A foregone conclusion Introduction
I'm Othello. I'm a general in the Venetian army, and everyone seems to think I'm honest, loyal, and levelheaded. But by the end of the play, I've turned into an irrational, violent, and jealous maniac. And you know what I think?
But this denoted a foregone conclusion. (3.3.425)
Who Said It and Where
Iago hates Othello. Why? Well, for starters, Othello (a general in the Venetian army) chose another man, Cassio, to be his lieutenant. Iago really wanted the gig, and can't get past the fact that he didn't nab the job. But to be fair, he's also just angry in general. Oh, and did we mention he's racist? Yep, Iago's not really a stand-up guy no matter how you slice it.
It should come as no surprise, then, when he decides to get revenge for Othello's snub by convincing Othello that Cassio is sleeping with Othello's wife, Desdemona. It's totally untrue of course, but that's entirely beside the point. Iago wants to ruin Othello's life, and accusing him of being cuckolded is a pretty handy way to do it. There's just one little problem. Othello's no dummy. He'll see right through an outright attack on Cassio.
So, Iago decides to plant the seed and let Othello fill the rest in on his own. Iago essentially says, "Okay, if you promise you won't be jealous, you should watch Desdemona with Cassio, because things are looking a wee bit suspicious. But remember, be objectively, not jealous." Yeah, right. Iago says he knows that women of Venice are promiscuous, and though heaven knows their little exploits, their men don't. Gee, thanks for the tip, buddy.
Iago adds (to help with the objectivity bit) that Desdemona did deceive her father in order to marry Othello. He's implying, as Brabantio did earlier, that Desdemona is not to be trusted, as she is a woman, and thus a liar by nature. Yep. No one has ever accused these dudes of being feminists.
So Iago's number one goal in this scene is to let Othello brood over the possibility that Desdemona is cheating on him, an undesirable black man (his meaning, not ours). As Othello's busy wondering why he ever got married in the first place, Iago tells Othello not to think about it too much. It's probably nothing, he's probably overreacting. And yet…
Just to make sure Othello doesn't let it go though, Iago claims that Cassio called out to Desdemona in his sleep, telling her to be cautious and hide their love. Othello, not surprisingly, is furious. But Iago is quick to note that this was all just Cassio dreaming—a highly incriminating dream, no doubt, but a dream nonetheless. Regardless, Othello is totally convinced by this story about Cassio's dream. He declares it's a forgone conclusion that Cassio and Desdemona are seeing each other behind his back.