughter Desdemona by means of witchcraft, Othello is calm and tells his men to stop the fighting.
Although he is being accused of kidnapping and raping Desdemona, in which the person who commits the crime would be burnt to death, Othello shows that he is unafraid of danger, ready to risk everything for the woman he loves, and is able to command others despite facing the serious accusation. He is ready to face justice, and convince the Duke of Venice that he has done nothing wrong. This shows that he is brave and confident. When he speaks to the Duke, he speaks in a respectful manner.
He also promises not to be distracted by Desdemona if he is allowed to bring her together to Cyprus. His manner and promise appears to us that he is a serious, sensible and rational person. However, he behaved differently in Act Two, when he arrives in Cyprus. His behaviour is sloppy. For example, he tells the people in Cyprus that, to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish fleet, they can ‘dance’, ‘make bonfires’, and ‘sport’, i. e. to have sex. He tells the people to have party time, giving license for people to behave as they like to.
Unlike the serious person he appears to be in Act One, Othello seems to be overjoyed to meet his wife Desdemona in Cyprus safely and the defeat of the Turkish fleet, becoming irrational and insensitive to the people’s fear of another attack. When he comes ashore, meeting his wife, he is overjoyed, forgetting to announce the defeat of the Turkish fleet. He greets his wife, saying ‘O my fair warrior’, and kisses her several times. It appears that he has completely forgotten his promise, not to be distracted by Desdemona, to the Duke.
Cassio and Iago, on another hand, have repeatedly refers to Desdemona as ‘general’s general’, and that she is ‘in charge’. This tells us that Othello is clearly distracted by his wife, preventing him from performing his duties, as observed by his lieutenant and ancient. In Act Two Scene Three, Othello admits he is not acting rationally and not performing his best. He says, “Now by heaven, my blood begins my safer guides to rule, and passion, having my best judgment collied, assays to lead the way. This tells us that Othello himself is conscious of what he is doing. He admits to acting irrationally, following his passion to rule. This shows that he is distracted by Desdemona, because only their love and marriage would lead to Othello’s overflow of passion. This may also show that Othello follows his heart, will and passion to act and rule. When Othello finds Cassio and Montano fighting, he asks Iago what has happened without confirming with others. He does not investigate thoroughly, as Iago has hidden some of the truth.
He immediately takes Cassio off his office. This can be considered as an impulsive judgment. His change of behaviour in Act Two is due to the distraction from his wife Desdemona. Because of his newly-wedded wife presence, Othello is distracted and unable to perform his duties. He is led by his passion, which is affecting him because of his sexual interest in Desdemona and his joy to be reunited with her after the rough journey on the sea. Being away from Venice may also account for his change of behaviour.
Since Othello remains below the Duke and Senators in Venice, he demonstrates respectful and brave manner, so that even the Duke calls him ‘valiant Othello’. However, in Cyprus, Othello becomes the person-in-command in the whole of Cyprus. The sudden swell in his authority and power may have contributed to his irrational judgments and actions. In Cyprus, Othello no longer has to act in the way he has promised the Duke. He can betray the Duke’s trust, because no one in Cyprus has the power or authority to stop him, or report him to the Duke back in Venice.
He reveals his sloppy behaviour, and is clearly distracted by Desdemona’s presence, preventing him from acting rationally. With Othello’s change in behaviour, it may be easier for Iago to manipulate Othello and to carry out his plan to destroy Othello’s reputation. In Act Two, Othello reveals that he follows his passion to rule, and makes impulsive judgments without investigating thoroughly. Iago observes this, and therefore use Othello’s weakness to carry out his plan by telling Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful.
Since Iago knows that Othello will not investigate thoroughly if he tells him that Desdemona has been sleeping with Cassio, it will increase Iago’s success in destroying Othello’s reputation. Other people can use Desdemona as a means to get what they want from Othello, as she has a great influence on her husband. For example, Cassio, after losing his job, hires a band to serenade Desdemona. Cassio tries to appeal to Desdemona, so that she may help him persuade Othello to give Cassio back his job.
This may result in a corrupted government, with people using tactics to win Desdemona’s favour, instead of getting the job using their own talents or strength. Lastly, since Othello acts according to his passion, Iago can, by manipulating Othello, remove those who are against him, or whose who disrespects and insults him, like Cassio who calls him ‘Honest Iago’. This will result in lack of talents and observant people in Othello’s government, because all those who are against or disrespectful to Iago can be easily removed by Iago. Therefore, Othello’s government will become corrupted.