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

Act II. Scene I.

Othello, the Moor of Venice

A Sea-port Town in Cyprus.An open place near the Quay.

Enter MONTANO and two Gentlemen.

Mon.What from the cape can you discern at sea?

First Gent.Nothing at all: it is a high-wrought flood;

I cannot ’twixt the heaven and the main

Descry a sail.

Mon.Methinks the wind hath spoke aloud at land;

A fuller blast ne’er shook our battlements;

If it hath ruffian’d so upon the sea,

What ribs of oak, when mountains melt on them,

Can hold the mortise? what shall we hear of this?

Sec. Gent.A segregation of the Turkish fleet;

For do but stand upon the foaming shore,

The chidden billow seems to pelt the clouds;

The wind-shak’d surge, with high and monstrous mane,

Seems to cast water on the burning bear

And quench the guards of the ever-fixed pole:

I never did like molestation view

On the enchafed flood.

Mon.If that the Turkish fleet

Be not enshelter’d and embay’d, they are drown’d;

It is impossible they bear it out.

Enter a third Gentleman.

Third Gent.News, lads! our wars are done.

The desperate tempest hath so bang’d the Turks

That their designment halts; a noble ship of Venice

Hath seen a grievous wrack and sufferance

On most part of their fleet.

Mon.How! is this true?

Third Gent.The ship is here put in,

A Veronesa; Michael Cassio,

Lieutenant to the war-like Moor Othello,

Is come on shore: the Moor himself’s at sea,

And is in full commission here for Cyprus.

Mon.I am glad on ’t; ’tis a worthy governor.

Third Gent.But this same Cassio, though he speak of comfort

Touching the Turkish loss, yet he looks sadly

And prays the Moor be safe; for they were parted

With foul and violent tempest.

Mon.Pray heaven he be;

For I have serv’d him, and the man commands

Like a full soldier. Let’s to the sea-side, ho!

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.

Third Gent.Come, let’s do so;

For every minute is expectancy

Of more arrivance.


Cas.Thanks, you the valiant of this war-like isle,

That so approve the Moor. O! let the heavens

Give him defence against the elements,

For I have lost him on a dangerous sea.

Mon.Is he well shipp’d?

Cas.His bark is stoutly timber’d, and his pilot

Of very expert and approv’d allowance;

Therefore my hopes, not surfeited to death,

Stand in bold cure.[Within, ‘A sail!—a sail!—a sail!’

Enter a Messenger.

Cas.What noise?

Mess.The town is empty; on the brow o’ the sea

Stand ranks of people, and they cry, ‘A sail!’

Cas.My hopes do shape him for the governor.[Guns heard.

Sec. Gent.They do discharge their shot of courtesy;

Our friends at least.

Cas.I pray you, sir, go forth,

And give us truth who ’tis that is arriv’d.

Sec. Gent.I shall.[Exit.

Mon.But, good lieutenant, is your general wiv’d?

Cas.Most fortunately: he hath achiev’d a maid

That paragons description and wild fame;

One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens,

And in th’ essential vesture of creation

Does tire the ingener.

Re-enter second Gentleman.

How now! who has put in?

Sec. Gent.’Tis one Iago, ancient to the general.

Cas.He has had most favourable and happy speed:

Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds,

The gutter’d rocks, and congregated sands,

Traitors ensteep’d to clog the guiltless keel,

As having sense of beauty, do omit

Their mortal natures, letting go safely by

The divine Desdemona.

Mon.What is she?

Cas.She that I spake of, our great captain’s captain,

Left in the conduct of the bold Iago,

Whose footing here anticipates our thoughts

A se’nnight’s speed. Great Jove, Othello guard,

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 renew’d fire to our extincted spirits,

And bring all Cyprus comfort!


O! behold,

The riches of the ship is come on shore.

Ye men of Cyprus, let her have your knees.

Hail to thee, lady! and the grace of heaven,

Before, behind thee, and on every hand,

Enwheel thee round!

