Othello

by William Shakespeare

Presented by Paul W. Collins




Copyright 2005 by Paul W. Collins






Othello

By William Shakespeare

  Presented by Paul W. Collins


All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this work may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, audio or video recording, or other, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.


Contact:  paul@wsrightnow.com


Note: Spoken lines from Shakespeare’s drama are in the public domain, as is the Globe edition (1864) of his plays, which provided the basic text of the speeches in this new version of Othello. But Othello, by William Shakespeare: Presented by Paul W. Collins, is a copyrighted work, and is made available for your personal use only, in reading and study.


Student, beware: This is a presentation, not a scholarly work, so you should be sure your teacher, instructor or professor considers it acceptable as a reference before quoting characters’ comments or thoughts from it in your report or term paper.




Chapter One

Alarm and Arrest


On a dark street in Venice—a prosperous, powerful government now in the late 16th century, controlling land from the Alps to the Baltic and territories far beyond—two men argue in muted tones as they approach the mansion of one of the Signiory’s most prominent legislators. It is almost midnight.

The younger, a landed gentleman quite fashionably attired, is irate. “Never told me!” complains Roderigo. “I take it much unkindly that thou, Iago, who hast had my purse as if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this!

’Sblood, but you will not hear me! If ever I did dream of such a matter, abhor me!”

“Thou told’st me thou didst hold him in thy hate!

“Despise me if I do not!” insists Iago, military in dress and bearing. His face reveals anger and frustration. “Three great ones of the city, in personal suit to make me his lieutenant, off-capped to him! And, by the faith of man, I know my price!—I am worth no worse a place!

“But he, as loving his own pride and purposes, evades them with a bombast of circumstance, horribly stuffed with epithets of war—and, in conclusion, nonsuits my mediators!

“‘For, certes,’ says he, ‘I have already chosen my officer.’ And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician: one Michael Cassio, a Florentine, a fellow almost damned in a fair wife,”—the young lieutenant has successfully retained his bachelorhood, “that never set a squadron in the field, nor of the division of a battle knows more than a spinster, unless by the bookish theoric wherein the toga’d consuls”—ancients—“can propose as masterly as he! Mere prattle without practise is all his soldiership!

“But he, sir, had the election! And I—whose eyes had seen the proof”—been in combat—“at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds, Christian and heathen—must be belee’d, and claimed as debtor by creditor! This counter-caster,”—game player, “he in good time must his lieutenant be, and I his Moorship’s ancient!”—ensign, standard-bearer, “God bless the mark!”

Roderigo has his own reason to despise the general. “By heaven, I rather you would have been his hangman!

“Well, but there’s no remedy. ’Tis the curse of service: preferment goes by letter and affection, and not by old gradation, where each second stood heir to the first. Now, sir, be judge yourself, whether I in any just terms am affined to love the Moor.”

“I would not follow him, then!”

Iago brushes aside the challenge. “Oh, sir, content you: I follow him to serve my turn upon him!

“We cannot all be masters—nor can all masters be truly followed. You shall mark many a duteous and knee-crooking knave that, doting in his own obsequious bondage, wears out his time much like his master’s mule, for nought but provender—and when he’s old, cashiered!”—dismissed without pension. “Whip me such honest knaves!

“Others there are who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, yet keep their hearts attending on themselves, and, throwing but shows of service on their lords, do well thrive by them!—and when they have lined their coats, do themselves homage. Those fellows have some soul!

“And such an one do I profess myself! For, sir, it is as sure as you are Roderigo, were I not Iago, I would be no Moor!” he says wryly. “In following him, I follow but myself. Heaven is my judge: not for love and duty, I, but seeming so for my peculiar end. For when my outward action doth demonstrate the native act and figure of my heart in complement extern, ’tis not long after but I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at!

“I am not what I am.”

Roderigo sees Iago’s duplicity as an asset for his own jealous scheming; he returns angrily to the reason they’re here this warm night. “What a full fortune does the thicklips own if he can carry’t thus!”

Iago instigates by inciting. “Call up her father; rouse him! Make after him!—poison his delight! Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen! As though he dwelt in a fertile climate,”—a manured field—“plague him with flies!

“Though that this toy be joy, yet throw such charge of vexation on’t as it may lose some colour!”

Roderigo stops. “Here is her father’s house. I’ll call aloud.”

Do!—with like accent of fright and dire yell as when, by night and negligence, fire is spied in populous cities!”

“What, ho, Brabantio,” calls Roderigo. “Signior Brabantio, ho!”

Iago shakes his head at his companion’s feeble effort. “Awake! What ho!—Brabantio!” roars the soldier. “Thieves! Thieves! Thieves! Look to your house, your daughter, and your moneybags! Thieves! Thieves!

The senator himself, in a shirt, throws open the casement of a window in the building’s second story. “What is the reason of this terrible summons? What is the matter there?”

“Signior, is all your family within?” asks Roderigo.

Are your doors locked?” cries Iago.

Brabantio frowns. “Why, wherefore ask you this?”

’Zounds, sir, you’re robbed!” shouts Iago. “For shame! Put on your gown!—your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul!—even now, now, very now, an old black ram is topping your white ewe! Arise, arise!awake the snoring citizens with the bell, or else the Devil will make a grandsire of you! Arise, I say!”

Brabantio stares down at two dark figures in the shadowy street. “What, have you lost your wits?

“Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?” asks Roderigo reasonably.

“Not I; who are you?

“My name is Roderigo.”

Brabantio is further annoyed. “Then worser welcome! I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors! In honest plainness thou hast heard me say my daughter is not for thee! And now—in madness, being full of supper and distempering draughts—upon malicious knavery dost thou come to startle my quiet!

Roderigo pleads: “Sir, sir, sir—”

“But thou must needs be sure my spirit and my place have in them power to make this bitter to thee!” warns Brabantio.

“—patience, good sir….”

“What tell’st thou me of robbing?” demands the nobleman in disgust. “This is Venice; my house is not a grange!

Roderigo tries again. “Most grave Brabantio, in simple and pure soul I come to you—”

’Zounds, sir,” cries Iago impatiently, “you are one of those that will not serve God even if the Devil bid you to! We come to do you service, but because you think we are ruffians, you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse!—you’ll have your nephews neigh to you!—you’ll have coursers for cousins and ponies germane!

Brabantio is revolted. “What profane wretch art thou?

“I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs!

“Thou art a villain!” cries the old man, livid.

“You are a senator!” retorts Iago.

“This thou shalt answer!” vows Brabantio. “I know thee, Roderigo!”

The young man pleads: “Sir, I will answer anything, but I beseech you!

“If’t be your pleasure and most wise consent, as partly I find it is, that your fair daughter at this odd-to-even in the dull watch o’ the night”—between eleven and twelve—“be transported—with no worse nor better guard than a knave of common hire, a gondolier—to the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor… if this be known to you and your allowance, then we have done you bold and saucy wrongs.

“But if you knew this not, my manners tell me we have your wrong rebuke!

“Do not believe that in despite of the sense of all civility I thus would play and trifle with Your Reverence! I say again: your daughter, if you have not given her leave, hath made a gross revolt!—tying her duty, beauty, wit and fortunes to an extravagant and wheeling stranger of here and everywhere!”—an itinerant foreigner. “Straight satisfy yourself: if she be in her chamber or your house, let loose on me the justice of the state for thus deluding you!”

Brabantio turns away. “Strike on the tinderbox, ho! Give me a taper! Call up all my people!” Thinks the old nobleman to himself, This occurrence is not unlike my dream! Belief of it oppresses me already! Light, I say! Light!” He moves back from the window.

Iago tells Roderigo, quietly, “Farewell. I must leave you. It seems not meet nor wholesome to my place to be producèd—as, if I stay, I shall—against the Moor.

“I do know that, however this may gall him with some check, the state cannot with safety cast him out; for he’s embarkèd with much loud praise to the Cyprus wars—which even now stand in act—and, for their souls, another of his fathom they have none to lead their business.

“In which regard, though I do hate him as I do hell-pains, yet, for necessity of present life, I must show out the flag and sign of love—which is indeed but sign.

“So that you shall surely find him, lead the raisèd search to the Sagittary, and there will I be with him. So, farewell!” The ensign strides away, headed for the general’s hostelry.

The house’s heavy front doors swing open and Brabantio hurries out., followed by several servants, two of them bearing torches. He is highly distraught. “It is too true an evil!—gone she is! And what’s to come of my despisèd time is nought but bitterness!

“Now, Roderigo, where didst thou see her? —Oh, unhappy girl! With the Moor, say’st thou?” He groans. “Who would be a father?

“How didst thou know ’twas she? —Oh, she deceives me past thought! What said she to you?

“Get more tapers! Raise all my kindred!” the senator orders his men, as more come to join him. Brabantio chews his lip. “Are they married, think you?”

“Truly, I think they are.”

O heaven! How got she out? Oh, treason of the blood! Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters’ minds but by what you see them act!

“Be there not charms, by which the property of youth and maidenhood may be abusèd? Have you not read, Roderigo, of some such thing?”

“Yes, sir, I have indeed,” replies Roderigo—truthfully; his long searching has been fervent and assiduous, if fruitless.

“Call up my brother!” Brabantio tells an attendant. He turns to Roderigo. “Oh, would that you had had her!

“Some one way, some another!” the senator tells the shuffling men; but then he stops them with a gesture. He asks the rejected suitor, “Do you know where we may apprehend her and the Moor?”

“I think I can discover him, if you please to get good guard and go along with me.”

“Pray you, lead on! At every house I’ll call; I may command at most,” says the politician. “Get weapons, ho! And raise some special officers of night!

On, good Roderigo; I’ll deserve your pains!”—by rewarding them.


Under the stately old inn’s weathered wooden sign—painted to depict a centaur, his bow drawn taut with an arrow ready to release—Iago emerges onto the street following Othello, a tall, powerfully built man. Several of the general’s attendants follow with torches.

Without telling of his own part in it, Iago has reported Lord Brabantio’s rousing by young Roderigo—whom he has described with disgust. “Though in the trade of war I have slain men, yet do I hold it very stuff o’ the conscience to do no contrivèd murder—I lack iniquity sometimes to do me service! Nine or ten times I had thought to have yerked him here, under the ribs!”—stabbed the swain.

Othello is not worried. “’Tis better as it is.”

“Nay, but he prated, and spoke such scurvy and provoking terms against Your Honour that, with the little godliness I have, I full hard did forbear him!

“But, I pray you, sir, are you securely married? Be assured of it!—the magnifico is much belovèd, and hath in his effect a voice potentially as double the duke’s! He will divorce you, or put upon you whatever restraint and grievance the law, with all his might to enforce it on, will give him cable!”

Othello stops to pull on gloves. “Let him do his spite. My services which I have done the Signiory shall out-tongue his complaints.

“’Tis yet to be known—which, when I know that boasting is an honour, I shall promulgate—I fetch my life and being from men of royal holdings; yet my deemèd merits may speak to as proud a fortune as this that I have reached.

“Know, Iago, but that I love the gentle Desdemona, I would not my unhousèd, free condition put into circumscription and confine for the sea’s worth!” The commander, a wealthy Mauritanian prince of forty-five, had long eschewed marriage.

He sees torches approaching. “But, look! What lights come, yond?”

Iago is visibly alarmed. “Those are the raisèd father and his friends!—you were best go in!

“Not I,” says Othello, utterly confident. “I must be found: my parts, my title and my complete soul shall manifest me rightly. Is it they?”

As the party rushes forward behind them, Iago is surprised. “By Janus, I think no!”

Othello nods, recognizing them. “The servants of the duke, and my lieutenant.” With Cassio are two other officers of his command, and servants. “The goodness of the night upon you, friends! What is the news?”

Cassio speaks as he bows. “The duke does greet you, general, and he requires your haste, post haste, appearance, even on the instant!”

“What is the matter, think you?”

“Something from Cyprus, as I may divine,” Cassio tells him. “It is a business of some heat!—the sequent galleys have sent a dozen messengers this very night at one another’s heels, and many of the consuls are raisèd and met at the duke’s already!

You have been hotly called for!—not being found at your lodging, the Senate hath sent about three several quests to search you out!”

Othello nods. “’Tis well I am found by you! I will but spend a word here in the house, and go with you.” He enters the inn to tell his bride he must answer an urgent summons from the Duke of Venice.

Cassio asks Iago, “Ancient, what makes he here?

“’Faith, he tonight hath boarded a land vessel,” says the cynical soldier. “If it prove lawful prize, he’s made fast forever.”

“I do not understand.”

“He’s married.”

“To whom?

“Marry, to—” He bows as Othello returns. “Come, captain, will you go?”

Othello nods to them. “Have with you.”

But Cassio points down the narrow street. “Here comes another troop to seek for you.”

“It is Brabantio!” says Iago. “General, be advisèd: he comes to bad intent!”

The prominent lord hurries forward, accompanied by constables with torches. Roderigo follows.

Othello raises a hand to halt them. “Holla! Stand there!”

“Signior, it is the Moor,” Roderigo tells Brabantio—quite unnecessarily.

Down with him,” cries the old man. “Thief!

At that affront, the men with the general draw their rapiers—and Brabantio’s quickly draw theirs.

“You, Roderigo!” cries Iago menacingly. “Come, sir, I am for you!”

But Othello calmly steps forward, raising a hand. “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.” He faces the white-haired senator squarely. “Good signior, you shall more command with your years than with weapons.”

“O thou foul thief! Where hast thou stowed my daughter?

Damned as thou art, thou hast enchanted her! For I’ll refer me to all things of sense: if she were not bound in chains of magic—a maid so tender, fair and happy, so opposite to marriage that she shunned the wealthy, curlèd darlings of our nation—would she ever incur a general mock, running from her guardage to the sooty bosom of such a thing as thou?—unto fear, not to delight!

“Judge the world if ’tis not gross in sense”—obvious—“that thou hast practised on her with foul charms—abused her delicate youth with drugs, or minerals that weaken motion! I’ll have’t disputed on; ’tis probable, and palpable to thinking!

“I therefore apprehend and do attach thee for an abuser of the world!—a practiser of arts prohibited and out of warrant!”

Brabantio motions to the city officers, “Lay hold upon him! If he do resist, subdue him at his peril!” The parties move closer, blades held forward.

Othello again halts them: “Hold your hands, both you of my inclining and the rest! Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it without a prompter.” He asks the senator, “Where will you that I go to answer this your charge?”

“To prison till fit time, as law courts call thee to answer direct in session!”

Othello glances toward the Signiory men with him. “What if I do obey? How may the duke be therewith satisfied, whose messengers are here about my side, upon some present business of the state to bring me to him?”

“’Tis true, most worthy signior,” one of that group tells Brabantio. “The duke’s in council—and your noble self, I am sure, is sent for!”

Brabantio is surprised. “What? The duke in council!—at this time of the night!” He ponders for a moment.

“Bring him away,” says Brabantio; they will go to the palace.

At Othello’s nod, his men sheathe their weapons; he bows, waiting courteously for the legislator to lead the way.

The senator is confident. “Mine’s not an idle cause! The duke himself, or any of my brothers of the state, cannot but feel this wrong as ’twere their own! For if such actions may have passage free, bond-slaves and pagans shall our statesmen be!”


Chapter Two

Arraignment, Assignment


Torchlight illuminates the extensive Venetian state’s ornate council chamber, where—in the middle of a summer night—the duke and his panel of powerful advisers sit at a long oak table, attended by military officers.

At issue in this emergency session: threatening moves by Turks of the vast Ottoman Empire against Venetian territories around the eastern Mediterranean.

“There is no composition in these news that gives them credit,” says the frowning duke, tapping the missives before him.

“Indeed, they are disproportioned,” says a senator. “My letters say a hundred and seven galleys.”

“And mine, a hundred and forty,” the duke notes.

“And mine, two hundred,” adds another legislator. “But though they jump not on a just account—and in these cases, where the reports aim ’tis oft with difference—yet do they all confirm a Turkish fleet—and bearing up to Cyprus!”

The duke nods. “Aye, it is possible enough in judgment. I do not so secure me to the errors but that the main article I do approve in fearful sense!

They hear the voice of a man coming quickly down the corridor, calling ahead: “What, ho! What, ho! What ho!

“A messenger from the galleys,” an officer advises.

“Now, what’s the business?” asks the duke, as a sailor hurries to the council, stopping in front of the table to remove his cap and bow.

“The Turkish preparation makes for Rhodes!” says the seaman. “So was I bid report here to the state by Signior Angelo!”

The duke looks to the council. “How say you by this change?”

“This cannot be—by no assay of reason,” says a portly old senator. “’Tis a pageant, to keep us in false watch!

“When we consider the importancy of Cyprus to the Turk—and let ourselves again but understand that, as it more concerns the Turk than Rhodes, so may he with more facile question beard it,”—readily challenge it. “And it stands not in such warlike brace, but altogether lacks the abilities that Rhodes is dressed in.

“If we make thought of this, we must not think the Turk is so unskilful as to leave that for later which concerns him first!—neglecting an attempt of ease and gain, to wait and wage a danger profitless.”

The duke concurs: “Aye, in all confidence, he’s not for Rhodes.”

“Here is more news,” says the officer, as another man arrives.

“Reverend and Gracious,” says the naval messenger with a bow, “the Ottomites, steering with due course towards the isle of Rhodes, have there injointed them with an after fleet!”

Ah, so I thought!” cries the senator. “How many, as you guess?”

Of thirty sail!—and now they do re-stem their course, bearing backward—with frank appearance their purposes toward Cyprus!—where Signior Montano, your trusty and most valiant servitor, of his free duty recommends you do thus, and prays you relieve him!”

Governor Montano has no military experience, and the island is protected by far fewer Venetian troops than are stationed on Rhodes.

“’Tis certain, then, for Cyprus,” the duke concludes. “Marcus Luccicos—is not he in town?”

“He’s now in Florence,” a councilor notes.

“Write from us to him!—post post-hastedispatch!” A messenger hurries away.

The rotund senator nods toward the doors. “Here comes Brabantio—and the valiant Moor!”

The Venetian nobleman and a constable enter the chamber, followed by Othello and Iago. Roderigo comes in behind them.

Says the duke gravely, “Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you against the general enemy Ottoman!” He looks at Brabantio—annoyed at the legislator’s tardy arrival. “I did not see you; welcome, gentle signior. We lacked your counsel and your help tonight,” he adds pointedly.

“So did I yours,” replies Brabantio. “Good Your Grace, pardon me; neither my place nor aught I heard of business hath raisèd me from my bed—nor doth the general care take hold on me! For my particular grief is of so flood-gate and o’erbearing nature that it engluts and swallows other sorrows!—and it is still itself!

“Why, what’s the matter?” asks the duke.

“My daughter! Oh, my daughter!

An elderly senator, seeing the man’s misery, asks, “Dead?”

“Aye—to me!” moans Brabantio. “She is abused!stolen from me and corrupted by spells, and medicines bought of mountebanks! For a nature so preposterously to err—being not lame, blind or deficient of sense, sans witchcraft could not!

The duke is disturbed. “Whoe’er he be that in this foul proceeding hath thus beguilèd your daughter of herself, and you of her, the bloody book of law you shall yourself read, in the bitter letter after your own sense!—yea, though our proper son stood in your action!”

“Humbly I thank Your Grace,” says Brabantio. He points: “Here is the man!—this Moor, whom now, it seems, your special mandate for the state’s affairs hath hither brought!”

The senators exchange uncomfortable glances; commenting quietly among themselves, they regard Brabantio with sympathy.

The duke asks Othello, “What in your own part can you say to this?”

Brabantio interjects: “Nothing but this is so!

Othello strides to stand before the council table’s row of candles. “Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors, my very noble and approvèd good masters,” he begins, “that I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter, it is most true—true I have married her! The very head and front of my offending hath this extent, no more.

“Rude am I in my speech, and little blessed with the soft phrases of peace. Because these arms of mine have seven years’ pith,”—full maturity, “and till now some nine moons wasted they have used their dearest action in the tented field, of this great world little more can I speak than pertains to feats of broil and battle. And therefore little shall I grace my cause by speaking for myself.

“Yet, by your gracious patience, I will a round, unvarnished tale deliver of my whole course of love—what drugs, what charms, what conjuration and what mighty magic—for by such proceeding, I am chargèd—I won his daughter.”

“A maiden never bold,” says Brabantio, “of spirit so still and quiet that her emotion blushed at itself!—and for her, in spite of nature, of years, of country, credit, everything, to fall in love with what she feared to look upon?—it is a judgment maimed and most imperfect that will profess perfection could so err against all rules of Nature! One must be driven to find out practises of cunning Hell why this should be!

“I therefore vouch again that with some mixtures powerful o’er the blood, or with some dram conjured to this effect, he wrought upon her!”

The duke is not to be persuaded by repetition. “To avouch this is no proof, without more wider and more overt test than these thin habits and poor likelihoods of modern seeming do prefer against him!”

“But, Othello, speak!” urges a senator. “Did you by indirect and forcèd courses subdue and poison this young maid’s affections?—or came it by request, and such fair question as soul to soul affordeth.”

“I do beseech you, send to the Sagittary for the lady,” says Othello, “and let her speak of me, before her father. If you do find me foul in her report, the trust, the office I do hold from you not only take away, but let your sentence even fall upon my life!

“Fetch Desdemona hither,” orders the duke.

