The people of Cyprus watch from shore as a storm is battering the Venetian fleet that was sent to defend the island of Cyprus from the Turks who are invading. The moor, Otello, is a Venetian general and the governor of Cyprus. He successfully lands his ship in the port and announces the destruction of the Turkish fleet. Iago, Otello’s ensign, talks with the wealthy Roderigo, who openly loves Desdemona, the beautiful Venetian bride of Otello. Iago promises to help Roderigo woo her, stating that Desdemona will get tired of her new husband soon enough. Revealing the source of his anger, Iago states that he hates Otello for promoting Cassio over him.
The townspeople celebrate their victory over the Turks, and Iago proposes a toast. Cassio declines a drink, but Iago persuades him, stating that he can not refuse to honor Otello and his new wife. Cassio reluctantly toasts, but quickly becomes drunk as Iago provokes both Roderigo and Cassio to fight. Montano, the former governor of Cyprus, attempts to separate the two, but then Cassio attacks him as well. Otello comes out of the castle, furious at his soldier’s poor behavior. He sees that Desdemona is upset by the commotion, and he revokes Cassio’s promotion before ordering everyone to leave the square.
Iago meets with Cassio to advise him to go to Desdemona for help. Iago persuades him by telling Cassio that her influence over Otello will help Cassio more than anything. As soon as Cassio leaves, Iago declares that he believes life has no meaning and God created men to be wicked. He observes Cassio approach Desdemona in the garden. When Otello enters, Iago casually remarks about Desdemona’s fidelity.
Otello goes to his wife, lovingly, but she speaks to him about Cassio’s demotion, and after being influenced by Iago, he becomes angry, feigning a headache. Desdemona offers her handkerchief to cool his forehead, but he throws it to the ground. Emilia, Desdemona’s handmaid, picks up the handkerchief and Iago