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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene III.

Othello, the Moor of Venice

A Council Chamber.The DUKE and Senators sitting at a table.Officers attending.

Duke.There is no composition in these news

That gives them credit.

First Sen.Indeed, they are disproportion’d;

My letters say a hundred and seven galleys.

Duke.And mine, a hundred and forty.

Sec. Sen.And mine, two hundred:

But though they jump not on a just account,—

As in these cases, where the aim reports,

’Tis oft with difference,—yet do they all confirm

A Turkish fleet, and bearing up to Cyprus.

Duke.Nay, it is possible enough to judgment:

I do not so secure me in the error,

But the main article I do approve

In fearful sense.

Sailor.[Within.]What, ho! what, ho! what, ho!

Off.A messenger from the galleys.

Enter a Sailor.

Duke.Now, what’s the business?

Sail.The Turkish preparation makes for Rhodes;

So was I bid report here to the state

By Signior Angelo.

Duke.How say you by this change?

First Sen.This cannot be,

By no assay of reason; ’tis a pageant

To keep us in false gaze. 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 bear it,

For that it stands not in such war-like brace,

But altogether lacks the abilities

That Rhodes is dress’d in: if we make thought of this,

We must not think the Turk is so unskilful

To leave that latest which concerns him first,

Neglecting an attempt of ease and gain,

To wake and wage a danger profitless.

Duke.Nay, in all confidence, he’s not for Rhodes.

Off.Here is more news.

Enter a Messenger.

Mess.The Ottomites, reverend and gracious,

Steering with due course toward the isle of Rhodes,

Have there injointed them with an after fleet.

First Sen.Ay, so I thought. How many, as you guess?

Mess.Of thirty sail; and now they do re-stem

Their backward course, bearing with frank appearance

Their purposes toward Cyprus. Signior Montano,

Your trusty and most valiant servitor,

With his free duty recommends you thus,

And prays you to believe him.

Duke.’Tis certain then, for Cyprus.

Marcus Luccicos, is not he in town?

First Sen.He’s now in Florence.

Duke.Write from us to him; post-post-haste dispatch.

First Sen.Here comes Brabantio and the valiant Moor.


Duke.Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you

Against the general enemy Ottoman.

[To BRABANTIO.]I did not see you; welcome, gentle signior;

We lack’d your counsel and your help to-night.

Bra.So did I yours. Good your grace, pardon me;

Neither my place nor aught I heard of business

Hath rais’d me from my bed, nor doth the general care

Take hold of 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.

Duke.Why, what’s the matter?

Bra.My daughter! O! my daughter.

Duke. & Sen.Dead?

Bra.Ay, to me;

She is abus’d, stol’n from me, and corrupted

By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks;

For nature so preposterously to err,

Being not deficient, blind, or lame of sense,

Sans witchcraft could not.

Duke.Whoe’er he be that in this foul proceeding

Hath thus beguil’d 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.

Bra.Humbly I thank your Grace.

Here is the man, this Moor; whom now, it seems,

Your special mandate for the state affairs,

Hath hither brought.

Duke. & Sen.We are very sorry for it.

Duke.[To OTHELLO.]What, in your own part, can you say to this?

Bra.Nothing, but this is so.

Oth.Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,

My very noble and approv’d good masters,

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 bless’d with the soft phrase of peace;

For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith,

Till now some nine moons wasted, they have us’d

Their dearest action in the tented field;

And little of this great world can I speak,

More than pertains to feats of broil and battle;

And therefore little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish’d tale deliver

Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,

What conjuration, and what mighty magic,

For such proceeding I am charg’d withal,

I won his daughter.

Bra.A maiden never bold;

Of spirit so still and quiet, that her motion

Blush’d at herself; and she, in spite of nature,

Of years, of country, credit, every thing,

To fall in love with what she fear’d to look on!

It is a judgment maim’d and most imperfect

That will confess perfection so could err

Against all rules of nature, and must be driven

To find out practices of cunning hell,

Why this should be. I therefore vouch again

That with some mixtures powerful o’er the blood,

Or with some dram conjur’d to this effect,

He wrought upon her.

Duke.To vouch this, is no proof,

Without more certain and more overt test

Than these thin habits and poor likelihoods

Of modern seeming do prefer against him.