Othello turns to Iago. “Ancient, conduct them; you best know the place.” Iago bows and goes. “And, till she come, as truly as to Heaven I do confess the vices of my blood, so justly to your grave ears I’ll present how I did thrive in this fair lady’s love, and she in mine.”

The duke nods to him. “Say it, Othello.”

The general pauses for a moment, remembering. “Her father welcomed me—oft invited me, and questioned me for the story of my life: from year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes, that I have passed.

“I ran through it, even from my boyish days to the very moment that he bade me tell it, wherein I spake of most disastrous chances, of stirring incidents by flood and field, of hair-breadth ’scapes in the imminent, deadly breach!

“Of being taken by the insolent foe and sold to slavery!—of my redemption thence!

“Of the cannibals that each other eat; the anthropophagi—and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders!

“And of portents in my travels’ history, wherein it was my dint to speak of caverns vast and deserts idle, rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven!

“Such was the ‘practise.’

“This to hear would Desdemona seriously incline. But oft the house’s affairs would draw her thence—after which, as she could ever with haste dispatch, she’d come again, and with a greedy ear devour up my discourse.

“Observing which, I took once a pliant hour and found good means to draw from her a prayer of earnest heart that I would all my pilgrimage dilate, whereof by parcels she had something heard, but not intensively.” He smiles wryly. “I did consent.” The advisers chuckle.

“And often did ‘beguile’ her—of her tears, when I did speak of some distressful stroke that my youth suffered. My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs! She swore, in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas surpassing strange, ’twas piteous, ’twas wondrous piteous!

“She wished she had not heard it—yet she wished that heaven had made for her such a man! She thanked me, and bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, and that would woo her, I should but teach him how to tell my story!

“Upon this hint, I spake.” He regards the council. “She loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them. This only is the ‘witchcraft’ I have used.” He nods toward the doors. “Here comes the lady; let her witness it.”

Desdemona, a beautiful young noblewoman, arrives, accompanied by Iago.

The duke has been impressed by Othello’s account of their courtship. “I think this tale would win my daughter, too!

“Good Brabantio, take up this mangled matter for the best,” he advises. “Men do their broken weapons rather use than their bare hands.”

“I pray you, hear her speak!” insists Brabantio. “If she confess that she was half the wooer, destruction on my head if my bad blame light on the man!

“Come hither, gentle mistress,” he says sternly. “Do you perceive in all this noble company where most you owe obedience?”

Desdemona goes to him and curtseys. “My noble father, I do perceive here a divided duty. To you I am bound for life and education; both do teach me how to respect you. You are the lord of duty; I am hitherto your daughter.

“But here’s my husband; and so much duty as my mother showed to you, preferring you before her father, so much I challenge that I may profess as due to my lord, the Moor.”

Brabantio’s face flushes; he is stunned. “God be wi’ you. I have done.

“Please it Your Grace, on to the state-affairs,” he says grimly to the duke. “I had rather to adopt a child than beget it!” He glares. “Come hither, Moor.” Othello faces him. “I here do give thee that with all my heart which, but thou hast it already, with all my heart I would keep from thee!

Brabantio turns to Desdemona. “As for your sale, jewel, I am glad at soul I have no other children, for thy escape would teach me tyranny, to hang clogs on them!

“I have done, my lord.”

Says the kindly duke, “Let me speak like yourself, and lay a sentence which as a step or stair may help these lovers into your favour.

“When remedies are past, then griefs are ended by seeing the worst which lately on hopes depended; to mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the nearest way to draw new mischief on!

“What cannot be preserved when Fortune takes, Patience her injury a mockery makes. The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief; he robs himself who spends a bootless grief.”

The rhyming aphorisms only aggravate Brabantio’s distress; he replies—in kind: “So let the Turk of Cyprus us beguile; we lose it not, so long as we can smile!

“He hears a sentence well who nothing bears but the comfort, which, free from thence, he wears,” the old man counters sourly. “But he bears both the sentence and the sorrow who to pay grief must from poor Patience borrow!

“These sentences, to sugar or to gall, being strong on both sides, are equivocal. Words are but words; I never yet did hear that the bruisèd heart was piercèd through the ear!

“I humbly beseech you, proceed to the affairs of state.”

The Duke of Venice nods. “The Turk, with a most mighty preparation, makes for Cyprus.

“Othello, the fortification of the place is best known to you; and though we have there a substitute of most allowèd sufficiency, yet opinion of effects, a sovereign mistress, throws a more safer voice on you. You must therefore be content to slubber the gloss of your new fortunes with this more stubborn and boisterous expedition.”

Othello bows. “The tyrant custom, most grave senators, hath made my bed of down the flint and steel couch of thrice-driven war.” He looks at Desdemona. “I do agonize; yet a natural and prompt alacrity I find in hardness—and I do undertake these present wars against the Ottomites!

“Therefore, most humbly bending to your state, I crave fit disposition for my wife—due reference of place, with such accommodation and expedition as besorts and levels with her breeding.”

The duke still hopes for reconciliation. “If you please, be’t at her father’s.”

I’ll not have it so!” says Brabantio.

“Nor I,” says Othello.

“Nor I!” cries Desdemona. “I would not there reside, to put my father in impatient thoughts by being in his eye. Most gracious duke, to my unfolding lend your prosperous ear, and let me find a charter in your voice to assist my simpleness.”

“What would you, Desdemona?”

“That I do love the Moor, may living with him, despite downright violence and storm of fortunes, trumpet to the world! My heart’s subdued even to the very quality of my lord; I saw Othello’s visage in his mind—and to his honour and his valiant parts did I my soul and fortunes consecrate!

“So that, dear lords, if I be left behind, a moth of peace, and he go to the war, the rites for which I love him are bereft me, and I a heavy interim shall support in his dear absence!

“Let me go with him!”

“Let her have your voices”—approval, Othello urges the councilors. “Vouch with me, Heaven: I therefore beg, not to please the palate of my appetite nor to comply with heat—the young affections in me being defunct for satisfaction per se—but to be free and bounteous with her mind!

“And heaven defend your good souls, should you think I will your serious and great business scant for that she is with me! No! When light-winged toys of feathered Cupid seal with wanton dullness my speculative and officed instruments such that my disports corrupt and taint my business, let housewives make a skillet of my helm, and all indign and base adversities make head against my estimation!

The duke is impatient. “Be it as you shall privately determine, either for her staying or going. The affair cries haste, and speed must answer it!”

“You must away tonight!” says a senator.

The bride is taken aback. “Tonight, my lord?”

Othello takes her hand. “With all my heart!”

The duke rises and addresses the council. “At nine i’ the morning here we’ll meet again.

“Othello, leave some officer behind, and he shall our commission bring to you, with such things else of quality and respect as doth import you.”

Othello nods. “So please Your Grace, my ancient—a man he is of honesty and trust—to his conveyance I assign my wife, with what else needful your good grace shall think to be sent after me.”

“Let it be so,” says the duke. “Good night to everyone!” He addresses Brabantio: “And, noble signior, if Virtue no delighted beauty lack, your son-in-law is more fair than black!”

“Adieu, brave Moor,” says a senator at the table. “Use Desdemona well.”

Brabantio, leaving, turns back. “Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see! She has deceived her father—and she may thee!

“My life upon her faith!” replies Othello, as his father-in-law stalks away. “Honest Iago, my Desdemona must I leave to thee. I prithee, let thy wife attend on her, and bring them after in the best advantage.

“Come, Desdemona! I have but an hour of love, from worldly matters and direction, to spend with thee! We must obey the time!”


As the council chamber clears, Roderigo approaches the ensign. “Iago….”

“What say’st thou, noble heart?”

“What will I do, thinkest thou?”

Iago yawns. “Why, go to bed and sleep.”

“I will incontinently drown myself!” Roderigo is heartsick and distressed; Desdemona has married—and she is leaving.

“If thou dost, I shall never love thee after! Why, thou silly gentleman?”

“Is it silliness to live, when to live is torment?” moans Roderigo. “Then have we a prescription to die, and Death is our physician.”

“Oh, villainous!” Iago has no tolerance for such sorrow. “I have looked upon the world for four-times-seven years, and ever since I could distinguish betwixt a benefit and an injury I never found a man that knew how to love himself! Ere I would say I would drown myself for the love of a guinea-hen I would exchange my humanity with a baboon!

“What should I do?” pleads Roderigo. “I confess it is my shame to be so fond, but it is not in my virtue to amend it.”

Iago scoffs, disgusted by Roderigo’s thralldom: “Virtue?—a fig!

’Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus! Our bodies are our gardens, unto the which our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed-up thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many, have it either sterile with idleness or manured with industry—why, the power and corrigible authority of that lies in our wills!

“If the balance-scale of our lives had not one tray of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions! But we have reason to cool our raging emotions, our carnal stings, our unbidden lust—of which I take this that you call love to be a sect or scion!”

Either way, Roderigo suffers; he looks down, morose. “It cannot be.”

“It is merely a lust of the blood in a permission of the will! Come, be a man! Drown thyself?—drown cats and blind puppies!

Iago sees that his source of cash needs encouragement—and a course of action. “I have professed me thy friend—and I confess me knit to thy deserving with cables of perdurable toughness!

“I could never better stead thee than now!” he argues brightly. “Put money in thy purse; follow thou the wars! Defeat thy face with an usurpèd beard!”—go in disguise.

Roderigo listens; a scheme to keep pursuing his adored lady appeals to the youth.

“I say, put money in thy purse!” says Iago, smiling in eager anticipation of the enterprise. “It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to a Moor!

“Put money in thy purse,” he urges warmly, “—nor he his to her! It was a violent commencement, and thou shalt see an answerable sequestration!

“Put but money in thy purse—these Moors are changeable in their wills—

Fill thy purse with money! The food that to him now is luscious as sweets shall shortly be to him acerbic as coloquintida!”—as bitter as the purgative. “She must exchange for youth! When she is unsated with his body, she will find the error of her choice!—she must have change, she must!

“Therefore put money in thy purse!

Iago sees that the fop is coming around. “If thou wilt needs damn thyself, do it a more delicate way than drowning!” he says with a leer. He claps the young man on the back and laughs. “Make all the money thou canst!

“If sanctimony and a frail vow betwixt an errant barbarian and a supersubtle Venetian are not too hard for my wits and all the tribe of Hell, thou shalt enjoy her!” he vows vehemently. “Therefore make money!”—transform property into it.

“A pox on drowning thyself!—it is clear out of the way!” He puts an arm around Roderigo’s narrow shoulders. “Seek thou rather to be hanged for encompassing thy joy than to be drowned without her!”

Roderigo is almost persuaded. “Wilt thou be fast to my hopes, if I depend on the issue?” he asks.

“Thou art sure of me!—go, make money. I have told thee often, and I re-tell thee again and again: I hate the Moor! My cause is hearted; thine hath no less reason—let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him! If thou canst cuckold him, thou dost thyself a pleasure, me a sport!

“There are many events in the womb of time which will be deliverèd! Traverse! Go, provide thee with money!

But now the ensign has work to do for the state. “We will have more of this tomorrow. Adieu!”

“Where shall we meet i’ the morning?”

“At my lodging.”

Roderigo nods. “I’ll be with thee betimes.”

“Go to; fare well!” As the younger man starts to leave, Iago grasps his arm firmly. “Do you hear, Roderigo!”

“What say you?”

Iago’s smile seems kindly. “No more of drowning, do you hear?”

“I am changèd,” Roderigo assures him. “I’ll go sell all my land!” He leaves, enjoying his restored hope of buying happiness.

Iago watches him go. Thus do I ever make my fool my purse; for I mine own gainèd knowledge should profane if I would time expend with such a snipe but for my sport and profit!

I do hate the Moor—and it is thought abroad that ’twixt my sheets he has done my office. I know not if’t be true; but I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety.

He regards me well; the better shall my purpose work on him.

Cassio’s a proper man. Let me see, now…. To get his place and to plume up my will doubles the knavery! How?…how?

Let’s see…. After some time, to abuse Othello’s ear that he is too familiar with his wife! Iago pictures the handsome lieutenant. He hath the person and the smooth dispose to be suspected—framèd to make women false!

The Moor is of a free and open nature; he thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will be led by the nose as tenderly as asses are.

I have’t!—it is engendered!

Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light!


Chapter Three

Storm and Celebration


On Cyprus this stormy morning, Governor Montano and two other Venetian gentlemen have climbed to the headland overlooking their stronghold’s long stone wharf and stood peering out through the rain. Their anxiety is growing; dark clouds loom over the rolling waves. “What from the cape can you discern at sea?” asks the governor.

The officer who had been watching there reports. “Nothing at all! It is a highwrought flood—I cannot, ’twixt the heaven and the main, descry a sail!”

“Methinks the wind hath spoken loud to land!—a fuller blast ne’er shook our battlements!” declares Montano. He wonders about the ships coming from Venice. “If it hath ruffian’d so upon the sea, what ribs of oak, when mountains melt on them, can hold their mortise? What shall we hear of this?

“A segregation of the Turkish fleet!” offers his hopeful deputy. “For do but stand upon the foaming shore—the chidden billow seems to pelt the clouds: the wind-shakèd surge with high and monstrous mane seems to cast water on the burning bear, and quench the guards of the ever-fixèd pole!”—the constellation and star. “I never did such molestation view on the enchafèd flood!”

The wind whips Montano’s wet cloak about him. “If that the Turkish fleet be not ensheltered and embayèd, they are drowned! It is impossible they bear it out!”

Another gentleman rushes up the slope behind them. “News, lads! Our wars are done! The desperate tempest hath so banged the Turks that their designment halts!—a noble ship of Venice hath seen a grievous wreck and sufferance on most part of their fleet!”

What? Is this true?

“The ship is here put in, the Veronessa; Michael Cassio, lieutenant to the warlike Moor, Othello, is come on shore! The Moor himself is at sea—and in full commission here for Cyprus!”

“I am glad on’t; ’tis a worthy governor!” says Montano.

“But this same Cassio, though he speak of comfort touching the Turkish loss, yet he looks grave,” the gentleman notes, “and prays the Moor be safe—for they were parted by foul and violent tempest.”

“Pray heavens he be!—for I have served him, and the man commands full like a soldier!

“Let’s to the seaside go, as well to see the vessel that’s come in as to throw out our eyes for brave Othello, even till we make the main and the aerial blue an indistinct regard!”—a blended blur. He starts down toward the shore.

“Come, let’s do so,” nods the deputy, “for every minute is expectancy of more arrivance!”

The driving rain is subsiding, but with hands still securing hats against the bluster, the men hurry down the hill and past the long citadel wall.


By the bay, and sheltered from the storm, they can see Cassio’s ship at the wharf; its passengers have disembarked, and the lieutenant comes to meet them. After his party’s warm military reception he bows. “Thanks, you the valiant of this warlike isle—and may the Moor so arrive!” he says. “Oh, let the heavens give him defence against the elements, for I have lost him to us on a dangerous sea!”

“Is he well shipped?” asks Montano.

“His vessel is stoutly timbered, his pilot of very expert and approvèd allowance; therefore my hope is that, if not surfeited to death, it stand bold in care.”

A sail,” cries a distant voice. “A sail, a sail!” shout others.

“What noise?” asks Cassio.

Says a gentleman, “The town is empty: on the brow o’ the sea stand ranks of the people, and they cry, ‘A sail!’”

The sweeping curtains of rain have diminished, and Cassio spots a vessel as it struggles in the still-churning swells. “My hopes do shape it as the governor’s!”

Over the water comes a Boom! of cannon-fire. “They do discharge their shot of courtesy!—our friends at least!” says the deputy.

“I pray you, sir, go forth,” Cassio tells him, “and give us truth who ’tis that is arrived.”

The official bows. “I shall!” He hurries out toward the pier at which the ship is to dock.

Montano thinks about Othello’s return—as governor. “But, good lieutenant, is your general wived?”

“Most fortunately!—he hath achieved a maid that paragons description by wild Fame!—one that excels the quirks of blazoning pens, and in the essential vesture of Creation does tire the ingeners!”—tax the angels.

He asks the returning deputy, “How now? Who has put in?”

“’Tis one Iago, ancient to the general.”

Cassio is surprised. “He’s had most favourable and happy speed!

Tempests themselves, high seas and howling winds, guttered rocks and the congregated sands—traitors ensteepèd to clog the guiltless keel—as if having sense of beauty do omit their lethal natures to let go safely by the divine Desdemona!

“Who is she?” asks Montano.

“She that I spake of: our great captain’s captain, left in the conduct of the bold Iago, whose footing here anticipates our thoughts by a se’nnight’s speed!” The ensign’s sleek vessel has made such good time as to arrive a week earlier than expected.

“Great Jove,” calls Cassio to the stormy sky, “guard Othello, and swell his sail with thine own powerful breath, that he may bless this bay with his tall ship, make love’s quick pants in Desdemona’s arms, give renewèd fire to our extincted spirits, and bring all Cyprus comfort!”

They are soon joined on the wharf by Desdemona and Iago, with his wife, Emilia, and various servants. Roderigo, disguised with a mustache and beard, follows, attending Iago in his new, military capacity.

“Oh, behold,” cries Cassio, “the richness of the ship is come on shore! Ye men of Cyprus, let her have your knees!” The men kneel and courteously sweep off their hats. “Hail to thee, lady! And the grace of heaven, before, behind thee, and on every hand, enwheel thee round!”

After the perilous passage, Desdemona is glad to be on land. “I thank you, valiant Cassio. What tidings can you tell me of my lord?

“He is not yet arrivèd; nor know I aught but that he’s well, and will shortly be here.”

“Oh, but I fear! How lost you company?”

“The great contention of the sea and skies parted our fellowship—but hark!—‘A sail!’”

From the citizens comes the cry, “A sail, a sail!” A shipboard cannon is heard.

“They give their greeting to the citadel,” notes a gentleman. “This likewise is a friend!”

“See for the news!” urges Cassio, and the Cypriot goes into the fort to ask the watch, who is observing from above.

Cassio greets Iago and his wife. “Good ancient, you are well come! Welcome, mistress!

“Let it not gall your patience, good Iago, that I extend my manners; ’tis my breeding that gives me this bold show of courtesy.” He kisses Emilia’s cheek.

“Sir, would she give you so much of her lips as of her tongue she oft bestows on me, you’d have enough!”

Even his wife is surprised at Iago’s offhand—and rudely ambiguous—comment.

Desdemona is amused, seeing Emilia blush. “Alas, she has no speech!”

“In faith, too much!” counters Iago. “I find it when I have list to sleep! Marry, before Your Ladyship I grant, she puts her heart in her tongue but little—and chides with thinking!

Emilia is indignant. “You have little cause to say so!”

Iago teases the women: “Come on, come on, you are pictures out of doors, belles in your parlors, wild-cats in your kitchens, saints in your injuries, devils being offended, players at your housewifery—and hussies in your beds!

Desdemona laughs. “Oh, fie upon thee, slanderer!”

“Nay, it is true, or else I am a Turk! You rise to play—and go to bed to work!

Emilia jeers. “You shall not write my praise!”

“No, let me not!”

Desdemona challenges him: “What wouldst thou write of me if thou shouldst praise me?”

Iago demurs. “Oh, gentle lady, do not put me to’t; for I am nothing if not critical.”

“Come on, assay!” says Desdemona. She again looks toward the long wharf. “There’s someone gone to the harbour?”

Iago nods. “Aye, madam.”

Desdemona’s white-gloved hands are clasped tightly. I am not merry; I do but beguile the thing I am by seeming otherwise. “Come, how wouldst thou praise me?”

“I am going about it,” Iago tells her, “but indeed invention comes from my pate as birdlime does from wool cloth: it plucks out, brains and all! But, my Muse labours; and thus is deliverèd: ‘If she be fair and wise—Beauty and Wit—the one’s for use; the other useth it!’”

Desdemona laughs. “Well praisèd! How if she be dark”—not fair, not blonde—“and witty?”

“If she be black, and thereto have a wit, she’ll find a white that shall her blackness fit!” His leer reflects a salty meaning.

Desdemona chuckles. “Worse and worse!”

Emilia asks, “How if fair and foolish?”

“She never yet was fool-ish that was fair; for even her folly helped her to an heir!

Desdemona shakes her head. “These are old—fond paradoxes to make fools laugh i’ the alehouse! What miserable ‘praise’ hast thou for her that’s foul and foolish?”

“There’s none so foul and foolish thereunto but does the foul pranks which fair and wise ones do!”

“Oh, heavy ignorance!—thou praisest the worst best!” laughs Desdemona. “But what praise couldst thou bestow on a woman indeed deserving?—one who, in the authority of her merit, did justly put off the vouch of very Malice itself!”

Iago recites:

“She that was ever fair and never proud,

Had tongue at will, but was never loud,

Never lacked gold, and never went astray;

Fled from her wish, said but ‘Now, I may’—

She that being angered, her revenge being nigh,

Bade her wrong wait and her displeasure fly

She that in wisdom was ne’er so frail

To exchange cod’s head for salmon’s tail—

She that could think, but ne’er disclose her mind,

See suitors following, and not look behind

She was a wight, if ever such wight were—”

The lady asks, “To do what?”

“To suckle fools, and chronicle small beer!

Desdemona, laughing, chides: “Oh, most lame and impotent conclusion! Do not learn from him, Emilia, though he be thy husband! How say you, Cassio? Is he not a most profane and lewd counsellor?”

“He speaks home, madam!” laughs the officer. “You may relish him more in the soldier than in the scholar!” He turns and motions politely toward the citadel; Desdemona walks with him.

