The opening scene of a play is arguably the most important, for it sets the tone for all that is to follow and creates the proper atmosphere, begins the themes, and draws the audience into the interplay that follows. The opening scene in Othello introduces the characters and the situation, evokes the desire on the part of Iago for revenge, and foreshadows much of what is to come. Different film versions of the play treat this scene in different ways, but each seems to recognize that the scene itself sets a tone. This means that each film uses the opening scene to indicate what sort of treatment the play will receive thereafter. This is evident in the recently revived film from 1952 by Orson Welles and in the 1965.
In Othello, race is an issue from the first in much the way it would be today. Othello is an important general and so is revered and admired, but at the same time there is resentment because he is a Moor and resentment because he has married a white woman. This fact underlies much of the action of the play even when it is not mentioned directly, but race plays a divisive role just the same. The sexual nature of much of the resentment many feel toward powerful black men like Othello is apparent in the way Iago uses racism as a goad to cause others to do his bidding, as when he calls up to Brabantio in the first scene,
Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul;
Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe (I.i.97-99).
The Duke turns the same wording on its head when berating Brabantio for his behavior:
If virtue no delighted beauty lack,
Your soninlaw is far more fair than black (I.iii.326-328).
The opening scene takes place on a Venice street in the middle of the night as the two soldiers, Roderigo and Iago, wake Brabantio to tell him that his daughter has run away with Othello, the black man who is the military leader now visiting Venice. The two ...