The play opens late at night on a street in Venice. Roderigo, a
wealthy Venetian gentleman, is discussing the marriage of
Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio. Earlier in the evening,
she had eloped with Othello, a Moor who is a respected General
in the Venetian army. Roderigo is angry with Iago, for he has
paid him a handsome sum to win the love of Desdemona for
himself and to keep him informed of her love life.
Iago, like Roderigo, is a frustrated man. Othello has overlooked
him for a promotion, giving the post of lieutenant to Cassio. Iago
continues only as Othello's standard bearer and an ensign in the
navy. As a result, he has a grudge against both Othello and
Cassio and vows to have revenge upon both of them.
At Iago's suggestion, he and Roderigo go to wake up Brabantio
and tell him about the elopement of his daughter. Iago is very
bawdy in his descriptions. The old Venetian Senator is very
angry that his sleep has been disturbed with such news, but he
searches his house and finds that his daughter is missing.
Coming downstairs, Brabantio is a mess, not thinking clearly and
speaking in half-sentences. He bemoans the fact that he