Iago watches them intently. He takes her by the palm,—aye, well done! Whispers! With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio! Aye, smile upon her, do!—I will shackle thee in thine own courtship!

As Cassio nods and smiles, the ensign, silently and sourly, mimics: You say true!—’tis so, indeed!

If such tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantry, it had been better you had not kissed your three fingers so oft—which now again you are most apt to play the sir in! Very good!—well kissed! An excellent courtesy!—’tis so, indeed. Yet again your fingers to your lips? I would for your sake they were clyster-pipes!—which are used to flush bowels.

With the others, he follows the new governor’s lady into the stone bastion


From outside, a herald’s horn sounds. “The Moor!” cries Iago. “I know his trumpet!”

Cassio nods. “’Tis truly so!”

“Let’s meet him and receive him!” says Desdemona, rising.

Cassio smiles, pointing to the door. “Lo where he comes!”

From his fighting-galleon’s anchorage, Othello has been rowed ashore by sailors, and has rushed along the edge of the harbor, followed by attendants. The general greets his wife: “Oh, my fair warrior!”

“My dear Othello!” They embrace and kiss.

“It gives me wonder great as my content to see you here before me!” he cries. “O my soul’s joy! If after every tempest come such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened Death, and let the labouring bark climb hills of seas Olympus-high, and duck again as low as Hell is from Heaven! If it were now to die, ’twere to be most happy!—for now, I fear, my soul hath its contentment, so absolute that not another like to this follows in unknown fate!”

She protests, “The heavens forbid but that our loves and comforts should increase, even as our days do grow!”

Amen to that, sweet powers!” he says, tearfully. “I cannot speak enough of this bliss!” He touches his throat. “It stops me here—it is too much of joy!

He beams. “And may this in this be the greatest discord that e’er our hearts shall make!”

Iago, despite his smiling, is privately disgusted by their harmony. Oh, you are well tunèd now! But I’ll twist down the pegs that make this music, as honest as I am!

The general addresses the Venetian officials: “Come, let’s go to the castle!

News, friends: our wars are done!—the Turks are drownèd!

“How does my old acquaintance of this isle?” He shakes the former governor’s hand warmly.

Montano smiles, courteously silent about news already told by Cassio.

Othello takes Desdemona’s hands in his. “My honey, you shall be well desirèd in Cyprus; I have found great love amongst them!

“O my sweet, I prattle out of fashion, and I dote in mine own comforts!

“I prithee, good Iago, go to the bay and disembark my coffers. Take thou the ship’s master to the citadel; he is a good one, and his worthiness does challenge much respect!

“Come, Desdemona! Once more: Well met at Cyprus!”

As the others leave for the governor’s castle, walking up the slope from the citadel’s walled grounds, Iago tells the general’s servants, “Do thou meet me presently at the harbour.”

The ensign turns to Roderigo. “Come hither.” He speaks privately, in a corner. “If thou be’st valiant—and they say base men, being in love, have then a nobility in their natures more than is native to them—listen to me! The lieutenant tonight watches on the Court of Guard—”

Iago pauses; he grips Roderigo’s arm. “First, I must tell thee this—Desdemona is directly in love with him!

With him! Why, ’tis not possible!”

Iago presses against the man’s lips to silence him. “Lay thy finger thus, and let thy soul be instructed! Mark with what violence she first loved the Moor, for bragging and telling her fantastical lies—but will she love him still for prating? Let not thy discreet heart think it!

“Her eye must be fed—and what delight shall she have to look on a devil?” Demons are widely thought of as black. “When the blood is made dull with the act of sport, there should be—to inflame it again, and to give satiety a fresh appetite—loveliness of face, sympathy in years, manners, and beauties—all of which the Moor is defective in!

“Now, for want of these requisite amenities her delicate tenderness will find itself abusèd, begin to heave the gorge, disrelish and abhor the Moor!—very Nature will instruct her in it, and compel her to some second choice!

“Now, sir, this granted—as it is a most pregnant and unforcèd position—who stands so eminent in the degree of this fortune as does Cassio?—a very voluble knave, no further conscionable than in putting on the mere form of civil and humane seeming, for the better compassing of his salty and most hidden, loose affection! Why, none! Why, none! A slippery and subtle knave, a finder of occasions, who has an eye that can stamp advantages in counterfeit, though true advantage never present itself!—a devilish knave!

“Besides, the knave is handsome and young—hath all those requisites in him that folly and green minds look after—a pestilent, complete knave!

“And the woman hath found him already!

Roderigo frowns. “I cannot believe that of her! She’s full of most blessèd condition—”

“Blessèd fig-stem!”—penis. “The wine she drinks is made of grapes!—if she had been blessed, she would never have loved the Moor! Blessèd pudenda! Didst thou not see her fiddle with the palm of his hand?—didst not mark that?”

“Yes, I did. But that was but courtesy….”

Lechery, by this hand!—an index, an obscuring prologue to a history of lust and foul thoughts! They met so near with their lips that their breaths embraced together! Villainous thoughts, Roderigo! When these mutualities so marshal the way, hard at hand comes the master and main exercise, the incorporate conclusion!” Iago spits with disgust. “But, sir, be you ruled by me!

“I have brought you from Venice! Watch you tonight; as for the command, I’ll lay’t upon you. Cassio knows you not. I’ll not be far from you.” The conscript looks apprehensive about sentinel duty, but the ensign continues. “Find some occasion to anger Cassio, either by speaking too loud, or tainting his discipline, or from what other course you please, which the time shall more favourably minister.”

Roderigo slowly nods. “Well.”

“Sir, he is rash and very sudden in choler, and haply may strike at you; provoke him so that he may!—for even out of that will I cause these of Cyprus to mutiny!—whose discontent shall come again into no true satisfaction but by the displanting of Cassio!

“So shall you have a shorter journey to your desires—by the means I shall then have to prefer them, the impediment most profitably removèd!” He adds, “Without which there were no expectation of our prosperity.”

Says Roderigo without enthusiasm, “I will do this, if I can bring it to any opportunity.”

Iago pats his back encouragingly. “I warrant thee! Meet me by and by at the citadel. I must fetch his necessaries ashore. Farewell!”

Roderigo, still weak from the tossing at sea, says “Adieu,” and goes to find the troops’ quarters in the citadel.

Iago paces, thinking.

That Cassio loves her, I do well believe it; that she loves him… ’tis apt, and of great credit. He hopes it will be plausible.

The Moor, howbeit that I endear him not, is of a constant, loving, noble nature, and I dare think he’ll prove to Desdemona a most dear husband.

Now I do love her, too! Not out of absolute lust—though peradventure I stand accountable for as great a sin—but led partly to nourish my revenge! For I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leaped into my seat!—the thought whereof doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards! And nothing can or shall content my soul till I am even’d with him, wife for wife—or failing so, yet that I put the Moor at least into a jealousy so strong that judgment cannot cure it!

Which thing to do, if this poor trash of Venice whom I leash for his quick hunting”—use like an eager dog—“stands the putting-on, I’ll have our Michael Cassio helpless!—abuse him in rank garb to the Moor!—for I fear Cassio wears my night-cap, too.

I’ll make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me—for making him egregiously an ass, and practising upon his peace and quiet, even to madness!

He considers the scheme. ’Tis here, but yet confused; knavery’s plain face is never seen till used!


A sergeant rings the hand-bell vigorously, drawing troops to hear a proclamation. When a sufficient crowd has gathered, he clears his throat, then announces:

“It is Othello’s pleasure—our noble and valiant general’s—that, upon certain tidings now arrived importing the sheer perdition of the Turkish fleet, every man put himself into triumph!—some to dance, some to make bonfires!—each man to what sport and revels his addition leads him!

“For, besides these beneficial news, it is the celebration of his nuptials!

“So much is his pleasure, it should be proclaimed,” says the soldier knowingly, drawing a laugh.

“All kitchens are open,” he calls, “and there is full liberty of feasting from this present hour of five till the bell have told eleven!

“Heaven bless the isle of Cyprus!—and our noble general Othello!


Into a wide corridor of the castle, Othello and Desdemona emerge with their attendants after the sumptuous supper held to celebrate the would-be invaders’ destruction—and with further ceremonies in honor of the general and his new bride.

“Good Michael, look you to the guard tonight,” Othello tells Cassio, who has dined with him and Lord Montano. “Let’s teach ourselves the honourable stop, not to out-sport discretion.”

Cassio bows. “Iago hath direction what to do; but, notwithstanding, with my personal eye will I look to’t!”

Othello nods. “Iago is most honest. Michael, good night. Tomorrow, with your earliest let me have speech with you.” He takes Desdemona’s hand. “Come, my dear love, the purchase made, the fruits are to ensue!—that profit’s yet to come ’tween me and you!

“Good night!” he says happily to Montano, as his party proceeds to the castle’s guest quarters.


Chapter Four

Night Watch


Sentinels who will secure the castle after dark, some by pacing its high parapets, have come up from the citadel. Iago is in charge of them tonight, and Cassio is waiting for him in the guardhouse; just outside it a flight of stone steps rises along the walls.

“Welcome, Iago; we must to the watch,” says Cassio.

“Not this hour, lieutenant! ’Tis not yet ten o’ the clock; our general rests us this early for the love of his Desdemona—who let us not therefore blame: he hath not yet made wanton the night with her!—and she is sport for Jove!”

“She’s a most exquisite lady.”

And, I’ll warrant her, full game!

“Indeed, she’s a most fresh and delicate creature.”

Iago presses. “What an eye she has! Methinks it sounds a parley of provocation!”

“An inviting eye; and yet, methinks, right modest.”

The ensign persists. “And when she speaks, is it not an alarum to love?

But Cassio simply says, “She is indeed perfection.”

“Well, happiness to their sheets!” cries Iago. “Come, lieutenant, I have a stoup of wine, and here without are a brace of Cyprus gallants that would fain have a measure to the health of black Othello!”

“Not tonight, good Iago. I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking; I could well wish courtesy would invent some other custom of entertainment.”

Oh, they are our friends!” scolds Iago. “But one cup—I’ll drink it for you!”

Cassio shakes his head. “I have drunk but one cup tonight—and that was craftily qualified, too”—well diluted. “And behold what innovation it makes here.” His complexion is indeed rosier than usual. “I am unfortunate in the infirmity, and dare not task my weakness with any more.”

What, man?” cries the hearty soldier. “’Tis a night of revels! The gallants desire it!”

“Where are they?”

“Here at the door; I pray you, call them in!”

“I’ll do’t,” says Cassio, “but it dislikes me.” He goes out to invite the two celebrating Cypriots to drink.

If I can fasten but one cup upon him, thinks Iago, with that which he hath drunk tonight already he’ll be as full of quarrel and offence as my young mistress’ dog! He has a woman in town.

Now, my sick fool Roderigo, whom love hath turned almost the wrong side out, to Desdemona hath tonight caroused potations bottle-deep!—and he’s to watch! Three lads of Cyprus—noble, swelling spirits that hold their honour at a wary distance, the very elements of this warlike isle—have I tonight flustered with flowing cups—and they watch too!

Now ’mongst this flock of drunkards am I to put our Cassio in some action that may offend the while.

—But here they come! If consequence do but approve my dream, my boat sails freely, with both wind and stream!

Cassio returns, bringing the two gentlemen—and Montano. A servant with them carries two flagons; another’s fists clasp the handles of several mugs. The men bow and leave the wine and pewter on a scarred pine table.

“’Fore God, they have given me a rouse already!” Cassio tells Iago.

Montano, too, is in high spirits: “’Good faith, a little one—not past a pint, as I am a soldier!”

Iago—who is a soldier—grabs a cup. “Some wine, ho!” He sings boisterously as he pours:

“And let me the canakin clink, clink!

And let me the canakin clink!

A soldier’s a man;

A life’s but a span—

Why, then let a soldier drink!

“Some wine, boys!” he cries, pouring for the others.

Cassio is glowing. “’Fore God, an excellent song!”

“I learned it in England,” Iago tells them, “where, indeed, they are most potent in potting! Your Dane, your German, and your swag-bellied Hollander—Drink, ho!—are nothing to your English!

Cassio is fascinated; he leans toward the ensign. “Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?”

“Why, he drinks with facility your Dane dead drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain; he gives your Hollander a vomit ere the next pottle can be filled!”

Cassio raises his cup. “To the health of our general!”

Montano’s is lifted as well: “I am for it, lieutenant!—and I’ll do you justice!” They drink deeply.

Iago rhapsodizes: “O sweet England!” He sings:

“King Stephen was a worthy peer:

His breeches cost him but a crown;

He held them sixpence all too dear!

With that, he called the tailor clown!

He was a wight of high renown,

And thou art of but low degree;

’Tis pride that pulls the country down—

So take thine auld cloak about thee!

“Some wine, ho!

Cassio is exuberant: “Why, that is a more exquisite song than the other!”

“Will you hear’t again?” offers Iago.

“No; for I hold him to be unworthy of his place that does these things,” says proud Cassio—slowly, with deliberate dignity, thinking he still sounds sober. He shrugs. “Well, God’s above all; and there be souls must be saved, and there be souls must not be saved.”

Iago nods, and again pretends to drink. “It’s true, good lieutenant!”

“As for mine own part—no offence to the general, nor any man of qualityI hope to be saved!”

“And so do I, too, lieutenant!”

Cassio raises a forefinger. “Aye, but, by your leave, not before me!—the lieutenant is to be saved before the ancient!” He shakes his head, trying to clear it. “Let’s have no more of this; let’s to our affairs.

“Forgive us our sins! Gentlemen, let’s look to our business!” He bangs his mug down onto the table, spilling some wine. “Do not think, gentlemen, I am drunk,” he warns. “This is my ancient; this is my right hand.” He laughs, raising a fist, “and this is my left! I am not drunk, now; I can stand well enough,” he mumbles, “and speak well enough.”

They all concur happily—“Excellent well!”—and drink to confirm it.

Cassio heads outside, stepping very carefully, to inspect the soldiers now mustering for night duty on watch. “Why, very well, then. You must not think then that I am drunk!” he says, his speech slurred.


“To the platform, masters,” Montano tells the gentlemen, with a gallant wave. “Come, let’s set the watch!” The deputies and guests follow the lieutenant; they will oversee assignment of the troops to their stations.

But Iago intercepts Montano. “You see this fellow that is gone before?—he is a soldier fit to stand by Caesar and give direction!” The ensign wags his head sadly. “Yet do but see his vice; ’tis to his virtue a just equinox, the one as long as the other.

“’Tis pity of him. I fear that the trust Othello puts in him will, at some odd time of his infirmity, shake this island.”

Montano is surprised. “But is he often thus?”

Iago shrugs. “’Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep; he’ll watch the horologe a double set”—be wakeful twenty-four hours—“if drink rock not his cradle.”

Montano frowns. “It were well the general were put in mind of it! Perhaps he sees it not—or his good nature prizes the virtue that appears in Cassio, and looks not on his evils. Is not that true?”

As Montano ponders, blinking drowsily, a soldier comes to the door—where Iago stops him. His private whisper is urgent: “How now, Roderigo! I pray you, after the lieutenant!go!” The young Venetian hurries away to confront Cassio.

Montano continues: “And ’tis a great pity that the noble Moor should hazard such a place as his own second with one of an ingraft infirmity! It were an honest action to say so to the Moor.”

“Not I, for this fair island!” says Iago. “I do love Cassio well, and would do much to cure him of this evil. But, hark!—what noise?”

From outside they hear cries of “Help! Help!” Roderigo bolts into the room, pursued by an enraged Cassio, whose sword is drawn.

“You rogue! You rascal!” shouts the officer, shaking his left fist at the soldier.

“What’s the matter, lieutenant?” cries Montano.

“A knave teach me my duty?—I’ll beat the knave into a friggin’ bottle!

Roderigo backs away, trying to fend off blows. “Beat me?

“Dost thou prate, rogue?” cries Cassio, striking him again.

Montano seizes his arm to restrain him: “Nay, good lieutenant!—I pray you, sir, hold your hand!

“Let me go, sir,” growls Cassio, “or I’ll knock you o’er the mazzard!”

Montano is indignant: “Come, come—you’re drunk!

Drunk?” Cassio staggers back and raises his blade. Montano, appalled, draws his sword to counter Cassio’s unsteady thrust at him.

Iago pushes Roderigo out past the door, urging him in a hushed voice: “Away, I say! Go out and cry a mutiny!” The ensign returns to the clumsy combatants. “Nay, good lieutenant!—Alas, gentlemen!—Help, ho!—Lieutenant!—sir!—Montano!—sir! Help, masters!Here’s a goodly watch indeed!”

An alarm clangs incessantly in the tower. “Who’s that which rings the bell?” cries Iago angrily at the door. “Diablo, ho!—the town will rise!

God’s will, lieutenant, hold!—you will be shamed forever!

Othello soon reaches the guardhouse, followed by attendants. “What is the matter here?”

’Zounds, I bleed still!” moans Montano, staring down at his side. “I am hurt to the death!” He steps back, sword drooping, as Iago struggles to restrain Cassio.

Othello is furious about the disturbance. “Hold, for your lives!

Hold, ho! Lieutenant!sir!” cries Iago. “Montano!gentlemen!—Have you forgot all sense of place and duty? Hold! The general speaks to you!—hold, hold, for shame!

“Why how now, ho! From whence ariseth this?” demands Othello, stepping between the armed men. “Are we turned Turks, and to ourselves do that which Heaven hath forbid the Ottomites? For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl!” He draws his own sword. “He that stirs next to carve for his own rage holds his soul light!—he dies upon his motion!

Silence that dreadful bell!” the general orders an attendant, who runs out. “It frights the isle from her propriety!

“What is the matter, masters? Honest Iago, that look’st dead with grieving, speak! Who began this?—on thy love I charge thee!”

“I do not know!” The ensign seems baffled. “Friends, all but now!even in quarters, and in terms like bride and groom devesting them for bed!” He sees the general’s annoyance increase. “And then, but now—as if some planet had unwitted men!—swords out, and tilting one at other’s breast in opposition bloody!

“I cannot speak any beginning to this peevish odds—and would that in action glorious I had lost these legs that brought me to be a part of it!”

Othello turns to Cassio. “How comes it, Michael, you are thus forgot?”

The officer is dizzy and gasping. “I pray you, pardon me—I cannot speak!”

“Worthy Montano,” says Othello, “you were wont be civil; the gravity and stillness of your youth the world hath noted, and your name is great in mouths of wisest judgment. What’s the matter, that you unlace your reputation thus, and spend your rich opinion for the name of a night-brawler? Give me answer to it!”

But Montano, in great pain, is close to collapse. “Worthy Othello, I am hurt to danger! Your officer, Iago, can inform you, while I spare speech, which somewhat now offends me, of all that I do know!

“Nor know I aught that’s said or done amiss this night by me!—unless self-charity be seen as a vice, and defending ourselves be a sin, when violence assails us!”

Othello seethes with frustration—public and personal. “Now, by heaven, my blood begins to rule my safer guides!—and passion, having my best judgment collared, assays to lead the way!

“’Zounds! If I once stir, or do but lift this arm, the best of you shall sink in my rebuke!”

He has already asked several times. “Give me to know how this foul rout began, who set it on! And he that is proven to offence in this, though he had twinned with me, both at a birth, shall lose me!

What! In a town yet at war, still wild, the people’s hearts brimful of fear, to manage private and domestic quarrel!—at night, and for the court in guard of safety! ’Tis monstrous!

“Iago, who began’t?”

Montano, a civilian, warns the ensign: “If affinèd partially, or leaguèd in office thou dost deliver more or less than truth, thou art no soldier!

Iago seems hurt by the imputation: “Touch me not so near! I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth than it should do offence to Michael Cassio! Yet, I persuade myself, to speak the truth shall nothing wrong him.

“Thus it is, general: Montano and myself being in speech, there comes a fellow crying out for help!—and Cassio following him with sword, determined to execute upon him!

“Sir, this gentleman steps unto Cassio and entreats his pause.

“Myself the crying fellow did pursue, lest by his clamour—as it so fell out!—the town might fall into fright. He, swift of foot, outran my purpose, and I returned—the faster for that I heard the clinking fall of swords, and Cassio high in oath!—which till tonight I ne’er might say before!

“When I came back—for this was brief—I found them close together at blow and thrust, even as again they were when you yourself did part them!

“More of this matter cannot I report. But men are men; the best sometimes forget. Though Cassio did some little wrong to him, as men in rage strike those that wish them best, yet surely Cassio, I believe, received from him who fled some strange indignity which patience could not let pass.”

Othello has heard enough. “I know, Iago, that thy honesty and love doth mince this matter, making it light to Cassio.

“Cassio, I love thee—but never more be officer of mine!

The general sees that Desdemona has now come to learn what caused the alarm. “Look, if my gentle love be not raisèd up!” He glares as Cassio, “I’ll make thee an example!”

Desdemona stares, stunned by the sight of the bleeding nobleman and the dejected officer. “What’s the matter?

Othello reassures her. “All’s well now, sweeting; come away to bed.” He sheathes his blade.

The general tells the Montano kindly, “Sir, for your hurts, myself will be your surgeon.” He nods to his attendants, and they grasp the pale nobleman’s arms. “Lead him off.

“Iago, look with care about the town, and silence those whom this vile brawl distracted.

“Come, Desdemona. ’Tis the soldiers’ life to have their balmy slumbers wakèd with strife!”