First Sen.But, Othello, speak:

Did you by indirect and forced courses

Subdue and poison this young maid’s affections;

Or came it by request and such fair question

As soul to soul affordeth?

Oth.I do beseech you,

Send for the lady to the Sagittary,

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 of you,

Not only take away, but let your sentence

Even fall upon my life.

Duke.Fetch Desdemona hither.

Oth.Ancient, conduct them; you best know the place.[Exeunt IAGO and Attendants.

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.

Duke.Say it, Othello.

Oth.Her father lov’d me; oft invited me;

Still question’d me the story of my life

From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes

That I have pass’d.

I ran it through, even from my boyish days

To the very moment that he bade me tell it;

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field,

Of hair-breadth ’scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,

Of being taken by the insolent foe

And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence

And portance in my travel’s history;

Wherein of antres vast and desarts idle,

Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven,

It was my hint to speak, such was the process;

And of the Cannibals that each other eat,

The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads

Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear

Would Desdemona seriously incline;

But still the house-affairs would draw her thence;

Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,

She’d come again, and with a greedy ear

Devour up my discourse. Which I observing,

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 intentively: I did consent;

And often did beguile her of her tears,

When I did speak of some distressful stroke

That my youth suffer’d. My story being done,

She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:

She swore, in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange;

’Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful:

She wish’d she had not heard it, yet she wish’d

That heaven had made her such a man; she thank’d me,

And bade me, if I had a friend that lov’d her,

I should but teach him how to tell my story,

And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:

She lov’d me for the dangers I had pass’d,

And I lov’d her that she did pity them.

This only is the witchcraft I have us’d:

Here comes the lady; let her witness it.

Enter DESDEMONA, IAGO, and Attendants.

Duke.I think this tale would win my daughter too.

Good Brabantio,

Take up this mangled matter at the best;

Men do their broken weapons rather use

Than their bare hands.

Bra.I pray you, hear her speak:

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:

Do you perceive in all this noble company

Where most you owe obedience?

Des.My noble father,

I do perceive here a divided duty:

To you I am bound for life and education;

My life and education both do learn 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 show’d

To you, preferring you before her father,

So much I challenge that I may profess

Due to the Moor my lord.

Bra.God be with you! I have done.

Please it your Grace, on to the state affairs:

I had rather to adopt a child than get it.

Come hither, Moor:

I here do give thee that with all my heart

Which, but thou hast already, with all my heart

I would keep from thee. For your sake, jewel,

I am glad at soul I have no other child;

For thy escape would teach me tyranny,

To hang clogs on them. I have done, my lord.

Duke.Let me speak like yourself and lay a sentence,

Which as a grize or step, may help these lovers

Into your favour.

When remedies are past, the griefs are ended

By seeing the worst, which late on hopes depended.

To mourn a mischief that is past and gone

Is the next way to draw new mischief on.

What cannot be preserv’d when Fortune takes,

Patience her injury a mockery makes.

The robb’d that smiles steals something from the thief;

He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.

Bra.So let the Turk of Cyprus us beguile;

We lose it not so long as we can smile.

He bears the sentence well that nothing bears

But the free comfort which from thence he hears;

But he bears both the sentence and the sorrow

That, to pay grief, must of poor patience borrow.

These sentences, to sugar, or to gall,

Being strong on both sides, are equivocal:

But words are words; I never yet did hear

That the bruis’d heart was pierced through the ear.

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

Duke.The Turk with a most mighty preparation makes for Cyprus. Othello, the fortitude of the place is best known to you; and though we have there a substitute of most allowed sufficiency, yet opinion, a sovereign mistress of effects, 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.

Oth.The tyrant custom, most grave senators,

Hath made the flinty and steel couch of war

My thrice-driven bed of down: I do agnize

A natural and prompt alacrity

I find in hardness, and do undertake

These present wars against the Ottomites.

Most humbly therefore bending to your state,

I crave fit disposition for my wife,

Due reference of place and exhibition,

With such accommodation and besort

As levels with her breeding.

Duke.If you please,

Be ’t at her father’s.

Bra.I’ll not have it so.

Oth.Nor I.

Des.Nor I; 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 gracious ear;

And let me find a charter in your voice

To assist my simpleness.

