Summary and Analysis of Act II
Act II, scene i:
A terrible storm has struck Cyprus, just as the Turks were about to approach. This might mean that the Turkish attack will not happen; but it also bodes badly for Othello's ship. A messenger enters, and confirms that the Turkish fleet was broken apart by the storm, and that Cassio has arrived, though Othello is still at sea. They spot a ship coming forth; but Iago, Desdemona, and Emilia are on it, not Othello. Cassio greets them all, especially praising Desdemona; somehow, Iago and Desdemona enter into an argument about what women are, and Iago shows how little praise he believes women deserve. Othello arrives at last, and is very glad to see his wife arrived, much earlier than expected; he and Desdemona make public signs of their love, and then depart. Iago speaks to Roderigo, convincing him that Desdemona will stray from Othello, as she has already done with Cassio. He convinces Roderigo to attack Cassio that night, as he plans to visit mischief on both Othello and Cassio.
Storms are always of greater significance in Shakespeare; here, the storm is a symbol of unrest, and of discord to come. The storm marks the end of the peaceful part of the play, and is an act of fate; though it is doubtful that the storm will be as significant in the plot as the storm at the beginning of The Tempest, it is a signal that Iago's mischief is about to begin. Shakespeare's characters that comment on the storm are mariners, alluding to Ursa Minor and stars used for navigation; this is a testament to Shakespeare's incredible ability to form credible language for a great diversity and range of characters.
Just as every character has their own manner of speech and expression, Cassio has a very polished, courtly way of speaking, especially of ladies. He describes Desdemona as one who "excels the quirks of blazoning pens"; he calls her "divine Desdemona," but at the same time, wishes Othello much joy of her. As...