Iago and Cassio are left in the guardhouse. The officer weeps as he wipes his sword clean, staining a kerchief.

“What—are you hurt, lieutenant?”

“Aye—past all surgery.” Cassio sheathes the blade, and stares at the bloody cloth.

Iago moves toward him, pretending to look for an injury. “Marry, heaven forbid!”

Reputation, reputation, reputation!—oh, I have lost my reputation!” wails Cassio. “I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial! My reputation, Iago, my reputation!

The ensign frowns. “As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some bodily wound! There is more sense in that than in reputation!” Cassio fails to enjoy the jest on sense. “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without deserving! You have lost no reputation at all unless you repute yourself such a loser.

What, man?—there are ways to recover the general again! You are now but cast down in his mood, a punishment more in policy than in malice, even as one would beat his offenceless dog, to affright the imperious liar”—stop its needless barking. “Sue to him again and he’s yours!”

But Cassio is ashamed. “I will rather sue to be despised than to deceive so good a commander with so slight, so drunken, and so indiscreet an officer!” He is amazed at himself: “Drunk! And speaking parrot! To squabble, swagger, swear, in fustian discourse with one’s own shadow!

“O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil!

“Who was he that you followed with your sword?” asks Iago. “What had he done to you?”

“I know not.”

“Is’t possible?

Cassio is exasperated. “I remember a mass of things, but nothing distinctly!—a quarrel, but nothing of wherefore! Oh, God!—that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!—that we should with joy, in pleasant revelry and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!

“But you are now well enough; how came you thus recoverèd?”

“Why, it hath pleased the devil drunkenness to give place to the devil wrath!—one unperfectness shows me another, to make me frankly despise myself!”

“Come, you are too severe a moraler,” Iago tells him. “As the time, the place, and the condition of this country stands, I could heartily wish this had not befallen; but since it is as it is, mend it for your own good!”

“I will ask him for my place again; he shall tell me I am a drunkard!” says Cassio, despairing. “Had I as many mouths as Hydra, such an answer would stop them all! To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast!—oh, strange! Every inordinate cup is unblessèd, and the ingredient is a devil!

“Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature,”—a fine companion, “if it be well used; exclaim no more against it,” says Iago. “And, good lieutenant, I think you think I love you,” he says, reassuringly—with a scheme in mind.

Cassio nods. “I have well approved it, sir.” But he hangs his head. “Idrunk!

Iago is forgiving: “You or any man living may be drunk at some time, man!

“I’ll tell you what you shall do. Our general’s wife is now the general—I may say so in this respect: for that he hath devoted and given up himself to the contemplation, marking and denotement of her parts and graces. Confess yourself freely to her—importune her help to put you in your place again! She is of so free, so kind, so apt, so blessèd a disposition, she in her goodness holds it a vice not to do more than she is requested!

“This broken joint between you and her husband entreat her to splint this crack, and—my fortunes against any wager worth naming—your love shall grow stronger than it was before!”

Wiping his eyes with the back of a hand, Cassio nods. “You advise me well.”

“I speak in the sincerity of love and honest kindness.”

“I think it freely; and betimes in the morning I will beseech the virtuous Desdemona to undertake for me.” He groans. “I am desperate of my fortunes, if they halt me here!”

“You are in the right,” says Iago. “Good night, lieutenant; I must to the watch.”

Cassio goes to the door. “Good night, honest Iago!” He soon heads into town, resolved to attempt a recovery.

The ensign is smug. And who’s he, then, that says I play the villain, when this advice I give is free and honest, probable to thinking, and indeed the course to win the Moor again! For ’tis most easy to subdue Desdemona in any honest suit; and, inclining, she’s framed as fruitful as the free elements!

Then it’s for her to win the Moor. Were it to renounce his baptism, all seals and symbols of redeemèd sin, his soul is so enfettered to her love that she may make, unmake, do what she list, even as her appetite shall play the god with his weak function!

How am I then a villain to counsel Cassio to this course, directly parallel to his good?

He laughs. Divinity of Hell! When devils will the blackest sins put on, they do suggest at first with heavenly shows—as I do now!

For whiles this honest fool plies Desdemona to repair his fortunes, and she for him pleads strongly to the Moor, I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear: that she repeals him for her body’s lust! Then by how much she strives to do him good, she shall by so much undo her credit with the Moor!

So will I turn her virtue into vice, and out of her own goodness make the net that shall enmesh them all!

He looks to the door. “How now, Roderigo!” His accomplice has returned—an unhappy young man.

“I do follow here in the chase—not like a hound that hunts, but one that fills up the cry!” complains the crestfallen gentleman. “My money is almost spent, I have been tonight exceedingly well cudgelled, and I think the issue will be I shall have so much ‘experience’ for my pains!

“And so, with no money at all and but a little more wit, I return again to Venice.”

Iago protests, “How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees? Thou know’st we work by wit, not by witchcraft!—and wit depends on dilatory time.

“Does’t not go well? Cassio hath beaten thee—but thou, by that small hurt, hast cashiered Cassio!

“Though other things grow fair against the sun, yet fruits that blossom first will first be ripe!

Content thyself awhile,” he tells the sullen suitor, pulling him toward the door, where they can hear church bells. “By the Mass, ’tis morning! Pleasure and action make the hours seem short!

“Retire thee; go where thou art billeted. Away, I say; thou shalt know more hereafter.” Roderigo starts to speak, but Iago smiles reassuringly. “Nay, get thee gone!”

Alone again, Iago returns to scheming.

Two things are to be done: my wife must move for Cassio to her mistress; I’ll set her on, myself the while drawing the Moor apart, and bringing him jump to where he may find Cassio soliciting his wife!

Aye, that’s the way! Dull not device by coldness and delay!


Chapter Five

Assurances, Doubts


Cassio has brought musicians, one with a flute, the other a hautboy, to the corridor outside Othello’s quarters at the castle early this morning. “Masters, play here—I will content your pains—something that’s brief and bids, ‘Good morrow, general!’”

They perform a song, lilting and mellifluous; but soon Othello’s jester emerges from the rooms. “Why masters, have your instruments been in Naples, that they speak to the nose thus?” he demands.

What, sir, what?” asks the man with the reed, frowning.

“Are these, I pray you, wind instruments?”

“Aye; marry, they are, sir.”

Ah, thereby hangs a tail….”

“Whereby hangs a tale, sir?”

“Marry, sir, by many a wind instrument—that I know! But, masters, here’s money for you.” The two take umbrage at his allusion to animals’ flatulence; but they also take his silver. “And the general so likes music that he desires you, for its love’s sake, to make no more noise with it.”

The indignant piper pockets the coins. “Well, sir, we will not.”

“As they say, ‘To hear music, the general’”—populace; a jest—“‘does not greatly care.’ But if you have any music that may not be heard, to’t again!” says the wry clown.

“We have none such, sir.”

“Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I’ll away. Go—vanish into air; away!

As the musicians leave, Cassio approaches the general’s fool. “Dost thou hear, my honest friend…”

“No, I hear not your honest friend; I hear you.”

Cassio has no time for quips. “Prithee, keep thy quillets; there’s a poor piece of gold for thee. If the gentlewoman that attends the general’s wife be stirring, tell her there’s one Cassio entreats her a little favour of speech. Wilt thou do this?”

The man nods. “She is stirring, sir; I shall notify unto her if she will deem to stir hither.”

“Do, good my friend.”

As Cassio waits, the ensign comes up the stairs. “In happy time, Iago!”

The ensign regards the former officer. “You have not been a-bed, then?”

“Why, no; the day had broken before we parted. I have made bold, Iago, to send in to your wife; my suit to her is that she will to virtuous Desdemona procure me some access.”

“I’ll send her to you immediately,” Iago tells him, “and I’ll devise a mean to draw the Moor out of the way, that your converse and business may be more free.”

Cassio clasps his hand. “I humbly thank you for’t!” As Iago goes in, he thinks, I never knew a Florentine more kind and honest!

Soon, Emilia comes out to greet him. “Good morrow, good lieutenant. I am sorry for your displeasure; but all will surely be well! The general and his wife are talking of it, and she speaks for you stoutly!

“The Moor replies that he you hurt is of great fame in Cyprus, and great affinity, and that in wholesome wisdom he might not but refuse you. But he protests he loves you, and needs no other suitor but his likings to take the safest occasion by the front to bring you in again!”

“Yet I beseech you, if you think fit, or that it may be done, give me advantage of some brief discourse with Desdemona alone….”

“Pray you, come in,” Emilia tells him. “I will bestow you where you shall have time to speak your bosom freely.”

“I am much bound to you!” says Cassio, as they enter the interim household.

Othello has risen early to handle official tasks. “These letters give, Iago, to the ship’s pilot—and by him, too, my duties to the Senate. That done, I will be walking on the works. Repair there to me.”

Iago bows. “Well; my good lord; I’ll do’t.”

Othello asks the citadel officers waiting to accompany him on an inspection tour, “This fortification, gentlemen, shall we see’t?”

They bow. “We’ll wait upon Your Lordship,” says the senior officer, and they follow him down the stairs, heading for the armory.

In the castle’s sunny garden, flowers still glistening with dew sparkle brightly in the gentle breeze. Cassio walks with Desdemona and Emilia among trees laden with olives and sweet, fragrant fruits.

“Be thou assurèd, good Cassio, I will do all my abilities in thy behalf,” says Desdemona.

“Good madam, do!” urges Emilia. “I warrant it grieves my husband as if the case were his!”

“Oh, that’s an honest fellow! Do not doubt, Cassio, but I will have my lord and you again as friendly as you were.”

“Bounteous madam,” says the gentleman, “whatever shall become of Michael Cassio, he’s never anything but your true servant!”

“I know’t; I thank you. You do love my lord; you have known him long—and be you well assured he shall in strangeness stand no further off than is a politic distance.”

The outcast officer has found lodging just outside the citadel walls, in a tawdry area where soldiers may spend their off-duty hours, and their silver, dining and drinking with seedy civilian companions—most of them women. He hopes to return—soon—to the citadel. “Aye, but, lady, that policy may either last so long, or feed upon such limited and waterish diet, or breed itself so out of circumstance, that—I being absent, and my place supplied—my general will forget my love and service!”

“Do not fear that,” says Desdemona. “Before Emilia, here I give thee warrant of thy place! Assure thee, if I do vow a friendship, I’ll perform it to the last article! My lord shall never rest: I’ll walk him tame, and talk him out of patience; his bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift!”—each meal a confessional. “I’ll intermingle every thing he does with Cassio’s suit! Therefore be merry, Cassio, for thy solicitor shall rather die than give thy cause away!”

Emilia nods toward the garden doors. “Madam, here comes my lord!”

Cassio bows. “Madam, I’ll take my leave.”

“Why, stay and hear me speak.”

“Madam, not now; I am very ill at ease—unfit for mine own purposes!”

“Well, do at your discretion.”

As they come into the garden, Othello is commenting to Iago on the governance of Cyprus. Glancing ahead, the ensign mumbles, “Hmh… I like not that,” as Cassio strides away through a shadowed arbor.

“What dost thou say?”

“Nothing, my lord; or if— I know not what.”

“Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?”

“Cassio, my lord? No, surely; I cannot think it—that he would steal away so guilty-like, seeing you coming….”

“I do believe ’twas he.”

Desdemona welcomes the soldiers. “How now, my lord! I have been talking with a suitor here, a man that languishes in your displeasure.”

“Who is’t you mean?”

“Why, your lieutenant, Cassio. Good my lord, if I have any grace or power to move you, his present reconciliation take—for if he be not one that truly loves you, that errs in ignorance and not in cunning, I have no judgment in an honest face! I prithee, call him back!”

“Went he hence now?”

“Aye, ’sooth—so humbled that he hath left part of his grief with me, to suffer with him. Good love, call him back!”

“Not now, sweet Desdemona; some other time.”

“But shall’t be shortly?”

“The sooner, sweet, for you.”

“Shall’t be tonight at supper?”

“No, not tonight.”

“Tomorrow dinner, then?”

“I shall not dine at home; I meet the captains at the citadel.”

Desdemona takes his hand. “Why, then, tomorrow night; or Tuesday morn; on Tuesday noon, or night; on Wednesday morn—I prithee, name the time, but let it not exceed three days! In faith, he’s penitent; and his trespass, in our common reason, is almost not a fault to incur a private check, save that they say warriors must make examples out of their best.

“When shall he come? Tell me, Othello!” She chides him, gently: “I wonder in my soul what you would ask me, that I should deny, or stand so mannerly on.

“What?—Michael Cassio, who came a-wooing with you, and so many a time, when I have spoke of you dispraisingly, hath ta’en your part!—to have so much to-do to bring him in! Trust me, I could do much—”

“Prithee, no more!” laughs Othello. “Let him come when he will! I will deny thee nothing!”

“Why, this is not a boon,” Desdemona argues. “’Tis as if I should entreat you wear your gloves, or feed on nourishing dishes, or keep you warm, or sue to you to do a peculiar profit to your own person!

“Nay,” she says with mock gravity, “when I have a suit wherein I mean to touch your love indeed, it shall be full-posèd, of difficult weight, and fearful to be granted!”

Othello smiles. “I will deny thee nothing!—whereon, I do beseech thee, grant me this: to leave me but a little to myself.”

Desdemona considers, playfully. “Shall I deny you…? No! Farewell, my lord!”

“Farewell, my Desdemona! I’ll come to thee straight.”

“Emilia, come.” The lady and her new waiting-gentlewoman, somewhat older, have already conferred about men in general, husbands in particular. She teases Iago’s wife: “Be as your fancies teach you; whate’er you be, I am obedient!”


General Othello watches happily as his beautiful young bride returns to the castle. Excellent wench! Perdition catch my soul, but I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again!

His ensign walks beside him. “My noble lord….”

“What dost thou say, Iago?”

“Did Michael Cassio, when you wooed my lady, know of your love?”

“He did, from first to last. Why dost thou ask?”

“But for a satisfaction of my thought; no further harm.”

“Why in thy thought, Iago?”

“I did not think he had been acquainted with her.”

Othello strolls among the aromatic evergreens and brilliant blooms. “Oh, yes; and went between us very oft.”

Iago frowns. “Indeed….”

“Indeed! Aye, indeed—discern’st thou aught in that? Is he not honest?”

“Honest, my lord?”

“Honest—aye, honest!

Iago nods. “My lord, for aught I know.”

“What dost thou think?

“Think, my lord?”

“‘Think, my lord?’” says Othello, mimicking. “By heaven, he echoes me, as if there were some monster in his thought too hideous to be shown! Thou dost mean something; I heard thee say even now thou likedst not that, when Cassio left my wife. What didst not like?

“And when I told thee he was of my counsel in my whole course of wooing, thou criedst ‘Indeed!’ and didst contract and purse thy brow together, as if thou then hadst shut up in thy brain some horrible conceit!

“If thou dost love me, show me thy thought.”

Iago begins: “My lord, you know I love you….”

“I think thou dost,” says the general dryly. “I know thou’rt full of love and honesty, and weigh’st thy words before thou givest them breath; therefore these stops of thine fright me the more! For such things in a false, disloyal knave are tricks of custom, but in a man who’s just, they are dear dilations, working from a heart that passion cannot rule.”

Iago speaks carefully. “As for Michael Cassio, I dare be sworn I think that he is honest.”

“I think so, too.”

“Men should be what they seem; as for those that be nought, I would they might seem none!

“Certainly men should be what they seem….”

“Why then I think Cassio’s an honest man.”

Othello is impatient. “Nay, yet there’s more in this! I prithee, speak to me as to thy thinkings, as thou dost ruminate—and give thy worst of thoughts the worst of words!

“Good my lord, pardon me! Though I am bound to every act of duty, I am not bound to what all slaves are free of! Utter my thoughts? Why, say they are vile and false—and where’s that palace whereinto foul things sometimes intrude not? Who has a breast so pure but some uncleanly apprehensions keeps, sitting in session”—acting as a judge—“leets and law-days, with meditations lawful?

“Thou dost conspire against thy friend, Iago,” argues Othello, “if thou think’st him wronged, but makest his ear a stranger to thy thoughts.”

The ensign still demurs—and tantalizes. “Yet I do beseech you—though I perchance am negative in my guess, and I confess it is my nature’s plague to spy into abuses, as oft my suspicion shapes faults that are not—that your wisdom from one who so imperfectly conceives would take no notice, nor build yourself a trouble out of his scattering and unsure observance.

“It were not for your quiet nor your good, nor for my manhood, honesty, or wisdom, to let you know my thoughts.”

Othello stops. “What dost thou mean?”

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls,” says Iago sanctimoniously. “Who steals my purse steals trash: ’tis something, nothing—’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands! But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, but makes me poor indeed!”

“By heaven, I’ll know thy thoughts!” says Othello.

Iago is adamant. “You cannot, if my heart were in your hand—nor shall not, whilst ’tis in my custody.”

Othello stares at the ground. “Hmh!” He has drawn the obvious conclusion.

Iago seems alarmed. “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!” he warns. “It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on! That cuckold lives in bliss who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger; but, oh, what damnèd minutes counts he o’er who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

The general finds that his personal peace has been tainted. Oh, misery!

“Poor and content is rich, and rich enough; but riches boundless are as poor as winter to him that ever fears he shall be poor,” says Iago. “Good Heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend from jealousy!

“Why, what is this?” says Othello. “Think’st thou I’d make a life of jealousy, to follow ever the changes of the moon with fresh suspicions? No! To be once in doubt is at once to be resolved! Exchange me for a goat when I shall turn the business of my soul to such exsufflicate and blown surmises, matching thy implication!

“’Tis not to make me jealous to say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company, is free of speech, sings, plays and dances well!—where virtue is, these are more virtuous!

“Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw the smallest fear or doubt of her revolt, for she had eyes, and chose me!

“No, Iago; I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; and on the proof, there is no more but this: out at oncejealousy or love!

“I am glad of this,” Iago tells him, “for now I shall have reason to show the love and duty that I bear you with franker spirit. Therefore, as I am bound, receive it from me.

“I speak not yet of proof. Look to your wife: observe her well with Cassio.” He tips his head up slightly. “Wear your eye thus: not jealous nor secure.

“I would not have your free and noble nature through its own bounty be abusèd; look to’t.

“I know our country’s disposition well. In Venice they do let heaven see the pranks they dare not show their husbands,” says the cynic sourly. “Their best conscience is not to leave’t undone, but to keep’t unknown!

Othello frowns. “Dost thou say so?”

“She did deceive her father, marrying you—and when she seemed to shake and fear your looks, she loved them most!

“And so she did….”

“Why, go to, then! She, though so young, could give out such a seeming as to seal up her father’s eyes!—closed as if open! He thought ’twas witchcraft!

“But I sound unseemly; I humbly do beseech of you your pardon for too much loving you.”

Othello feels deep pain—new insight, he thinks. “I am bound to thee forever.”

“I see this hath a little dashed your spirits….”

“Not a jot, not a jot.”

“I’ faith, I fear it has! I hope you will consider what is spoke comes from my love. But I do see you’re disturbed; I am praying you not to strain my speech to grosser issues, nor to larger reach than to suspicion!

“I will not.” Othello’s eyes are glistening.

“Should you do so, my lord, my speech should fall into such vile success as my thoughts aim not at. Cassio’s my worthy friend…. My lord, I see you’re moved”—angered.

“No, not much movèd; I do not think but that Desdemona’s honest….”

“Long live she so! And long live you to think so!”

Think so. The phrase echoes in Othello’s mind. He stares down, trying to square concern with experience. “And yet, how a nature, erring from itself—”

“Aye, there’s the point!” says Iago quickly. “As, to be bold with you, not accepting many proposèd matches of her own clime, complexion, and degree—whereto we see nature in all things tends! Fie!—one may smell in such thoughts unnatural a will most rank in foul disproportion!” He sees anger rising. “But pardon me. I do not distinctly speak of her disposition… though I may fear that her will, returning to her better judgment, may fail to match you with her country’s forms—and perhaps repent.”

Now Othello needs to think. “Farewell, farewell. If more thou dost perceive, let me know more.” He considers. “Set on thy wife to observe. Leave me, Iago.”

The ensign bows. “My lord, I take my leave.” He walks away.

Othello groans. Why did I marry? This honest creature doubtless sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds!

Iago comes back. “My lord, I would I might entreat Your Honour to scan this thing no further; leave it to time.

“Though it be fit that Cassio have his place—for surely he fills it up with great ability—yet, if you please to hold him off awhile, you shall by that perceive him and his means. Note if your lady strain his consideration with any strong or vehement importunity; much will be seen in that.

“In the meantime, let me be thought too busy in my fears—as I have worthy cause to fear I am!—and hold her free, I do beseech Your Honour.”

Othello is close to tears. “Fear not my government.”

“I once more take my leave.” The obsequious ensign goes into the castle, leaving the warrior alone—and embattled.


Chapter Six

A Loss, and an Alliance


Othello paces, wrung in a torment of doubt instilled by Iago. This fellow’s of exceeding honesty, and knows all qualities with a learnèd spirit of human dealings….

If I do prove her a flown falcon, though her cords were my dear heart-strings I’d whistle her off, and let her fly down the wind as prey to Fortune!

Perhaps for I am black, and have not those soft parts of conversation that chamberers have, or for I am declined into the vale of years—yet that’s not much—she’s gone….

I am abusèd!

He stops, stricken with the shock. And my relief must be to loathe her!