Duke.What would you, Desdemona?

Des.That I did love the Moor to live with him,

My downright violence and storm of fortunes

May trumpet to the world; my heart’s subdu’d

Even to the very quality of my lord;

I saw Othello’s visage in his mind,

And to his honours 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

By his dear absence. Let me go with him.

Oth.Let her have your voices.

Vouch with me, heaven, I therefore beg it not

To please the palate of my appetite,

Nor to comply with heat,—the young affects

In me defunct,—and proper satisfaction,

But to be free and bounteous to her mind;

And heaven defend your good souls that you think

I will your serious and great business scant

For she is with me. No, when light-wing’d toys

Of feather’d Cupid seel with wanton dulness

My speculative and offic’d instruments,

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!

Duke.Be it as you shall privately determine,

Either for her stay or going. The affair cries haste,

And speed must answer it.

First Sen.You must away to-night.

Oth.With all my heart.

Duke.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.

Oth.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.

Duke.Let it be so.

Good night to every one.[To BRABANTIO.]And, noble signior,

If virtue no delighted beauty lack,

Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.

First Sen.Adieu, brave Moor! use Desdemona well.

Bra.Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:

She has deceiv’d her father, and may thee.[Exeunt DUKE, Senators, Officers, &c.

Oth.My life upon her faith! 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, of worldly matters and direction,

To spend with thee: we must obey the time.[Exeunt OTHELLO and DESDEMONA.


Iago.What sayst thou, noble heart?

Rod.What will I do, think’st thou?

Iago.Why, go to bed, and sleep.

Rod.I will incontinently drown myself.

Iago.Well, if thou dost, I shall never love thee after. Why, thou silly gentleman!

Rod.It is silliness to live when to live is torment; and then have we a prescription to die when death is our physician.

Iago.O! villanous; I have looked upon the world for four times seven years, and since I could distinguish betwixt a benefit and an injury, I never found man that knew how to love himself. Ere I would say, I would drown myself for the love of a guinea-hen, I would change my humanity with a baboon.

Rod.What should I do? I confess it is my shame to be so fond; but it is not in my virtue to amend it.

Iago.Virtue! a fig! ’tis in ourselves that we are thus, or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to 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, either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with industry, why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. If the balance of our lives had not one scale 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 motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts, whereof I take this that you call love to be a sect or scion.

Rod.It cannot be.

Iago.It is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will. Come, be a man. Drown thyself! drown cats and blind puppies. 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. Put money in thy purse; follow these wars; defeat thy favour with a usurped beard; I say, put money in thy purse. It cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her love to the Moor,—put money in thy purse,—nor he his to her. It was a violent commencement in her, 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 as luscious as locusts, shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida. She must change for youth: when she is sated with his body, she will find the error of her choice. She must have change, she must: therefore put money in thy purse. If thou wilt needs damn thyself, do it a more delicate way than drowning. Make all the money thou canst. If sanctimony and a frail vow betwixt an erring barbarian and a supersubtle Venetian be not too hard for my wits and all the tribe of hell, thou shalt enjoy her; therefore make money. A pox of drowning thyself! it is clean out of the way: seek thou rather to be hanged in compassing thy joy than to be drowned and go without her.

Rod.Wilt thou be fast to my hopes, if I depend on the issue?

Iago.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 delivered. Traverse; go: provide thy money. We will have more of this to-morrow. Adieu.

Rod.Where shall we meet i’ the morning?

Iago.At my lodging.

Rod.I’ll be with thee betimes.

Iago.Go to; farewell. Do you hear, Roderigo?

Rod.What say you?

Iago.No more of drowning, do you hear?

Rod.I am changed. I’ll sell all my land.

Iago.Go to; farewell! put money enough in your purse.[Exit RODERIGO.

Thus do I ever make my fool my purse;

For I mine own gain’d knowledge should profane,

If I would time expend with such a snipe

But for my sport and profit. I 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 holds 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

In double knavery; how, how? Let’s see:

After some time to abuse Othello’s ear

That he is too familiar with his wife:

He hath a person and a smooth dispose

To be suspected; framed to make women false.

The Moor is of a free and open nature,

That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,

And will as tenderly be led by the nose

As asses are.

I have ’t; it is engender’d: hell and night

Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.[Exit.