Des.I thank you, valiant Cassio.

What tidings can you tell me of my lord?

Cas.He is not yet arriv’d; nor know I aught

But that he’s well, and will be shortly here.

Des.O! but I fear—How lost you company?

Cas.The great contention of the sea and skies

Parted our fellowship. But hark! a sail.[Cry within, ‘A sail!—a sail!’Guns heard.

Sec. Gent.They give their greeting to the citadel:

This likewise is a friend.

Cas.See for the news![Exit Gentleman.

Good ancient, you are welcome:—[To EMILIA.]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.[Kissing her.

Iago.Sir, would she give you so much of her lips

As of her tongue she oft bestows on me,

You’d have enough.

Des.Alas! she has no speech.

Iago.In faith, too much;

I find it still when I have list to sleep:

Marry, before your ladyship, I grant,

She puts her tongue a little in her heart,

And chides with thinking.

Emil.You have little cause to say so.

Iago.Come on, come on; you are pictures out of doors,

Bells in your parlours, wild cats in your kitchens,

Saints in your injuries, devils being offended,

Players in your housewifery, and housewives in your beds.

Des.O! fie upon thee, slanderer.

Iago.Nay, it is true, or else I am a Turk:

You rise to play and go to bed to work.

Emil.You shall not write my praise.

Iago.No, let me not.

Des.What wouldst thou write of me, if thou shouldst praise me?

Iago.O gentle lady, do not put me to ’t,

For I am nothing if not critical.

Des.Come on; assay. There’s one gone to the harbour?

Iago.Ay, madam.

Des.I am not merry, but I do beguile

The thing I am by seeming otherwise.

Come, how wouldst thou praise me?

Iago.I am about it; but indeed my invention

Comes from my pate as birdlime does from frize;

It plucks out brains and all: but my muse labours,

And thus she is deliver’d.

If she be fair and wise, fairness and wit,

The one’s for use, the other useth it.

Des.Well prais’d! How if she be black and witty?

Iago.If she be black, and thereto have a wit,

She’ll find a white that shall her blackness fit.

Des.Worse and worse.

Emil.How if fair and foolish?

Iago.She never yet was foolish that was fair,

For even her folly help’d her to an heir.

Des.These are old fond paradoxes to make fools laugh i’ the alehouse. What miserable praise hast thou for her that’s foul and foolish?

Iago.There’s none so foul and foolish there-unto

But does foul pranks which fair and wise ones do.

Des.O heavy ignorance! thou praisest the worst best. But what praise couldst thou bestow on a deserving woman indeed, one that, in the authority of her merit, did justly put on the vouch of very malice itself?

Iago.She that was ever fair and never proud,

Had tongue at will and yet was never loud,

Never lack’d gold and yet went never gay,

Fled from her wish and yet said ‘Now I may,’

She that being anger’d, her revenge being nigh,

Bade her wrong stay and her displeasure fly,

She that in wisdom never was so frail

To change the cod’s head for the salmon’s tail,

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

See suitors following and not look behind,

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

Des.To do what?

Iago.To suckle fools and chronicle small beer.

Des.O most lame and impotent conclusion! Do not learn of him, Emilia, though he be thy husband. How say you, Cassio? is he not a most profane and liberal counsellor?

Cas.He speaks home, madam; you may relish him more in the soldier than in the scholar.

Iago.[Aside.]He takes her by the palm; ay, well said, whisper; with as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Ay, smile upon her, do; I will gyve thee in thine own courtship. 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? would they were clyster-pipes for your sake![A trumpet heard.]The Moor! I know his trumpet.

Cas.’Tis truly so.

Des.Let’s meet him and receive him.

Cas.Lo! where he comes.

Enter OTHELLO and Attendants.

Oth.O my fair warrior!

Des.My dear Othello!

Oth.It gives me wonder great as my content

To see you here before me. O my soul’s joy!

If after every tempest come such calms,

May the winds blow till they have waken’d death!