Oh, curse of marriage, that we can call these delicate creatures ours, but not their appetites! I had rather be a toad, and live upon the vapour of a dungeon than keep even a corner in the thing I love for others’ uses!

Yet ’tis the plague of great ones: prerogatived are they less than the base! ’Tis destiny unshunnable, like death! When we first quicken, then is this forkèd plague fated to us!

He is still ruminating darkly when Desdemona and Emilia return, hoping to find him still in the bower.

Othello watches the lovely and innocent lady—smiling to see him, hurrying to reach him.

Desdemona comes. If she be false, oh, then heaven mocks itself! I’ll not believe’t!

She kisses him. “How now, my dear Othello! Your dinner and the generous islanders by you invited do attend your presence.”

He murmurs, chiding himself, “I am to blame….”

“Why do you speak so faintly? Are you not well?”

“I have a pain upon my forehead, here”—he touches the site of a cuckold’s horns.

Desdemona knows he has had little sleep. “’Faith, that’s with watching; ’twill away again! Let me but bind it hard, within this hour it will be well!” She touches his cheek tenderly with her embroidered handkerchief.

Othello is pleased and amused. “Your napkin is too little,” he says, gently taking the hand at his face, and leaning down to kiss her. “Let it alone. Come, I’ll go in with you.” The kerchief falls, unnoticed.

“I am very sorry that you are not well,” says Desdemona, as they go to meet their guests.

Emilia, following, spots the square of bright linen.

I am glad I have found this napkin! she thinks. This was her first remembrance from the Moor. My wayward husband hath a hundred times woo’d me to steal it; but she so loves the token, for he conjured her she should ever keep it, that she reserves it evermore about her, to kiss and talk to.

She tucks it into a pocket, intending to obtain a duplicate. I’ll have the work ta’en out, and give’t Iago; what he will do with it heaven knows, not I! Actually, she has an idea: Aye—nothing but to please his fantasy!

Iago comes to find his wife; they are expected at the noon meal with Cypriot notables. “How now,” he says. “What do you here alone?

“Do not you chide; I have a thing for you!”

“A thing for me?”—the term can mean pudenda. “It is a common thing to have in a foolish wife!”

She ignores the gibe. “What will you give me now for that same handkerchief?”

“What handkerchief?”

What handkerchief?—why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona—that which so often you did bid me steal!

“Hast stol’n it from her?”

“No, ’faith; she let it drop by negligence, and, to the advantage, I, being here, took’t up. Look, here it is!”

“A good wench!—give it me.”

Emilia examines it, curious. “What will you do with ’t, that you have been so earnest to have me filch it?”

Iago snatches it away. “Why, what’s that to you?”

“If it be not for some purpose of import, give’t me again. Poor lady—she’ll run mad when she shall lack it!”

“Be not acknown of ’t,” Iago orders. “I have use for it. Go, leave me.”

Emilia is annoyed, but she refrains from complaining just now, and goes instead to take part in the official luncheon.

Iago is delighted. I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin, and let him find it.

Trifles light as air are, to the jealous, confirmations strong as proofs of Holy Writ!

This may do something!


Late that night, Iago stands outside the garden doors, waiting to speak to Othello. Thin clouds drift past moon and stars, and the dim glow from a tall window nearby seems to deepen the surrounding darkness.

The Moor already changes with my poison! Dangerous conceits are in their natures poison, which, at the first, are scarce found to distaste—but in a little, act upon the blood, burn like the mines of sulphur!

He sees Othello, obviously distraught. I did say so!—look where he comes! Not poppy nor mandragora, nor all the drowsy syrups of the world shall ever medicine thee unto that sweet sleep which thou ownedst yesterday!

False to me?” cries Othello angrily.

“Why, how now, General? No more of that.”

Avaunt! Be gone! Thou hast set me on the rack! I swear ’tis better to be much abusèd than to know’t but a little!”

How now, my lord?”

“What sense had I of her stol’n hours of lust? I saw’t not, thought it not—it harmed not me! I slept the next night well, was free and merry. I found not Cassio’s kisses on her lips! He that is robbèd, not lacking what is stol’n, let him not know it—and he’s not robbed at all!

“I am sorry to hear this—”

“I had been happy if the general camp, pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body, so I had nothing known!

“Oh, now, forever farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell contentment!

“Farewell the plumèd troops, and the big wars that make ambition virtue! Oh, farewell! Farewell the neighing steed and shrill trumpet, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, the royal banner—and all quality, pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious War!

“And, O you mortal engines whose rude throats the immortal Jove’s clamours deadly counterfeit,”—cannons’ thunderous fire, “farewell! Othello’s occupation is gone!

Iago seems dismayed. “Is’t possible, my lord?”

With both fists Othello seizes the smaller man’s coat. “Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore!—be sure of it!—give me the ocular proof! Or, by the worth of man’s eternal soul, thou hadst been better to have been born a dog than to answer my wakèd wrath!”

Iago looks wounded. “Is’t come to this?

Othello pulls his face closer. “Make me to see’t!—or, at the least, so prove it that the probation bear no hinge nor loop to hang a doubt on—or woe upon thy life!

“My noble lord—”

“If thou dost slander her and torture me, never pray more! Abandon all remorse; on horror’s head accumulate horrors!—do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amaze!—for nothing canst thou to damnation add greater than that!” Brusquely, he releases the ensign.

Cries Iago, “O Grace! O Heaven, defend me!

“Are you a man? Have you a soul or sense?” He straightens his rumpled coat. “God be wi’ you,” he says, quietly. “Take mine office.”

Having resigned, he starts for the door, muttering to himself: “O wretched fool, that livest to make thine honesty a vice! O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world: to be direct and honest is not safe! I thank you for this profit!—and from hence I’ll love no friend, sith love breeds such offence!”

Beleaguered and weary, Othello softens. “Nay, stay. Thou shouldst be honest,” he says sadly.

Iago shakes his head. “I should be wise—for honesty’s a fool, and loses that it works for!”

Othello is desperate. “By the world, I think my wife be honest!—and think she is not! I think that thou art just, and think thou art not!

I’ll have some proof! Her name, that was as fresh as Diana’s visage, is now begrimèd and black as mine own face! If there be ropes or knives, poison or fire, or suffocating streams,”—ways to die, “I’ll not endure it!

“Would I were satisfied!

Iago appears to be touched. “I see, sir, you are eaten up with passion; I do repent me that I put it to you!” He thinks for a moment. “You would be satisfied?”

“Would?—nay, I will!

“And may: but how?how satisfied, my lord? Would you as spectator grossly gape on?behold her topped?

Othello recoils as if he had been struck. “Death and damnation!“ He moans, “Oh!

Iago paces. “It were a tedious difficulty, I think, to bring them to that prospect; damn them then, if ever mortal eyes do see them bolster, more than their own!

What then? How then? What shall I say? Where’s satisfaction? It is impossible you should see this, were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys, as salt as wolves in pride—and gross in ignorance as fools made drunk!

“But yet… I say if imputation and strong circumstance, which lead directly to the door of truth, will give you satisfaction, you may have’t.”

Othello fears satisfaction has been lost. “Give me a living reason she’s disloyal!”

“I do not like the office,” claims Iago. “But, sith I am entered in this cause so far, pricked to’t by foolish honesty and love, I will go on.”

He paces again, then looks up, as if remembering an incident of his billeting in the citadel. “I lay near Cassio lately; and, being troubled with a raging tooth, I could not sleep.

“There are a kind of men so loose of soul that in their sleeps they will mutter their affairs; one of this kind is Cassio. I heard him say, in sleep, ‘Sweet Desdemona, let us be wary, let us hide our loves!’ And then, sir, would he grip and wring my hand, cry, ‘O sweet creature!’—and then kiss me hard, as if he plucked up by the roots kisses that grew upon my lips! Then laid he his leg over my thigh, and sighed, and kissed—and then cried, ‘Cursèd fate that gave thee to the Moor!’”

“Oh, monstrous! Monstrous!

“Nay, this was but his dream….”

“But this denoted a foregone conclusion! ’Tis a cutting concern, though it be but a dream!”

Iago nods. “And this may help to thicken other proofs that do demonstrate thinly.”

Now Othello paces. “I’ll tear her all to pieces!

“Nay, but be wise,” urges Iago. “Yet we see nothing done—she may be honest yet!

“Tell me but this: have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief, spotted with strawberries, in your wife’s hand?”

“I gave her such a one; ’twas my first gift.”

“I know not that; but such a handkerchief—I am sure it was your wife’s—did I today see Cassio wipe his beard with.”

“If it be that!—”

“If it be it or any that was hers, it speaks against her with the other proofs.”

Othello is furious. “Oh, that the slave had forty thousand lives! One is too poor, too weak for my revenge! Now do I see ’tis true!

“Look here, Iago,” he says, lifting his cupped hands, “all my foolish love thus do I blow to heaven! ’Tis gone!

“Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell! Yield up, O love, thy crown and hearted throne to tyrannous hate! Swell, bosom, with thy fraught, for ’tis of serpents’ tongues!”—venomous ideas.

Iago tries to calm him for now: “Yet be content!”

“Oh, blood, blood, blood!

Patience, I say!—your mind perhaps may change!”

Never, Iago! Like to the Pontic sea, whose icy current and compulsive course ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on to the Propontic and the Hellespont, even so my bloody thoughts with violent pace shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb into humble cove, till a capable and wide revenge swallow them up!”

He kneels, looking upward. “Now, by yond marble heaven, in the due reverence of a sacred vow I here engage my words!”

“Do not rise yet,” says Iago, kneeling beside him. “Witness, you ever-burning lights above, you elements that clip us round about, witness that here Iago doth give up the execution of his wit, hands, heart, to wrongèd Othello’s service! Let him command, and to obey shall be in me reason for what bloody business ever!”

Othello is grimly grateful. “I greet thy love, not with vain thanks, but with acceptance bounteous—and will upon the instant put thee to’t! Within these three days let me hear thee say that Cassio’s not alive!

“My friend is dead. ’Tis done, at your request. Only, let her live….”

Damn her, lewd minx! Oh, damn her! Come, go with me apart; I will withdraw to furnish me with some swift means of death for the fair devil!

“Now art thou my lieutenant!”

The swearers, religious and secular, rise in the shadows.

Iago murmurs, “I am your own forever!”


Chapter Seven

Test, Proof, Resolve


As Desdemona and Emilia stand and talk on the wide portico at the front of the governor’s palace the following afternoon, they are passed by the general’s jester, who is heading toward the front gate.

“Do you know, sirrah, where Lieutenant Cassio lies?” asks Desdemona.

“I dare not say he lies anywhere.”

“Why, man?”

“He’s a soldier—and for one to say a soldier lies is stabbing!

“Go to!” she laughs. “Where lodges he?”

“To tell you where he lodges is to tell you wherein I lie.”

Desdemona looks at Emilia. “Can anything be made of this?”

“I know not where he lodges,” the man explains, “and for me to devise a lodging, and say he lies here or he lies there, were to lie in mine own throat!” Emilia, too, now smiles.

“Can you inquire him out,” the lady asks—adding dryly, “and be edified by report?”

“I will catechise the world for him!” cries the clown. “That is, make questions, and by them answers.”

“Seek him; bid him come hither,” says Desdemona. “Tell him I have moved my lord on his behalf, and hope all will be well!”

The fool, looking up thoughtfully at the sky, seems to consider. “To do this is within the compass of Man’s wit….” She gives him gold. “…therefore I will attempt the doing it!” He bows, and goes into town.

Desdemona returns to their conversation. “Where should I lose that handkerchief, Emilia?”

“I know not, madam.”

“Believe me, I had rather have lost my purse full of crusadoes! And, but my noble Moor is true of mind, and made of no such baseness as jealous creatures are, it were enough to put him to ill-thinking!”

“Is he not jealous?”

“Who, he? I think the sun where he was born drew all such humours from him!”

Emilia points toward the street. “Look where he comes.”

Desdemona is determined to keep her word. “I will not leave him now till Cassio be called to him!” Othello reaches them at the steps. “How is’t with you, my lord?”

“Well, my good lady.” He regards her, thinking, O hardness, to dissemble! “How do you, Desdemona?”

“Well, my good lord!”

“Give me your hand.” He turns it over, to examine the open palm. “This hand is moist, my lady.”

Desdemona smiles. “It yet hath felt no age, nor known no sorrow.”

“This argues fruitfulness, and liberal heart,” says Othello, still looking down. “Hot, hot and moist!—this hand of yours requires a sequester from liberty—fasting and prayer, exercise devout, much castigation! For there’s a young and sweating devil here, that commonly rebels!

“’Tis a good hand: a frank one,” he says sourly, staring at her.

Nonplussed, she still smiles. “You may, indeed, say so, for ’twas that hand that gave away my heart!”

Othello releases her. “A liberal hand; the hands of old gave hearts; but our new heraldry is hands, not hearts.”

She is puzzled. “I cannot speak to this. Come now, your promise!”

“What promise, chuck?”

“I have sent to bid Cassio come speak with you.”

“I have a salt and sorry rheum offends me. Lend me thy handkerchief.”

“Here, my lord.”

“That which I gave you,” he says curtly.

“I have it not about me.”

“Not?”

“No, indeed, my lord.”

Othello frowns. “That is a fault! That handkerchief did an Egyptian to my mother give; she was a charmer, and could almost read the thoughts of people. She told her that while she kept it ’twould make her amiable, and subdue my father entirely to her love—but if she lost it or made gift of it, my father’s eye should hold her loathèd, and his spirits should hunt after new fancies.

“She, dying, gave it me, and bade me, when my fate would have me wive, to give it her.”

He glares at Desdemona. “I did so. And take heed on’t! Make it a darling like your precious eye!—to lose’t or give’t away were such perdition as nothing else could match!”

She is taken aback by his angry tone. “Is’t possible?”

“’Tis true! There’s magic in the web of it: the sibyl who sewed the work had numbered the sun to course two hundred compasses of the world in her prophetic fury; the worms were hallowed that did breed the silk; and it was dyed in distillments which the skilful conserved from virgins’ hearts!

Indeed? Is’t true?

“Most veritable! Therefore look to’t well!”

Then would to God that I had never seen’t! Desdemona moans softly.

Huh? Wherefore?”

She is startled. “Why do you speak so startingly and rash?”

“Is’t lost? Is’t gone? Speak—is it out o’ the way?”

“Heaven bless us!”

Say you!”

“It is not lost,” claims Desdemona, weakly, “but what an if it were?”

What?

“I say, it is not lost,” she insists, hoping to find the thing.

“Fetch’t!—let me see’t!”

“Why, so I can, sir, but I will not now. This is a trick to put me from my suit,” she argues. “Pray you, let Cassio be received again!”

Othello stares. “Fetch me the handkerchief; my mind misgives.”

“Come, come—you’ll never meet a more sufficient man.”

“The handkerchief!”

“I pray, talk to me of Cassio,—”

“The handkerchief!

“—a man that all his time hath founded his good fortunes on your love, shared dangers with you—”

Othello shouts: “The handkerchief!

Desdemona persists: “In sooth, you are to blame…”

Away!” cries Othello, seething. He storms into the castle.


Emilia, amazed, watches him go. “Is not this man jealous?

“I ne’er saw this before! Surely there’s some wonder in that handkerchief! I am most unhappy in the loss of it!”

Emilia is shaking her head. “’Tis not a year or two shows us a man! They are all but stomachs, and we all but food; they eat us hungrily—and when they are full, they belch us!” She spots two men coming up the walk from the gate. “Look you, Cassio and my husband.”

Iago is telling him, quietly but urgently, “There is no other way! ’Tis she must do’t—then, lo, the happiness! Go and importune her!”

Desdemona welcomes him. “How now, good Cassio! What’s the news with you?”

“Madam, my former suit,” he says, bowing. “I do beseech you that by your virtuous means I may again exist, and be a member of his love whom I with all the office of my heart entirely honour!

“I would not be delayed! If my offence be of such mortal kind that neither my service past, nor present sorrows, nor purposed merit in futurity can ransom me into his love again, merely to know so must be my benefit; so shall I clothe me in a forcèd contentment, and shut myself up in some other course, to Fortune’s alms.”

She confesses frustration. “Alas, thrice-gentle Cassio, my advocation is not now in tune! My lord is not my lord—nor should I know him, were he in face as in mood alterèd! So help me every spirit sanctified, I have spoken for you all my best—and stood upon the brink of his displeasure for my free speech!

“You must a while be patient. What I can do I will—and more I will than I dare for myself. Let that suffice you.”

“Is my lord angry?” asks Iago.

Emilia tells him, “He went hence but now, and certainly in strange unquietness!”

Iago seems surprised. “Can he be angry? I have seen when a cannon hath blown his ranks into the air, then like a very devil, from his own arm he bruised its brother!”—returned fire. “And can he be angry? Something of moment, then! I will go meet him. There’s matter in’t indeed, if he be angry!”

“I prithee, do so,” says Desdemona, as Iago goes in to find the general.

“Something, surely, of state, either from Venice, or some unhatchèd practise made demonstrable here in Cyprus to him, hath muddied his clear spirit,” she tells Emilia. “And in such cases men’s natures wrangle with inferior things, though great ones are their object. Tis ever so; for let our finger ache, and it endues even our other, healthful members with that sense of pain.

“Nay, we must not think men are gods—nor to them look for such observances as fit the bridle!

“Beshrew me much, Emilia, I, unhandsome lawyer as I am, was arraigning his unkindness with my soul! But now I find I have suborned that witness, and it’s indicted falsely!

“Pray heaven it be state matters, as you think,” says Emilia, “and no conception nor no jealous notion concerning you!

“Alas the day!—I never gave him cause!

Emilia shrugs. “But jealous souls will not be answered so; they are not ever jealous for a cause, but jealous for they are jealous!—’tis a monster begot upon itself, born of itself!”

“Heaven keep that monster from Othello’s mind!”

“Lady, amen!

“I will go seek him. Cassio, walk hereabout; if I do find him fit, I’ll move your suit and seek to effect it to my uttermost.”

Cassio bows. “I humbly thank Your Ladyship.”

Desdemona and Emilia go inside the castle.

For a while, Cassio paces; then he walks down to the iron gates, and stands beside the high stone wall that faces the street. He is deep in thought when a young woman about his age approaches.

She hails her inamorato sourly. “’Save you, friend Cassio!”

He looks up, surprised to see her. “What make you from home? How is it with you, my most fair Bianca? I’ faith, sweet love, I was coming to your house,” he lies.

“And I was going to your lodging, Cassio,” she replies in kind. “What, keep away a week? Seven days and nights?—eight score, eight hours—in a lover’s absence, hours eight-score times more tedious than the dial’s! Oh, weary reckoning!”

“Pardon me, Bianca! I have this while with leaden thoughts been pressèd, but I shall, in a more comfortable time, strike off this tally of absence.” He hands her Desdemona’s kerchief. “Sweet Bianca, take out this work for me.”

She examines it. “Oh, Cassio, whence came this? This is some token from a newer friend! For the felt absence now I feel a cause! Is’t come to this? Well, well!”

Cassio laughs. “Go to, woman! Throw your vile guesses in the Devil’s teeth, from whence you have them! You are jealous now that this is from some mistress some remembrance; no, in good troth, Bianca!”

“Well, whose is it?”

“I know not, sweet. I found it in my chamber. I like the work well; ere it be demanded—as likely enough it will—I’d have it copied. Take it, and do’t; and leave me for this time.”

“Leave you! Wherefore?”

“I do attend here on the general!—and think it no addition, nor my wish, to have him see me womaned.”

Why, I pray you?” she demands, indignant.

“Not that I love you not—”

“But not that you do love me!” she replies hotly. Still, she touches his arm softly. “I pray you, bring me on the way a little,” she pleads, “and say if I shall see you soon at night.”

“’Tis but a little way that I can bring you, for I attend, here. But I’ll see you anon.”

“’Tis very good. I must be as circumstances”—tentative. She heads toward her home—with the handkerchief.


Beside the castle’s lower gate, the new lieutenant meets privately with the general. Iago has played the skeptic while Othello, wracked with jealous anger, expressed the latest of his fevered imaginings.

“Will you think so?”

Think so, Iago?”

“What, to kiss in private,—”

“An unauthorized kiss!”

“—or being naked with her friend in bed an hour or more, not meaning any harm….”

Naked in bed, Iago, and not mean harm!—it is hypocrisy against the Devil!—they who mean virtuously and yet do so, the Devil their virtue tempts!—and they tempt Heaven!

Iago shrugs. “Say they do nothing—’tis but a venial slip. If I give my wife a handkerchief—”

What then?

“Why then ’tis hers, my lord—and, being hers, she may, I think, bestow’t on any man.”

“She is protectress of her honour, too!—may she give that?

“Her honour is an essence that’s not seen; very oft they hove it that have it not. But as for the handkerchief—”

Othello moans, a hand pressed to his churning stomach. “By heaven, I would most gladly have forgot it! It comes o’er my memory as doth the raven o’er the infected house, boding ill to all! Thou said’st he had my handkerchief!

“Aye, what of that?”

Othello seeks restraint. “That’s… not so good, now,” he grumbles; he closes his eyes and swallows several times.

“What if I had said I had seen him do you wrong?

“Or heard him say so?—such knaves be abroad who, having by their own importunate suit of voluntary dotage convinced some mistress, supplièd by them cannot choose but they must blab!

“Hath he said anything?”

“He hath, my lord—but, be you well assured, no more than he’ll unswear!

“What hath he said?”

“’Faith, that he did—” Iago seems to waver. “I know not what he did.”

“What? What?

“Lie—”

“With her?”

With her, on her—what you will.”

“‘Lie with her!’ ‘Lie on her!’—we say ‘lie on her,’ when they belie her!”

Choking with rage, his face revealing pain and fury, Othello struggles to utter his anguish: “Lie with her!—that’s fulsome!” He gasps for breath. “Handkerchief— Confessions!Handkerchief!

To confess, and be hanged for his labour! First to be hanged, and then to confess!”—like a man being executed. “I tremble at it!

Feeling faint, he leans back against the wall for support. “Nature would not invest herself in such shuddering passion without some instigation!” Sweat glistens on his brow. “It is not words that shake me thus….”

His eyelids flutter, then squeeze shut, but the images persist. He spits. “Noses, ears and lips!— Is’t possible?Confess!Handkerchief!— O, devil!

Staring but unseeing, he collapses, sliding down to gape in a kind of dreadful trance.

Iago watches, pleased. Work on, my medicine, work! He had added a potent potion to Othello’s wine.

Thus credulous fools are caught!—and many worthy and chaste dames even thus! All, guiltless, meet reproach!

Hearing footsteps on the street, he kneels beside Othello. “What, ho, my lord? My lord, I say! Othello!” He looks up as a gentleman comes toward them. “How now, Cassio”

“What’s the matter?”

“My lord is fall’n into an epilepsy! This is his second fit; he had one yesterday!”

Cassio, surprised, quickly kneels to help. “Rub him about the temples!”

“No, forbear!—the lethargy must have its quiet course! If not, he foams at mouth, and by and by breaks out to savage madness!

“Look, he stirs! Do you withdraw yourself a little while. He will recover straight. When he is gone, I would of a great occasion speak with you.”

Cassio, loath to discomfit the man he is petitioning, nods and goes.

Iago leans forward. “How is it, general? Have you not hurt your head?”

Othello reaches to wipe his damp brow. “Dost thou mock me?” he asks, weakly.

I—mock you? No, by heaven! I would you would bear your fortune like a man!

“A hornèd man’s a monster and a beast!” moans Othello, rising unsteadily.

“There’s many a beast, then, in a populous city, and many a civil monster.”

Othello resumes questioning. “Did he confess it?”

“Good sir, be a man!” chides worldly Iago. “Every bearded fellow that’s but yoked”—married—“may draw with you”—pull the same plow, as an ox. “There’s millions now alive that nightly lie in those unproper beds which they dare swear theirs alone!

Your case is better. Oh, ’tis the spite of Hell, the fiend’s arch mock: to lip a wanton in a secure couch, and to suppose her chaste! No!—let me know!—and knowing what I am, I know what she shall be!”

Othello, still trying to clear his vision, nods. “Oh, thou art wise; ’tis certain!

Iago now advises urgently: “Stand you a while apart; confine yourself but in a patient hearing.

“Whilst you were here o’erwhelmèd with your grief, a passion most unsuiting such a man, Cassio came hither!” Iago sees that Othello is mortified. “I shifted him away, and laid good ’scuse upon your rapture; bade him anon return and here speak with me—the which he promisèd.

“Do but encave yourself—and mark the fleers, the gibes and notable scorns that dwell in every region of his face! For I will make him tell the tale anew: where, how, how oft, how long ago, and when he hath, and is again to cope your wife! I say but mark his gesture!”

Othello lifts trembling hands to his throbbing temples and groans, but nods agreement.

The lieutenant knows that his scheme will require some distance. “Marry, patience,” he insists, grasping the general’s shoulder, “or I shall say you are all in all in spleen, and nothing of a man!”—just angry talk.

Othello straightens, grim and resolute. “Dost thou hear, Iago: I will be found most cunning in my patience; but then—dost thou hear!—most bloody!

“That’s not amiss; but yet keep to time in all! Will you withdraw?”

Othello moves into a stone alcove of the wall, at the end of the paved space where carriages’ passengers can disembark.

Iago’s thinks. Now will I question Cassio about Bianca, a hussy that by selling her desires buys herself bread and clothes. She is a creature that dotes on Cassio—as ’tis the strumpet’s plague to beguile many, and be beguiled by one! He, when` he hears of her, cannot restrain from the excess of laughter!

Here he comes. As he shall smile, Othello shall go mad!—and his unsophisticated jealousy must construe poor Cassio’s smiles, gestures and light behavior quite in the wrong!

He walks toward Cassio. “How do you now, lieutenant?”

“The worser that you give me the addition”—military title—“whose want even kills me.”

Iago is loudly encouraging: “Ply Desdemona well, and you are sure of’t!” He moves closer, his back to Othello, and speaks quietly: “Now, if this suit lay in Bianca’s power, how quickly should you speed!”

“Alas, poor caitiff!”

- Look how he laughs already! thinks Othello.

“I never knew woman to love man so,” murmurs Iago.

Cassio shakes his head at her folly. “Alas, poor rogue!—I think, i’ faith, she does love me!”

- Now he denies it faintly—then laughs it out!

Iago begins, louder. “Do you hear, Cassio,…”

- Now he importunes him to tell it o’er! Go to!—well done, well done!

“…she gives it out that you shall marry her. Do you intend it?”

Cassio laughs even louder at that idea.

- Othello quivers with rage. Do you triumph, Roman? Do you triumph?

I marry her? What?—a customer? Prithee, bear some charity to my wit, do not think it so unwholesome!

- So, so, so, so. Thinks Othello, savagely, They laugh who win!

Iago teases: “’Faith, the cry goes that you shall marry her!”

Cassio finds that hard to believe. “Prithee, say true!

“I am a very villain else!”

“That is the monkey’s own giving out!” says Cassio. “She is persuaded out of her own love and flattery I will marry her, not out of my promise.” He frowns.

- Have you scorned me so well? A hand, held behind the deceiver’s back, moves. Iago beckons me! Now he begins the story!

Cassio complains, “She was here even now; she haunts me in every place! I was the other day talking on the sea-bank with certain Venetians when thither comes the bauble—and, by this hand, she falls upon me, thus”—he throws up his arms—“about my neck!”

- Crying ‘O dear Cassio!’ as it were—his gesture imports it!

“So hangs, and lolls, and weeps upon me; so hauls and pulls me!” Cassio laughs again.

- Now he tells how she plucked him to my chamber! Oh, I see that nose of yours—but not the dog I shall throw it to!

Cassio is concerned. “Well, I must leave her company.”

Iago spots Bianca. “And before me,” he laughs. “Look where she comes!”

Cassio is disgusted. “’Tis such—or another fitchew!”—polecat, a term for whore. “Marry, a perfumèd one!”

As Bianca approaches, Cassio asks her. “What do you mean by this haunting of me?”

“Let the Devil and his dam haunt you!” she retorts hotly. “What did you mean by that same handkerchief you gave me even now? I was a fine fool to take it! I must take out the work?—a likely piece of work, that you should find it in your chamber and not know who left it there!

“This is some minx’s token!—and I must take out the work?” She thrusts the kerchief at him. “There!—give it to your hobby-horse! Wheresoever you had it, I’ll take out no work on’t!”

Cassio speaks soothingly, palms held up. “Now, now, my sweet Bianca, now, now….”

- By heaven, that would be my handkerchief!

Bianca pouts. “If you wish to come to supper tonight, you may; if you do not—come when you are next prepared for!” Defiantly, she stalks off into the town.

“After her, after her!” urges Iago.

Cassio nods, pocketing the handkerchief. “’Faith, I must!—she’ll rail in the street else!”

“Will you sup there?”

“’Faith, I intend so.”

“Well, I may chance to see you; for I would very fain speak with you!”

“Prithee, come. Will you?”

Iago nods. “Go to; say no more.” Cassio hurries away after the vociferous vixen.

Slowly, Othello emerges. “How shall I murder him, Iago?”

“Did you perceive how he laughed at his vice?”

Oh, Iago!

“And did you see the handkerchief?”

“Was that mine?”

Yours, by this hand! And you see how he prizes the foolish woman, your wife: she gave it him—and he hath given it to his whore!”

“I would have him nine years a-killing!” Othello’s thought turns from the thief to the stolen. “A fine woman,” he says, remembering Desdemona as he first knew her. “A fair woman. A sweet woman….”

The lieutenant is stern. “Nay, you must forget that.”

“Aye, let her rot!—and perish, and be damnèd tonight!—for she shall not live! Now my heart is turned to stone!” He claps a fist to his chest. “I strike it, and it hurts my hand!

But he laments his loss. “Oh, the world hath not a sweeter creature,” he says sadly. “She might lie by an emperor’s side and command him tasks!”

Iago frowns. “Nay, that’s not your course.”

Hang her, I do but say what she is,” says Othello. His voice softens even as he thinks of her: “So delicate with her needle; an admirable musician—oh, she will sing the savageness out of a bear! Of so high and plenteous wit and invention—”

“She’s the worse for all that!”

“Oh, a thousand thousand times!” Othello ponders. “And then, of so gentle a condition…”

“Aye, too gentle!”—too high-born.

“Aye, that’s certain… but yet the pity of it, Iago!” he moans, tears welling. “Oh, Iago, the pity of it, Iago!”

“If you are so fond of her iniquity, give her patent to offend!” says Iago callously. “For, if it touch not you, it comes near nobody.”

Othello’s pride is pierced. “I will chop her into messes!”—stew for troops. “Cuckold me?

“Oh, ’tis foul in her!”

“With mine officer!

“That’s fouler!”

“Get me some poison, Iago—this night! I’ll not expostulate with her, lest her body and beauty unprovide my mind again. This night, Iago!”

“Do it not with poison. Strangle her in her bed!—even the bed she hath contaminated!

“Good, good! The justice of it pleases! Very good!”

“And as for Cassio, let me be his undertaker,” says Iago. “You shall hear more by midnight!”

Excellent good!”


Chapter Eight

Confrontation, Despair


Passing through the main hall of the governor’s castle, Othello and Iago hear a herald’s horn being sounded at the entrance. “What trumpet is that same?” asks the general.

“Something from Venice, surely.” Iago looks to the doors. “’Tis Lodovico, come from the duke—and, see, your wife is with him.”

Signior Lodovico, smiling to see Othello, comes in with Desdemona and attendants. “’Save you, worthy general!” he says warmly.

“With all my heart, sir,” Othello replies, with a bow.

“The duke and senators of Venice greet you!” Lodovico gives him a letter.

“I kiss the instrument of their pleasures,” says Othello, and he unseals it.

“And what’s the news, good cousin Lodovico?” asks Desdemona as Othello reads.

But Iago intervenes. “I am very glad to see you, signior! Welcome to Cyprus!”

“I thank you,” says Lodovico. “How does Lieutenant Cassio?”

“Lives, sir.” The emissary’s eyebrows rise at the terse reply.

Desdemona explains. “Cousin, there’s fall’n between him and my lord an unkind breach, but you shall make all well!”

Othello mutters darkly: “Are you sure of that?”

“My lord?” says she, not quite hearing.

But Othello is again reading: ‘…This fail you not to do, as you will…’

Lodovico tells his niece, “He did not call; he’s busy with the papers. Is there division ’twixt my lord and Cassio?”

“A most unhappy one,” she tells him. “I would do much to atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio.”

Othello hears. “Fire and brimstone!” he cries.

“My lord?”

He glares at her seeming boldness. “Are you wise?

Desdemona, puzzled, asks, as he again reads, “What, is he angry?”

“May be the letter moves him,” says Lodovico, “for, as I think, they do command him home, deputing Cassio in his government.”

“Trust me, I am glad on’t!” says Desdemona.

Othello is incensed: “Indeed!

“My lord?”

“I am glad to see you mad!” he cries.

“Why, sweet Othello—”

Othello strikes her face. “Devil!

She steps back, tears welling up, amazed. “I have not deserved this!” she cries, touching her burning cheek.

Lodovico is dismayed. “My lord, this would not be believed in Venice, though I should swear I saw’t! ’Tis very much! Make her amends!—she weeps!

O devil, devil!” Othello shouts at the cringing lady. “If that the Earth could teem with women’s tears, each drop she falls would prove a crocodile! Out of my sight!

“I will not stay to offend you,” says Desdemona softly, curtseying and gathering her skirts to go.

“Truly, an obedient lady,” notes Lodovico. “I do beseech Your Lordship!—call her back!

Othello calls. “Mistress!”

Desdemona looks back. “My lord?”

Othello looks expectantly at Lodovico, “What would you with her, sir?”

“Who, I, my lord?”

“Aye—you did wish that I would make her turn.” He glares at Lodovico. “Sir, she can turn, and turn, and yet go on, then turn again! And she can weep, sir!—weep! And she’s obedient, as you say, obedient—very obedient!” He growls at Desdemona, “Proceed you in your tears!”

Othello turns to Lodovico, holding up the letter. “Concerning this, sir—” He stops to scoff at his wife: “Oh, well-painted passion! —I am commanded home.”

He snarls at Desdemona: “Get you away! I’ll send for you later.” He faces Lodovico. “Sir, I obey the mandate, and will return to Venice.” He glares at her. “Hence, avaunt!” She rushes, sobbing, from the room.

Cassio shall have my place,” says Othello with grim irony. “And, sir, tonight I do entreat that we may sup together. You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus.” He turns and strides away, muttering to himself. “Goats and monkeys!

Lodovico stands aghast. “Is this the noble Moor whom our full Senate call all-in-all sufficient? Is this the nature whom passion could not shake?—whose solid virtue neither shot of accident nor the dart of chance could graze nor pierce?”

Iago shrugs. “He is much changèd.”

“Are his wits safe? Is he not light of brain?

“He’s what he is. I may not breathe my censure what he might be; if what he might he is not, I would to heaven he were!”—his right self.

Lodovico is still an astonished witness. “What, strike his wife!

“’Faith, that was not so well—yet I would I knew that stroke would prove the worst!” frets Iago.

“Is it his use? Or did the letter work upon his blood, and new-create this fault?”

“Alas, alas!” says the discreet lieutenant. “It is not honesty for me to speak what I have seen and known. You shall observe him, and his own courses will denote him, so that I may save my speech. Do but go after, and mark how he continues.”

Lodovico leaves to join the others of his party, including Desdemona’s cousin, Gratiano. He shakes his head. “I am sorry that I am deceivèd in him!”


In his private chambers at the castle, Othello interrogates his wife’s waiting-gentlewoman. “You have seen nothing then?”

“Nor ever heard, nor ever did suspect!” Emilia assures him.

“Yes, you have seen Cassio and her together!

“But then I saw no harm—and then I heard each syllable that breath made up between them!”

“What, did they never whisper?”

Never, my lord!”

“Nor send you out o’ the way?”

“Never.”

“To fetch her fan, her gloves, her mask, nor nothing?”

Never, my lord.”

“That’s strange….”

“I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest, lay down my soul as stake!” says Emilia. “If you think otherwise, remove your thought; it doth abuse your bosom!

“If any wretch have put this in your head, let heaven requite it with the serpent’s curse! For if she be not honest, chaste, and true, there’s no man happy—the purest of their wives is foul as slander!”

But the glum general now hears only what confirms his fear. “Bid her come hither. Go.” Emilia curtseys and hurries away.

She says enough. Yet it’s a simple bawd that would not say as much! he thinks sourly, considering Emilia a go-between.

She returns with the lady.

Othello regards Desdemona: This is a subtle whore, a bedroom ‘lock-and-key’ of villainous secrets—and yet she’ll kneel and pray!—I have seen her do’t!

“My lord, what is your will?” asks Desdemona quietly.

“Pray, chuck, come hither.”

She goes to him. “What is your pleasure?”

“Let me see your eyes; look in my face.”

Desdemona sees his angry stare. What horrible fancy is this?

Othello addresses Emilia as if she ran a brothel: “Some of your function, mistress! Leave procreants alone, and shut the door; cough or cry hem! if anybody come. Your trade, to your trade!—nay, dispatch!” Emilia, offended—and not a little frightened—leaves them.

“Upon my knees,” pleads Desdemona, “what doth your speech import?—I understand a fury in your words, but not the words!

“Why, what art thou?”

“Your wife, my lord!—your true and loyal wife!

“Come, swear it!—damn thyself, lest the devils themselves should fear to seize thee, looking like one of heaven! Therefore be double damnèd: swear thou art honest!

Desdemona looks up at him. “Heaven doth truly know it.”

Heaven truly knows that thou art false as Hell!

“To whom, my lord? With whom? How am I false?”

Othello, crushed by his loss, cannot bear the images of how. “Oh, Desdemona! Away! Away! Away!

Alas the heavy day!” she cries, as she rises. “Why do you weep? Am I the motive of these tears, my lord? If haply you do suspect my father is an instrument of this, your calling back, lay not your blame on me! If you have lost him, why, I have lost him, too!”

Othello paces, complaining aloud. “Had it pleasèd heavens to try me with affliction—had they rained all kinds of sores and shames on my bare head, steeped me in poverty to the very lips, given to captivity me and my utmost hopes—I should have found in some place of my soul a drop of patience!

“But, alas, they do make me a fixèd figure for Time to point his slow-moving finger at in scorn!

“Yet could I bear that, too—well, very well, but for there,”—he points at his wife, “where I have garnered up my heart!—where I must either live or bear no life—the fountain from which my current runs, or else dries up, being decanted thence!

“Or keep it as a cistern,” he growls, his anger growing, “for foul toads to knot and gender in! Turn thy complexion there, Patience, thou young and rose-lipped cherub,”—the placid garden statue—“and, there look grim as hell!

Desdemona is perplexed. “I hope my noble lord esteems me honest!

“Oh, aye!—as summer flies are in a carcass!—teeming at even a breeze!” cries Othello. “O thou weed, who art so lovely, so fair, and smell’st so sweet that the sense aches at thee, would thou hadst ne’er been born!

Alas, what sin have I unknowingly committed?” she pleads, again in tears.

He stares, coldly, at her face. “Was this fair paper, this most goodly book, made to write ‘whore’ upon? What committed? Committed! O thou public commoner! I should make very forges of my cheeks that would to cinders burn up modesty, did I but speak thy deeds!

“What committed? Heaven stops the nose at it, and the moon shuts its eyes!—the bawdy wind that kisses all it meets is hushed within the hollow mine of earth, and will not hear it!

“What committed? Impudent strumpet!

“By heaven, you do me wrong!” she sobs.

“Are you not a strumpet?”

No, as I am a Christian! If to preserve this vessel for my lord from any foul, unlawful touch is not to be a strumpet, I am none!

“What, not a whore?”

No, as I shall be saved!”

“Is’t possible?” he cries, disgusted by the denial.

“O heaven, forgive us!”

“I cry you mercy, then,” says Othello with heavy sarcasm. “I took you for the cunning whore of Venice that married with Othello!”

He shouts toward the closed door: “You, mistress!—that have the office opposite to Saint Peter, and keep the gate of Hell!” Emilia comes in, fearfully. “Yes, you, aye, you! We have done our course.” He flings coins at her. “There’s money for your pains. I pray you, turn the key, and keep your counsel”—tell no one. He stalks out of the chamber, tears of pain and anger still wet on his face.

Emilia is stunned. “Alas, what does this gentleman conceive? How do you, madam? How do you, my good lady?”

Desdemona stands devastated, forlorn and dazed. “’Faith, half asleep.”

“Good madam, what’s the matter with my lord?”

“With who?”

“Why, with my lord, madam.”

“Who is thy lord?”

“He that is yours, sweet lady.”

Desdemona shakes her head. “I have none.” She raises a pale palm. “Do not talk to me, Emilia. I cannot weep; nor answer have I none but what should go by water”—through tears.

She looks slowly around the room. “Prithee, tonight lay on my bed my wedding sheets. Remember. And call thy husband hither.”

Here’s a change indeed! thinks Emilia, very worried. She goes to find Iago.

’Tis meet I should be used so, very meet, thinks the dutiful lady, even as she struggles to comprehend. How have I been behaved, that he might stick the small’st opinion on my least misuse?

Emilia returns with Iago. “What is your pleasure, madam?” he asks. “How is’t with you?”

“I cannot tell. Those that do teach young babes do it with gentle means and easy tasks; he might have chid me so, for, in good faith, I am a child to chiding.”

“What’s the matter, lady?”

Emilia responds. “Alas, Iago, my lord hath so be-whored her, thrown such despite and heavy terms upon her, as true hearts cannot bear!

Am I that name, Iago?” asks Desdemona.

“What name, fair lady?” He wants her to suffer it again.

“Such as she says my lord did say I was.”

“He called her whore!” says Emilia. “A beggar in his drink could not have laid such terms upon his callat!

“Why did he so?”

“I do not know,” says Desdemona, piteously, beginning to cry again. “I am sure I am none such!”

“Do not weep, do not weep,” says Iago. “Alas the day!”

Emilia, however, is indignant. “Hath she forsook so many noble matches, and her father, her country and her friends, to be called whore? Would it not make one weep?”

“It is my wretched fortune,” says Desdemona.

“Beshrew him for’t!” cries Emilia. “How comes this trick upon him?”

Iago shrugs. “Nay, heaven doth know…..”

Cries Emilia angrily, “I will be hanged if some infernal villain—some busy and insinuating rogue, some cogging, cozening slave!—have not devised this slander to get some office! I’ll be hanged else!”

“Fie, there is no such man,” says Iago. “It is impossible.”

The devout lady prays: “If any such there be, Heaven, pardon him.”