And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas

Olympus-high, and duck again as low

As hell’s from heaven! If it were now to die,

’Twere now to be most happy, for I fear

My soul hath her content so absolute

That not another comfort like to this

Succeeds in unknown fate.

Des.The heavens forbid

But that our loves and comforts should increase

Even as our days do grow!

Oth.Amen to that, sweet powers!

I cannot speak enough of this content;

It stops me here; it is too much of joy:

And this, and this, the greatest discords be,[Kissing her.

That e’er our hearts shall make!

Iago.[Aside.]O! you are well tun’d now,

But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music,

As honest as I am.

Oth.Come, let us to the castle.

News, friends; our wars are done, the Turks are drown’d.

How does my old acquaintance of this isle?

Honey, you shall be well desir’d 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.

Bring thou the master to the citadel;

He is a good one, and his worthiness

Does challenge much respect. Come, Desdemona,

Once more well met at Cyprus.[Exeunt all except IAGO and RODERIGO.

Iago.Do thou meet me presently at the harbour. Come hither. If thou be’st valiant, as they say base men being in love have then a nobility in their natures more than is native to them, list me. The lieutenant to-night watches on the court of guard: first, I must tell thee this, Desdemona is directly in love with him.

Rod.With him! why, ’tis not possible.

Iago.Lay thy finger thus, and let thy soul be instructed. Mark me with what violence she first loved the Moor but for bragging and telling her fantastical lies; and 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 the devil? When the blood is made dull with the act of sport, there should be, again to inflame it, and to give satiety a fresh appetite, loveliness in favour, sympathy in years, manners, and beauties; all which the Moor is defective in. Now, for want of these required conveniences, her delicate tenderness will find itself abused, 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 unforced position, who stands so eminently in the degree of this fortune as Cassio does? a knave very voluble, no further conscionable than in putting on the mere form of civil and humane seeming, for the better compassing of his salt and most hidden loose affection? why, none; why, none: a slipper and subtle knave, a finder-out of occasions, that has an eye can stamp and counterfeit advantages, though true advantage never present itself; a devilish knave! Besides, the knave is handsome, young, and hath all those requisites in him that folly and green minds look after; a pestilent complete knave! and the woman hath found him already.

Rod.I cannot believe that in her; she is full of most blessed condition.

Iago.Blessed fig’s end! the wine she drinks is made of grapes; if she had been blessed she would never have loved the Moor; blessed pudding! Didst thou not see her paddle with the palm of his hand? didst not mark that?

Rod.Yes, that I did; but that was but courtesy.

Iago.Lechery, by this hand! an index and obscure prologue to the history of lust and foul thoughts. They met so near with their lips, that their breaths embraced together. Villanous thoughts, Roderigo! when these mutualities so marshal the way, hard at hand comes the master and main exercise, the incorporate conclusion. Pish! But, sir, be you ruled by me: I have brought you from Venice. Watch you to-night; for the command, I’ll lay ’t upon you: Cassio knows you not. I’ll not be far from you: do you 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.


Iago.Sir, he is rash and very sudden in choler, and haply may strike at you: provoke him, that he may; for even out of that will I cause these of Cyprus to mutiny, whose qualification shall come into no true taste again 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; and the impediment most profitably removed, without the which there were no expectation of our prosperity.

Rod.I will do this, if I can bring it to any opportunity.

Iago.I warrant thee. Meet me by and by at the citadel: I must fetch his necessaries ashore. Farewell.


Iago.That Cassio loves her, I do well believe it;

That she loves him, ’tis apt, and of great credit:

The Moor, howbeit that I endure 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 accountant for as great a sin,—

But partly led to diet my revenge,

For that I do suspect the lusty Moor

Hath leap’d 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. Which thing to do,

If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trash

For his quick hunting, stand the putting-on,

I’ll have our Michael Cassio on the hip;

Abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb,

For I fear Cassio with my night-cap too,

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. ’Tis here, but yet confus’d:

Knavery’s plain face is never seen till us’d.[Exit.