“A halter pardon him!” cries Emilia, “and Hell gnaw his bones!

“Why should he call her whore? Who keeps her company? What place?—what time?—what form? What likelihood?

“The Moor’s abusèd by some most villainous knave, some base, notorious slave, some scurvy fellow! O Heaven, would that such companions Thou’ldst reveal!—and put in every honest hand a whip to lash the rascals naked through the world, even from the east to the west!”

Iago tries to quiet her. “Speak within door!”

“Oh, fie upon them!” replies Emilia. “Some such squire was he that turned your wit the seamy side without, and made you to suspect me with the Moor!”

“You are a fool!—go to!” says Iago hastily.

But Desdemona is abstracted. “Alas, Iago, what shall I do to win my lord again?

“Good friend, go to him,” she pleads, “for, by the light of heaven, I know not how I lost him!

“Here I kneel! If e’er my will did trespass ’gainst his love, either in discourse of thought or actual deed—or mine eyes, mine ears, or any sense, delighted them in any other form—or if I do not yet, and ever did, and ever will love him dearly!—though he do shake me off to beggarly divorcement—may comfort forswear me!

“Unkindness may do much, and his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love!

She shudders again at his malice. ”I cannot say the word: it does abhor me now to speak! To do the act that might the addition earn, not the world’s mass of vanity could make me!”

Iago is soothing. “I pray you, be content! ’Tis but his mood: the business of the state does him offence, and he does chide with you.”

Desdemona wants to believe that. “If ’twere no other—”

“’Tis but so, I warrant,” Iago tells her. They hear the herald’s trumpets. “Hark, how these instruments summon to supper! The messengers of Venice stay the meat!”—wait to be served.

“Go in, and weep not—all things shall be well!”


Chapter Nine

Darkness and Alarm


Standing on the portico as the sun sets, Iago feels comfortable and content after the long meal. The strained courtesy and artificial cordiality that made the event an ordeal for the others—Othello and Desdemona, the visiting Venetian courtiers—added piquancy to his repast.

His sees cohort walking up from the citadel—as a beardless civilian, no longer disguised. “How now, Roderigo?”

“I do not find that thou dealest justly with me!” says the young man hotly.

“What in the contrary?”

“Every day thou daffest me with some device, Iago!—and, as it seems to me now, keepest from me all conveniency, rather than suppliest me with the least advantage of hope! I will indeed no longer endure it!—nor am I yet persuaded to put up in peace with what already I have foolishly suffered!”

“Will you hear me, Roderigo—”

“’Faith, I have heard too much!—for your words and performances are no kin together!”

“You charge me most unjustly!”

“With nought but truth! I have wasted myself out of my means! The jewels you have had from me to deliver to Desdemona—half would have corrupted a votarist! You have told me she hath received them, and returned me expectations and comforts of sudden respect and acquaintance—but I find none!

Iago says, calmly: “Well; go to; very well.”

“‘Very well? Go to?’ I cannot go to, man!—nor ’tis not very well! Nay, I think it is scurvy, and begin to find myself robbed in it!”

“Very well.”

“I tell you ’tis not very well!” cries Roderigo angrily. “I will make myself known to Desdemona! If she will return me my jewels, I will give up my suit and repent my unlawful solicitation; if not, assure yourself I will seek satisfaction of you!

“You have said”—spoken your piece.

Aye!—and said nothing but what I protest intendment of doing!

Iago smiles warmly. “Why, now I see there’s mettle in thee!—and even from this instant do build on thee a better opinion than ever before! Give me thy hand, Roderigo!” he says, seizing and shaking it. “Thou hast taken against me a most just exception; but yet, I protest, I have dealt most directly in thy affair!”

“It hath not appeared!” complains Roderigo.

Iago nods. “I grant in deed it hath not appeared, and your suspicion is not without wit and judgment. But, Roderigo, if thou hast that in thee indeed which I have greater reason to believe now than ever—I mean purpose, courage and valour!—this night, show it!

“If thou the next night following enjoy not Desdemona, devise engines for my life, and take me from this world with treachery!

Roderigo frowns at yet another stratagem. “Well, what is it? Is it within reason and compass?”

Iago grasps his elbow, and looks around carefully to see if they can be overheard; he lowers his voice. “Sir, there is especial commission come from Venice to depute Cassio in Othello’s place!

“Is that true? Why, then Othello and Desdemona return again to Venice!”

“Oh, no!” says Iago. “He goes to Mauritania—and takes the fair Desdemona away with him!—unless his abode be lingered here by some accident—wherein none can be so determinate as the removing of Cassio!”

Roderigo stares. “How do you mean, ‘removing’ of him?”

“Why, by making him uncapable of Othello’s place—knocking out his brains.”

“And that you would have me to do?”

Aye, if you dare do yourself a right and a profit!

“He sups tonight with a harlot, and thither will I go to him; he knows not yet of his honorable fortune. If you will watch his going thence, which I will fashion to fall out between twelve and one, you may take him at your pleasure!

“I will be near to second your attempt—and he shall fall between us!

“Come!—stand not amazèd at it, but go along with me! I will show you such a necessity in his death that you shall think yourself bound to put it on him! It is now nigh his suppertime, and the night goes to waste! About it!

Despite doubts, Roderigo is again drawn toward easy success. “I will hear further reason for this….”

“And you shall be satisfied!”


In the castle’s guest quarters after the evening meal, Othello invites Lord Lodovico and Gratiano to stroll with him into town.

“I do beseech you, sir,” says Lodovico, “trouble yourself no further.”

“Oh, pardon me,” says Othello insistently, “’twill do me good to walk.”

Lodovico bows to Desdemona. “Madam, good night; I humbly thank Your Ladyship.”

“Your Honour is most welcome,” she replies.

“Will you walk, sir?” says Othello, starting to leave. He turns. “Oh, Desdemona—”

“My lord?”

“Get you to bed on the instant; I will be returned forthwith.” He motions toward Emilia. “Dismiss your attendant there; look it be done.”

“I will, my lord.”

The gentlemen go down to the street, discussing intently about the future defense of Cyprus against the Ottoman Turk.


Emilia approaches Desdemona in the general’s chambers. “How goes it now? He looks gentler than he did.”

“He says he will return; importingly he hath commanded me to go to bed, and bade me to dismiss you.”

“Dismiss me?” She usually stays until the lord and lady have retired.

“It was his bidding; therefore, good Emilia, give me my nightly wearing, and adieu. We must not now displease him.”

“I would you had never seen him!”

“So would not I; my love doth so approve him that even his stubbornness, his checks, his frowns—prithee, unpin me—have grace and favour in them.”

“I have laid those sheets you bade me on the bed.”

Desdemona sighs. “All’s one.” She looks at the bed for a moment. “Good faith, how foolish are our minds! If I do die before thee, prithee shroud me in one of those same sheets.”

“Come, come!—how you talk!

Desdemona is calm, but wistful. “My mother had a maid called Barbary. She was in love, but he that she loved proved mad, and did forsake her. She had a song of willow—an old thing, ’twas, but it expressed her fortune, and she died singing it.

“That song tonight will not go from my mind; I have much to-do but to go hang my head all at one side, and sing it like poor Barbary!

“Prithee, dispatch.”

“Shall I go fetch your nightgown?” asks Emilia.

“No, unpin me here.”

Emilia busies herself with letting down the lady’s long hair. “This Lodovico is a proper man!—a very handsome man!” she says, trying for girlish cheerfulness.

“He speaks well.”

“I know a lady in Venice would have walked barefoot to Palestine for a touch of his nether lip!”

Desdemona sings softly:

The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree.

  Sing all, ‘A green willow.’

Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee.

  Sing, ‘Willow, willow, willow.’

The fresh stream ran by her and murmured her moan.

  Sing, ‘Willow, willow, willow.’

Her salt tears fell from her, and softened the stones.”

She hands Emilia her earrings. “Lay these by.

  Sing, ‘Willow, willow, willow.’

“Prithee, hie thee,” she says, “he’ll come anon!

Sing all, ‘A green willow must be thy garland!’

‘Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve—’

Desdemona pauses, frowning. “Nay, that’s not next… Hark—who is’t that knocks?”

“It’s the wind,” says Emilia, gently brushing her hair.

The lady sings:

“‘I called my love ‘False love!’—but what said he then?’

  Sing, ‘Willow, willow, willow.’

 ‘If I court more women, you’ll couch with more men!’”

Emilia chuckles at the ribald sophistry.

Desdemona looks at her. “So, get thee gone. Good night. Mine eyes do itch—doth that bode weeping?”

“’Tis neither here nor there.”

“I have heard it said so. Oh, these men, these men! Dost thou in conscience think—tell me, Emilia—that there be women who abuse their husbands in such gross kind?”

“There be some such, no question.”

Desdemona tsks disapproval. “Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?

“Why, would not you?

No, by this heavenly light!”

Emilia grins. “Nor I neither, by heavenly light; I might do’t as well i’ the dark!

But Desdemona is serious. “Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?

Emilia shrugs. “The world’s a huge thing: it is a great price for a small vice.”

“In troth I think thou wouldst not!”

“In troth, I think I would!—then undo’t when I had done!

“Marry, I would not do such a thing for a joint-ring, nor for measures of lawn, nor for gowns, petticoats, nor caps, nor any petty exhibition. But for the whole world!—why, who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? I should venture purgatory for’t.”

“Beshrew me if I would do such a wrong for the whole world!”

“Why, the wrong is but a wrong in the world,” argues Emilia blithely, “and having won the world for your labour, ’tis a wrong in your own world—and you might quickly make it right!

Desdemona smiles; but she believes in fidelity. “I do not think there is any such woman!”

“Yes—a dozen! And as many took their advantage”—a lesser prize—“as would stock the world they played for!

“But I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall! Say that they slack their duties, and pour our treasures into foreign laps!—or else break out in peevish jealousies, throwing restraint upon us! Or say they strike us, or scant our former having in despite—why, we have galls! And though we have some grace, yet we’ll have some revenge!

“Let husbands know their wives have senses, like them: they see and smell, and have their palates for both sweet and sour, as husbands have!

“What is it that they do when they exchange us for others? Is it sport? I think it is! And doth affection breed it? I think it doth! Is’t frailty that thus errs? It is so too!

“And have not we affections, desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?

“Then let them use us well,” she warns in comical dudgeon, “else let them know: the ills we do, their ills instruct us to!”

Desdemona laughs as Emilia goes to her own room. “Good night, good night!

She waits, now, for her lover.

Heaven, to me such uses send, not to pick bad from bad, but from bad to mend!


Darkness along this unsavory street in the town’s military quarter is familiar to Iago; he has often visited nearby at night. But Roderigo is apprehensive.

The lieutenant leads him to an alley and into a stall beside a sagging, boarded-up old building. He points to a stack of broken crates. “Here, stand behind this bulk. Straight will he come!—wear thy good rapier bare, and put it home!

“Quick, quick!—fear nothing!—I’ll be at thy elbow! It makes us, or it mars us—think on that, and fix most firm thy resolution!

“Be near at hand,” says Roderigo looking around warily. “I may miscarry in’t.”

“Here at thy hand,” Iago assures him. “Be bold, and take thy stand!” He moves back, deeper into the shadows.

Roderigo tries to steel himself. I have no great devotion to the deed; and yet he hath given me satisfying reasons. ’Tis but a man gone. Forth, my sword—he dies!

Iago draws his own blade. I have rubbed this young quat almost to the sense, and he grows angry. Now, whether he kill Cassio, or Cassio him, or each do kill the other, every way makes my gain!

He considers further. Live Roderigo, he calls me to a restitution large of gold and jewels that I fobbed from him as gifts to Desdemona; it must not be.

If Cassio do remain, he hath a daily beauty in his life that makes me ugly; and, besides, the Moor may unfold me to him—there stand I in much peril! No, he must die.

But so. —I hear him coming!

Cassio has just left Bianca’s room, having made pleasant amends with her.

I know his gait—’tis he! thinks Roderigo. “Villain, thou diest!” He leaps forward, driving his rapier’s point directly at Cassio’s chest.

The gentleman is pushed away—unhurt. “That thrust had been mine enemy indeed but that my coat is better than thou know’st!” cries Cassio, drawing his rapier. “I will make proof of thine!” He attacks his opponent with vigor; they start to circle, but the soldier quickly pierces his assailant.

Oh,” cries Roderigo, “I am slain!” He gasps as the blade is withdrawn.

As Cassio pulls it back, Iago steps behind him and slashes viciously with his sword. Hearing him, Cassio turns, trying to avoid the stroke, but the blade cuts deeply into his leg. Iago dashes away, unrecognized.

Cassio falls, bleeding and unable to stand. “I am maimed forever! Help, ho! Murder! Murder!

Above, at a dim, open window of the alehouse across the way, Othello looks down. He has sent away the Venetian visitors, and waited alone—listening. The voice of Cassio! Iago keeps his word!

Roderigo lies in the stall, regretful now. “Oh, villain, that I am!” he cries out in his pain.

Othello thinks he heard Cassio. He nods at the confession. It is even so.

Cassio calls: “Oh, help, ho! Light! A surgeon!

’Tis he. Oh, brave Iago, honest and just, that hast such noble sense of thy friend’s wrong! Thou teachest me! Going to the chamber door, he blows out a candle, then hastens down creaking wooden stairs and past off-duty soldiers among the other drinkers at the bar.

Othello leaves the tavern and heads toward the castle. He thinks of his wife. Minion, your dear lies dead, and your unblest fate hies! Strumpet, I come!

Forth from my heart go those spells!—thine eyes are blockèd!

Thy bed, lust-stainèd, shall with blood-lust be spotted!

On the street, Lord Lodovico and Gratiano—sent by Othello to seek out Lieutenant Michael Cassio, just appointed by the Signiory to succeed him as commander of the garrison at Cyprus—near a bloody scene.

Cassio is muttering. “What, ho! No watch? No passersby? He calls out: Murder! Murder!

“’Tis some mischance!” says Gratiano, stopping several yards away. “The cry is very direful!”

Oh, help!” cries Cassio.

“Hark!” says old Lodovico, peering forward in the dark.

“Oh, a wretched villain!” moans Roderigo.

Two or three groan!—it is a heavy night!” says Lodovico. “These may be counterfeits,” he warns. “Let’s think’t unsafe to go in to the cry without more help!”

“Nobody come?” wails Roderigo. “Then shall I bleed to death!”

Lodovico turns as help arrives. “Hark!

At the house of a discreet acquaintance—she never questions her visitors—Iago has wiped his blade, pulled off his coat and doublet, and taken up a lantern.

Gratiano grasps Lodovico’s arm. “Here’s one comes in his shirt, with light and weapons!”

“Who’s there?” demands Iago. “Whose noise is this that cries out murder?

Lodovico replies. “We do not know!”

“Did not you hear a cry?”

“Here, here!” calls Cassio. “For heaven’s sake, help me!

What’s the matter?” asks Iago, raising the lantern.

Gratiano tells the older nobleman, “This is Othello’s ancient, as I take it.”

“The same indeed—a very valiant fellow!” says Lodovico.

Iago, clean sword gleaming, holds up the lantern and steps toward Cassio. “Who are you here, that cry so grievously?”

Iago? Oh, I am spoilèd!undone by villains! Give me some help!”

Iago kneels and sets the lantern beside him, revealing the bloody wound. “Oh, me, lieutenant! What villains have done this?”

Cassio motions toward the alley. “I think that one of them is hereabout, and cannot make away!”

Oh, treacherous villains!” growls Iago, rising. He turns to Gratiano. “What, are you there? Come in, and give some help!

Roderigo cries, weakly, “Oh, help me here!

That’s one of them!” cries Cassio.

Iago strides to the stall. “Oh, murderous slave! Oh, villain!” The men outside hear his sword clanking—defensively they think—against Roderigo’s fallen blade just before he stabs the man who lies on the ground.

“Oh, damnèd, Iago!” cries Roderigo, staring up in horror. “O inhuman dog!” Blood spills from his mouth, his eyes close, and his head lolls to the side.

Iago turns away. “Kill men i’ the dark!” he says, angrily contemptuous. “Where be these bloody thieves?— How silent is this town!— Ho! Murder! Murder!” He comes back to Lodovico. “What may you be?—are you of good or evil?”

Lodovico raises both empty hands. “As you shall prove us, praise us!”

“Signior Lodovico?

He, sir!”

Iago bows, and hands Gratiano the lantern. “I cry you mercy. Here’s Cassio hurt by villains!”

Gratiano is surprised. “Cassio!

Iago has gone to him. “How is’t, brother?”

“My leg is cut in two!”

“Marry, heaven forbid!” Iago waves for the lantern. “Light, gentlemen!” He looks at the injury. “I’ll bind it with my shirt.”

Bianca, having heard the disturbance from up the street, has run to see. “What is the matter, ho? Who is’t that cried?”

Iago, bare-chested, looks up from bandaging and sneers at the woman. “‘Who is’t that cried for thee?

“Oh, my dear Cassio!” cries Bianca, seeing the bloody cloth. “My sweet Cassio! Oh, Cassio, Cassio, Cassio!

Iago glares up at her. “Oh, notable strumpet!” He finishes binding the wound, then regards the woman sourly. “Cassio, do you suspect who they should be that may to this have led you?”

“No.”

Gratiano leans down to speak with Cassio. “I am sorry to find you thus!” he says, dismayed. “I have been to seek you!”

“Lend me a belt!” says Iago; Gratiano provides his. “So. Oh, for a chair, to bear him easily hence….”

“Alas, he faints!” says Bianca, wringing her hands. “Oh, Cassio, Cassio, Cassio!

Iago rises. “Gentlemen all, I do suspect this trash to be a party in this injury! Patience awhile, good Cassio!”

He looks to Gratiano. “Come, come; lend me the light!” They go together into the stall to look. “Know ye this face, or no?

Alas!—my friend and my dear countryman, Roderigo! No… yes, sure! Oh, heaven! Roderigo!

“What—of Venice?” asks Lodovico.

“Even he, sir,” says Gratiano. “Did you know him?”

The nobleman nods, shaken. “Know him? Aye!

Iago looks at his face, seeming just now to recognize him. “Signior Gratiano? I cry your gentle pardon; these bloody incidents must excuse my manners, that so neglected you!”

“I am glad to see you,” says Gratiano weakly, still staring at Roderigo.

“How do you, Cassio?” asks Iago urgently, going to him. “Oh, a chair, a chair!

Gratiano returns to them with the lantern, shaken. “Roderigo.”

He, he, ’tis he!” says Iago. “Oh, that’s well done—a chair!” One of the onlookers from the tavern has brought it. The lieutenant helps Cassio to rise onto one leg, then ease down to sit on the makeshift litter. Iago uses the belt to secure him.

“Some good men bear him carefully from hence,” he says, and gives silver to two burly fellows who come forward. “I’ll fetch the general’s surgeon!”

He seizes Bianca’s arm as she tries to go with Cassio. “As for you, mistress, save you your labour!”

Gratiano is looking back at Roderigo. “He that lies slain here, Cassio, was my dear friend—what malice was between you?”

“None in the world,” says Cassio, weakening further, “nor do I know the man!” He is borne away for treatment at the citadel.

Iago demands of Bianca, “What, look you pale?

Four arriving soldiers run to him. Waving toward the stall, he tells them, “Go bear him out o’ the air.” They carry Roderigo away, heading for the garrison.

Iago regards Lodovico and Gratiano. “Stay you, good gentlemen.” He pulls Bianca forward. “Look you pale, mistress?

“Do you perceive the gastness of her eye?” he asks the Venetians; Bianca scowls. “Nay, do you stare? We shall hear more—anon!

“Behold her well, I pray you!—look upon her! Do you see, gentlemen? Aye!—guiltiness will speak, though tongues were out of use!”

With others from the castle, Emilia has run down into the city, as word of a killing spreads. She spots Iago, shirtless, with blood on his hands. “Alas, what’s the matter? What’s the matter, husband?”

“Cassio hath here been set on in the dark by Roderigo and fellows that are ’scaped!” he tells her. “He’s almost slain—and Roderigo dead!

Emilia is appalled. “Alas, good gentleman! Alas, good Cassio!

Iago glances at Bianca. “This is the fruit of whoring! Prithee, Emilia, go know of Cassio where he supped tonight.” He looks again at Bianca. “What!—do you shake at that?”

Bianca faces him defiantly. “He supped at my house; but I therefore shake not!

“Oh, did he so? I charge you, go with me!”

Fie, fie upon thee, strumpet!” cries Emilia.

“I am no strumpet,” says Bianca, “but of a life as honest as you that thus abuse me!”

“As I! Oh, fie upon thee!”

“Kind gentlemen, let’s go see poor Cassio’s wound dressed,” Iago says to Signior Lodovico and Gratiano. He pulls Bianca along: “Come, mistress, you must tell us another tale!

“Emilia, run you to the citadel, and tell my lord and lady what hath happ’d!” She nods and hurries away.

He gestures courteously. “Will you go on?” Lodovico and Gratiano begin returning to the castle.

Iago, follows, wondering if Othello’s part of their pact has been accomplished.

This is the night that either makes me, or fordoes me quite!


Chapter Ten

Retribution


Othello stands, silent, looking at the bed where Desdemona lies sleeping. Again he wavers. It is because… it is because, my soul….

He looks up. Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars! It is for cause.

Yet I’ll not shed her blood, nor scar that skin of hers—whiter than snow, and smooth as monumental alabaster….

Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men!

As he moves closer, a bedside candle flickers. Put out the light… and then put out the light. If I quench thee, thou flaming minister, I can again thy former light restore, should I repent me. He looks at the sleeping lady. But once put out thy light, thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature, I know not where is that Promethean heat that can thy light relume.

He pinches the flame, and is aware of the wick’s pungent fume.

When I have plucked the rose, I cannot give it vital growth again; it must needs wither. I’ll smell it on the green stem. He leans forward, and kisses her gently. Ah, balmy breath, that dost almost persuade Justice to break her sword! One more, one more! He kisses her again.

Annoyed by deep feelings, he gibes: Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee and love thee after!

But he whispers, eyes teeming. “One more; and this the last.

So sweet was ne’er so fatal! I must weep, but they are cruel tears; this sorrow’s heavy—it strikes where it doth love!

She wakes. “Who’s there? Othello?”

That stirs a frown. “I, Desdemona.”

She sits up. “Will you come to bed, my lord?”

“Have you prayed tonight, Desdemona?”

“Aye, my lord.”

“If you bethink yourself of any crime unreconcilèd as yet to Heaven’s grace, solicit for it straight.”

Alas, my lord, what do you mean by that?

“Well, do it, and be brief! I will walk by; I would not kill thy unpreparèd spirit!—no, heaven forfend! I would not kill thy soul!

She is startled. “Talk you of killing?

“Aye, I do.”

“Then Heaven have mercy on me!”

Amen, with all my heart!”

She is staring. “If you say so, I hope you will not kill me!”

Othello, heartbroken, moans and looks, tearfully, upward.

“And yet I fear you!—for you are fearful when your eyes roll so! Why I should fear I know not, since guiltiness I know not—but yet I feel my fear!

“Think on thy sins.”

“They are loves I bear to you!” she says earnestly.

And to whom else? Othello’s anger rises. “Aye. And for that thou diest.”

“That Death’s unnatural who kills for loving!” Desdemona’s eyes scan his face. “Alas, why gnaw you so your nether lip? Some bloody passion shakes your very frame! These are portents, but yet I hope they do not point on me!” She starts to rise.

He pushes her down brusquely. “Peace, and be still!”

“I will so,” says Desdemona, now thoroughly afraid. “What’s the matter?

“That handkerchief which I so loved and gave thee, thou gavest to Cassio!

No, by my life and soul! Send for the man, and ask him!”

“Sweet soul, take heed, take heed of perjury; thou art on thy deathbed.”

She did make a lifetime commitment to their bed. “Aye—but not yet to die!”

Othello is adamant. “Yes; immediately. Therefore confess thee freely of thy sin—for denying each article with oath cannot remove nor check the strong conception that I do groan withal! Thou art to die.”

“The Lord have mercy on me!” cries Desdemona.

“I say, Amen.

“And have you mercy, too! I never did offend you in my life!—never loved Cassio but with such general warranty of heaven as I might love! I never gave him token!

Othello glares. “By heaven, I saw my handkerchief in’s hand! O perjured woman! Thou dost stone my heart, and makest me call a sacrifice what I intended to do as murder—which I thought of when I saw the handkerchief!

She is desperate. “He found it then! I never gave it him! Send for him hither; let him confess the truth!”

“He hath confessed.”

“What, my lord?”

“That he hath usèd thee.”

Desdemona is aghast: “How? Unlawfully?

“Aye.”

She shakes her head; she replies, firmly, “He will not say so.”

“No—his mouth is stopped! Honest Iago hath ta’en order for’t.”

Oh! My fear interpretswhat, is he dead?

“Had all his hairs been lives,” growls Othello, “my great revenge had metal for them all!”

Alas! He is betrayed, and I undone!

He is furious. “Out, strumpet! Weep’st thou for him to my face?

“Oh, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!” cries Desdemona, trying to rise.

Down, strumpet!”

“Kill me tomorrow; let me live tonight!” she begs, as he shoves her down.

“Nay, if you strive—”

“But half an hour!”

With his right hand he presses her neck against the bed. He grasps a pillow. “Being due, there is no pause!”

Desdemona tries to hold back his left hand. “Only while I say one prayer!” she pleads.

“It is too late.” Othello pushes the pillow over her face and forces it down. Soon her struggling weakens—until, finally, she is still.


“My lord, my lord!” calls Emilia, knocking on the locked bedchamber door. “What, ho! My lord, my lord!”

What noise is this? thinks Othello—just as Desdemona stirs. Not dead? Not yet quite dead? I that am cruel am yet merciful; I would not have thee linger in thy pain. He presses the pillow down again, using both hands. So… so….

Emilia calls, “What, ho! My lord, my lord!

Othello stands, holding the pillow. “Who’s there?”

“Oh, good my lord, I would speak a word with you!”

Yes, ’tis Emilia. “By and by,” he calls. He looks at Desdemona. She’s dead.

He faces the door, in a daze. ’Tis likely she comes to speak of Cassio’s death. He starts— A noise was here! He looks quickly at the bed. Hmh—no more moving. Still as the grave.

Shall she come in? Were’t good? —I think she stirs again! No. What’s best to do? If she come in, she’ll surely speak to my wife….

My wife! My wife!—what wife? I have no wife! The pillow falls.

Oh, insupportable, oh heavy hour! Methinks it should be, now, a huge eclipse of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe should gape at alteration!

Emilia knocks again. “I do beseech you that I may speak with you, O good my lord!”

I had forgot thee. “Oh, come in, Emilia… soft; by and by….” Let me the curtains draw. As he pulls the valances under the canopy closed, he pauses to look at the lady he considers damned. Where art thou?

He unlocks and opens the door. “What’s the matter with thee now?”

“Oh, my good lord, yonder foul murder’s done!”

“What—now?

“But now, my lord!”

“It is the very error of the moon; she comes more nearer earth than she was wont, and makes men mad.”

“Cassio, my lord, hath killed a young Venetian called Roderigo!”

“Roderigo, killed! And Cassio killed!”

“No, Cassio is not killed.”

“Cassio not killèd!” Othello staggers. “Then murder’s out of tune!—and sweet revenge grows harsh!

From the bed comes a weak moan: “Oh, falsely, falsely murderèd!”

Emilia moves forward. “Alas, what cry is that?”

Othello blocks her way. “That? What?

Out, and alas!” cries Emilia, pushing past him. “That was my lady’s voice!” She sweeps aside the curtains and sees Desdemona. “Help! Help, ho! Help! Oh, lady, speak again! Sweet Desdemona! Oh, sweet mistress, speak!

The lady opens her eyes. “A guiltless death I die….”

“Oh, who hath done this deed?” asks Emilia, aghast.

Nobody—I myself. Farewell… Commend me to my kind lord….” Emilia grasps her hand. “Oh, farewell,” whispers Desdemona, smiling faintly at Othello. And then she dies.

He seems surprised. “Why, how could she be murdered?

Emilia closes the lady’s eyes, tears running from her own. “Alas, who knows?” Gently she covers Desdemona’s face with the edge of one of her wedding sheets.

Othello presses. “You heard her say herself it was not I!

Emilia looks at him coldly. “She said so. I must needs report the truth!

“She has—like a liar!gone to burning hell!” cries Othello. “’Twas I that killed her!”

“Oh, the more angel she!—and you the blacker devil!

Othello declaims in righteousness: “She turned to folly, and she was a whore!

Emilia defies him. “Thou dost belie her!—and thou art a devil!

“She was false as water!

“Thou art rash as fire to say that she was false! Oh, she was heavenly true!

Othello shakes his head. “Cassio did top her!—ask thy husband else! Oh, I were damnèd beneath all depth in Hell but that I did proceed upon just grounds to this extremity! Thy husband knew it all!”

“My husband?”

“Thy husband.”

“That she was false to wedlock?”

“Aye, with Cassio! Nay, had she been true, if heaven would make me such another world, of one entire and perfect chrysolite,”—a golden-yellow gem, “I’d not have sold her for it!”

“My husband.”

“Aye, ’twas he that told me first! An honest man he is, and hates the slime that sticks on filthy deeds!”

Emilia cries, furious: “My husband!

“What needs this iteration, woman?—I say thy husband!”

Emilia looks at the bed. “O mistress, villainy hath made mocks with love!

“My husband say that she was false!”

He, woman! I say thy husband!—dost understand the word? My friend, thy husband, honest, honest Iago!

“If he say so, may his pernicious soul rot half a grain a day!” shrieks Emilia. “He lies to the heart!” She points at Othello. “She was too fond of her most filthy bargain!

Othello starts angrily toward her.

“Do thy worst!” she cries, facing him. “This deed of thine is no more worthy heaven than thou wast worthy her!

Peace, you were best!” warns Othello.

Emilia spits at him. “Thou hast not half that power to do me harm as I have to be hurt!

“O gull! O dolt! As ignorant as dirt! Thou hast done a deed…” Othello draws his rapier.

“I care not for thy sword!” she cries, backing to the door. “I’ll make thee known, though I lose twenty lives!

Help! Help, ho! Help!” she calls. “The Moor hath killed my mistress! Murder! Murder!

In the corridor, walking down from the guest quarters, Montano has been listening to Gratiano’s account of the violent occurrence in town; they rush into the room, followed by Iago.

“What is the matter?” asks Montano. “How now, general?”

“Oh, are you come, Iago?” cries Emilia. “You have done well, that men must lay their murders on your neck!”

“What is the matter?” he demands.

Emilia points at Othello. “Dispute this villain, if thou be’st a man: he says thou told’st him that his wife was false! I know thou didst not—thou’rt not such a villain! Speak, for my heart is full!”

Iago shrugs. “I told him what I thought, and told no more than what he found, himself, was apt and true.”

“But did you ever tell him she was false?”

“I did.”

You told a lie!” cries Emilia, “an odious, damnèd lie!—upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie! She, false with Cassio—did you say with Cassio?

“With Cassio, mistress,” Iago replies. “Go to; charm your tongue,” he orders, waving her away.

“I will not charm my tongue!” insists Emilia. “I am bound to speak!my mistress here lies murderèd in her bed!

The others now look. “Oh, heavens forfend!” cries Gratiano.

Emilia faces Iago. “And your reports have set the murderer on!

“Nay, stare not, masters,” Othello tells the gentlemen. “It is true, indeed.”

Gratiano regards his cousin’s killer. “’Tis a strange truth!”

“Oh, monstrous act!” gasps Montano.

“Villainy, villainy, villainy!” wails Emilia. “I think upon’t—I think I smell’t! —Oh, villainy! —I thought so! Then I’ll kill myself for grief! Oh, villainy, villainy!

Iago tries to push her to the door. “What, are you mad? I charge you, get you home!”

Emilia breaks away. “Good gentlemen, let me have leave to speak! ’Twas proper I obey him—but not now! Perchance, Iago, I will ne’er go home!”

Othello has been staring at Desdemona. He groans sorrowfully, and sits down, sobbing, beside her on the bed.

Emilia berates him: “Nay, lay thee down and roar, for thou hast killed the sweetest innocent that e’er did lift up eye!

Othello rises, grief-stricken, but angry. “Oh, she was foul!” Wiping away tears, he looks at Lodovico. “I scarce did know you, Uncle. There lies your niece, whose breath, indeed, these hands have newly stopped! I know this act shows horrible and grim—”

“Poor Desdemona!” breathes Gratiano. “I am glad thy father’s dead! Thy match was mortal to him, and pure grief sheared his old thread in twain. Did he live now, this sight would make him do a desperate turn!—yea, curse his better angel away from his side, and fall to reprobation!

Othello pleads his case. “’Tis pitiful—but yet Iago knows that she with Cassio hath the act of shame a thousand times committed! Cassio confessed it! And she did gratify his amorous works with that recognizance and pledge of love which I first gave her—I saw it in his hand! It was a handkerchief, an antique token my father gave my mother.”

Emilia is stunned. “O Heaven! O heavenly powers!

Iago glares at her. “Home! Hold your peace!

“’Twill out, ’twill out!” she cries. “I, peace? No!—I will speak as liberal as the north!”—winter’s fierce wind. “Let heaven and men and devils, let them all, all, all cry shame against me, yet I’ll speak!

Iago grasps the hilt of his rapier. “Be wise, and get you home!

“I will not!” Iago draws and tries to stab her—but she has backed away too fast.

Gratiano draws his own weapon and blocks Iago. “Fie! Your sword upon a woman?

Emilia scowls. “Oh, thou dull Moor! That handkerchief thou speak’st of I found by fortune, and did give my husband!—for often, with a solemn earnestness, more than indeed belonged to such a trifle, he begged of me to steal it!”

Iago shouts, “Villainous whore!

Emilia transfixes Othello with her glare. “She give it Cassio? No! Alas, I found it, and I did give’t my husband!

Filth, thou liest!” cries Iago.

“By heaven I do not! I do not, gentlemen!” She still watches Othello. “Oh, murderous coxcomb! What should such a fool do with so good a woman?”

Realization has overtaken Othello. “Are there no stones in heaven but what serve for the rumbling of thunder?” He draws his sword. “Precious villain!” He runs the blade at Iago.

But the lieutenant leaps away, avoiding the thrust—and he stabs Emilia in the back, then bolts from the room. Othello stands, confounded, as Montano takes away his sword.

Gratiano has caught Emilia. “The woman falls! Surely he hath killed his wife!

“Aye, aye,” she groans. “Oh, lay me by my mistress’ side.”

He’s gone,” says Gratiano, helping her to the bed, “but his wife’s killed!

“’Tis a notorious villain!” cries Montano. “Take you this weapon which I have here recovered from the Moor,” he tells Gratiano. “Come, guard the door without!—let him not pass, but kill him rather! I’ll after that same villain, for ’tis a damnèd slave!

They both go out, closing the door behind them.

Devastated, Othello stands, his powerful hands dangling, and silently weeps. I am not valiant, neither; every puny whipster gets my sword! But why should honour outlive honesty?—let it go, all!

Emilia eases herself slowly, painfully, down to kneel beside the bed, blood now staining her dress. “What did thy song bode, lady? Hark, canst thou hear me? I will play the swan, and die with music.”

As she clasps Desdemona’s hand, she sings, softly, with ineffable sadness: “‘Willow, willow, willow.’”

She regards the general solemnly. “Moor, she was chaste. She loved thee, cruel Moor.” Emilia’s voice fades as she weakens. “So come my soul to bliss, as I speak true! So speaking as I think, I die… I die….”

Othello, stricken, turns away, eyes closed, head throbbing in agony.

After a moment he looks up, and moves slowly to a chest of drawers. I have another weapon in this chamber; it is a sword of Spain, of the icy brook’s tempering. Here it is. He calls out, toward the door, “I must come forth!

“If thou attempt it, it will cost thee dear!” replies Gratiano from beyond the door. “Thou hast no weapon, and perforce must suffer!”

“Look in upon me, then, and speak with me,” says Othello, “or, naked as I am, I will assault thee!”

Gratiano opens the door and comes in warily. “What is the matter?”

Othello slides the gleaming steel from its costly sheath. “Behold, I have a weapon!—a better never did itself sustain upon a soldier’s thigh!” He looks sadly at the blade, raising it before him. “I have seen the day that, with this little arm and this good sword, I have made my way through more impediments than twenty times your stop!

“But, oh, vain boast! Who can control his fate? ’Tis not so now,” he admits. “Be not afraid, though you do see me weaponed; here is my journey’s end, here is my terminus, and very sea-mark of my utmost sail.”

Gratiano moves toward the door, fearful despite the general’s grave calm.

“Do you go back, dismayed? ’Tis a lost fear!—make but a rush against Othello’s breast and he retires.

“Where should Othello go?

He turns to the bed. “Now—how dost thou look now, O ill-starrèd wench!—pale as thy smock. When we shall meet at compt,”—Judgment, “this look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven, and fiends will snatch at it!”

He touches her cheek. “Cold, cold, my girl! Even,” he says, his voice breaking, “like thy chastity!

He weeps, utterly wretched. “O cursèd, cursèd slave! Whip me, ye devils, from the possession of this heavenly sight! Blow me about in winds! Roast me in sulphur!—wash me in deep-down gulfs of liquid fire!

“O Desdemona! Desdemona! Dead!” He falls to his knees, sobbing in convulsion.

Gratiano glances behind him, then moves aside. Montano, just returning, has encountered Signior Lodovico, the injured officer, and several troops. Two soldiers carry in Cassio, strapped onto the chair.

“Where is this rash and most unfortunate man?” demands Lodovico.

“That’s he who was Othello; here I am.”

Lodovico turns to the door. “Where is that viper? Bring the villain forth!” Two men of the guard haul in Iago—a prisoner, hatless, arms bound behind him. Seizing him roughly by the shoulders, they shove him forward to stand facing the general.

“I look down towards his feet,” says Othello, as if expecting cloven hooves. “That’s but a fable; if thou be a devil, I cannot kill thee.” Suddenly he swings the sword up, thrusting it at Iago and piercing his side, despite dodging. A soldier quickly grabs the arm wielding the weapon.

“Wrench his sword from him!” orders Lodovico.

Iago winces as the twisting blade is pulled free. He smirks “I bleed, sir—but not killed!

“I am not sorry, neither,” Othello tells him. “I’d have thee live—for in my sense ’tis happiness to die!”

Lodovico shakes his head, amazed. “Oh, thou, Othello, thou wert once so good!—fall’n to the scheming of a cursèd slave! What shall be said of thee?”

“Why, anything!—an honourable murderer, if you will; for nought did I in hate, but all in honour,” says Othello—scathing himself with irony.

Lodovico stands near Iago. “This wretch hath partly confessed his villainy. Did you and he consent in Cassio’s death?” he asks Othello.

“Aye.”

Cassio is astonished. “Dear general, I never gave you cause!

Othello nods. “I do believe it, and I ask your pardon.” He looks at Lodovico. “Will you, I pray, demand of that demi-devil why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?”

Iago sneers. “Demand me nothing; what you know you know.” His hypocritical jealousy would sound even more absurd now that he’s killed his wife. “From this time forth I never will speak word.” 

“What, not to pray?” asks Lodovico.

Gratiano takes another tack: “Torments will ope your lips,” he assures the lieutenant.

Othello hopes so. “Well, thou dost best!

Lodovico tells him. “Sir, you shall understand what hath befallen which, as I think, you know not. Here is a letter found in the pocket of the slain Roderigo, and here another. The one of them imports the death of Cassio, to be undertook by Roderigo.”

Othello seethes. “Oh, villain!

“Most heathenish and most gross!” cries Cassio.

“Now here’s another paper, found in his pocket too,” says Lodovico, “and this, it seems, discontented Roderigo meant to have sent to this damnèd villain, but that, belike in the interim Iago came and satisfied him.”

“Oh, the pernicious caitiff!” Othello pauses; he needs to know. “How came you, Cassio, by that handkerchief that was my wife’s?”

“I found it in my chamber,” says Cassio. He motions toward Iago. “And he himself confessed but even now that there he dropped it, for a special purpose which wrought to his desire.”

In a spasm of pain, Othello pounds his fists against his own head. “O fool! fool! fool!

Cassio continues: “There is, besides, in Roderigo’s letter, how he upbraids Iago for making him defy me upon the watch—whereon it came that I was cast out.” He has more news from the citadel about Roderigo: “And even but now he spake, after long seeming dead: Iago hurt him—Iago set him on!

Lodovico tells the fallen general, “You must forsake this room and go with us. Your power in your command is taken off, and Cassio rules in Cyprus.”

He grasps the sagging Iago by the hair to raise his pain-contorted face. “As for this slave, if there be any cunning cruelty that can torment him much!—and hold him long!—it shall be his!

He turns to Othello. “You shall a close prisoner rest, till that the nature of your crime be known to the Venetian state.” He nods to the soldiers. “Come, bring him away.”

Othello holds up a hand. “Soft, you—a word or two before you go!

“I have done the state some service, and they know’t!” He looks down, sadly. “No more of that.

“I pray you, in your letters, when you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am: nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.

“Then must you speak of one that loved not wisely, but too well—of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, perplexed in the extreme! Of one whose hand, like the base heathen’s, threw away a pearl richer than all his tribe!—of one whose subduèd eyes, albeit unused to the melting mood, dropped tears as fast as the Arabian trees their medicinable gum!

“Set you down that—and say besides, that once in Aleppo, where a malignant and a turbaned Turk beat a Venetian and traduced the state, I took the circumcisèd dog by the throat and smote himthus!” He pulls a dagger from under his shirt and plunges the slender blade in deep, just below his heart.

“Oh, bloody conclusion!” cries Lodovico, as Othello staggers to the bed.

“All that’s spoken is marred!” says Gratiano, shaking his head.

Othello tells Desdemona, “I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this: killing myself, to die upon a kiss!” He leans, touches her lips with his, then falls. The knife is driven upward. He shivers, and dies.

Cassio stares, stunned. “This did I fear, for he was great of heart, but I thought he had no weapon!” he says of his general.

Lodovico grasps Iago’s shirt. “O Spartan dog, more fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea! Look on the tragic loading of this bed!—this is thy work!”

He tells a soldier, “The object poisons sight; let it be hid!” The man pulls the curtains closed.

“Gratiano, keep the house, and seize upon the fortunes of the Moor, for they succeed on you.

“To you, lord governor,” he tells Casio, “remains the censure of this hellish villain—the time, the place, the torture! Oh, enforce it!

“Myself will straight aboard, and to the state this heavy act with heavy heart relate.”