Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  Othello, the Moor of Venice

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

Act III. Scene III.

Othello, the Moor of Venice

Before the Castle.


Des.Be thou assur’d, good Cassio, I will do

All my abilities in thy behalf.

Emil.Good madam, do: I warrant it grieves my husband,

As if the case were his.

Des.O! that’s an honest fellow. Do not doubt, Cassio,

But I will have my lord and you again

As friendly as you were.

Cas.Bounteous madam,

Whatever shall become of Michael Cassio,

He’s never anything but your true servant.

Des.I know ’t; I thank you. You do love my lord;

You have known him long; and be you well assur’d

He shall in strangeness stand no further off

Than in a politic distance.

Cas.Ay, but, lady,

That policy may either last so long,

Or feed upon such nice 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.

Des.Do not doubt that; 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 watch him tame, and talk him out of patience;

His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift;

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.

Enter OTHELLO, and IAGO at a distance.

Emil.Madam, here comes my lord.

Cas.Madam, I’ll take my leave.

Des.Why, stay, and hear me speak.

Cas.Madam, not now; I am very ill at ease,

Unfit for mine own purposes.

Des.Well, do your discretion.[Exit CASSIO.

Iago.Ha! I like not that.

Oth.What dost thou say?

Iago.Nothing, my lord: or if—I know not what.

Oth.Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?

Iago.Cassio, my lord? No, sure, I cannot think it

That he would steal away so guilty-like,

Seeing you coming.

Oth.I do believe ’twas he.

Des.How now, my lord!

I have been talking with a suitor here,

A man that languishes in your displeasure.

Oth.Who is ’t you mean?

Des.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.

Oth.Went he hence now?

Des.Ay, sooth; so humbled,

That he hath left part of his grief with me,

To suffer with him. Good love, call him back.

Oth.Not now, sweet Desdemona; some other time.

Des.But shall ’t be shortly?

Oth.The sooner, sweet, for you.

Des.Shall ’t be to-night at supper?

Oth.No, not to-night.

Des.To-morrow dinner then?

Oth.I shall not dine at home;

I meet the captains at the citadel.

Des.Why then, to-morrow 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 yet his trespass, in our common reason,—

Save that they say, the wars must make examples

Out of their best,—is not almost a fault

To incur a private check. When shall he come?

Tell me, Othello: I wonder in my soul,

What you could ask me that I should deny,

Or stand so mammering on. What! Michael Cassio,

That 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.—

Oth.Prithee, no more; let him come when he will;

I will deny thee nothing.

Des.Why, this is not a boon;

’Tis as 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, when I have a suit

Wherein I mean to touch your love indeed,

It shall be full of poise and difficult weight,

And fearful to be granted.

Oth.I will deny thee nothing:

Whereon, I do beseech thee, grant me this,

To leave me but a little to myself.

Des.Shall I deny you? no: farewell, my lord.

Oth.Farewell, my Desdemona: I’ll come to thee straight.

Des.Emilia, come. Be as your fancies teach you;

Whate’er you be, I am obedient.[Exit, with EMILIA.

Oth.Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul

But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,

Chaos is come again.

Iago.My noble lord,—

Oth.What dost thou say, Iago?

Iago.Did Michael Cassio, when you woo’d my lady,

Know of your love?

Oth.He did, from first to last: why dost thou ask?

Iago.But for a satisfaction of my thought;

No further harm.

Oth.Why of thy thought, Iago?

Iago.I did not think he had been acquainted with her.

Oth.O! yes; and went between us very oft.


Oth.Indeed! ay, indeed; discern’st thou aught in that?

Is he not honest?

Iago.Honest, my lord?

Oth.Honest! ay, honest.

Iago.My lord, for aught I know.

Oth.What dost thou think?

Iago.Think, my lord!

Oth.Think, my lord!

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 but now, thou lik’dst 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.My lord, you know I love you.

Oth.I think thou dost;

And, for I know thou art full of love and honesty,

And weigh’st thy words before thou giv’st 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 that’s just

They are close delations, working from the heart

That passion cannot rule.

Iago.For Michael Cassio,

I dare be sworn I think that he is honest.

Oth.I think so too.

Iago.Men should be what they seem;

Or those that be not, would they might seem none!

Oth.Certain, men should be what they seem.

Iago.Why then, I think Cassio ’s an honest man.

Oth.Nay, yet there’s more in this.

I pray thee, speak to me as to thy thinkings,

As thou dost ruminate, and give thy worst of thoughts

The worst of words.

Iago.Good my lord, pardon me;

Though I am bound to every act of duty,

I am not bound to that all slaves are free to.

Utter my thoughts? Why, say they are vile and false;

As where’s that palace whereinto foul things

Sometimes intrude not? who has a breast so pure

But some uncleanly apprehensions

Keep leets and law days, and in session sit

With meditations lawful?

Oth.Thou dost conspire against thy friend, Iago,

If thou but think’st him wrong’d, and mak’st his ear

A stranger to thy thoughts.

Iago.I do beseech you,

Though I perchance am vicious in my guess,—

As, I confess, it is my nature’s plague

To spy into abuses, and oft my jealousy

Shapes faults that are not,—that your wisdom yet,

From one that so imperfectly conceits,

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.

Oth.What dost thou mean?

Iago.Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,

Is the immediate jewel of their souls:

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,

And makes me poor indeed.

Oth.By heaven, I’ll know thy thoughts.

Iago.You cannot, if my heart were in your hand;

Nor shall not, whilst ’tis in my custody.


Iago.O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss

Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;

But, O! what damned minutes tells he o’er

Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet soundly loves!

Oth.O misery!

Iago.Poor and content is rich, and rich enough,

But riches fineless is as poor as winter

To him that ever fears he shall be poor.

Good heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend

From jealousy!

Oth.Why, why is this?

Think’st thou I’d make a life of jealousy,

To follow still the changes of the moon

With fresh suspicions? No; to be once in doubt

Is 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 inference. ’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,

Away at once with love or jealousy!

Iago.I am glad of it; 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;

Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure:

I would not have your free and noble nature

Out of self-bounty be abus’d; look to ’t:

I know our country disposition well;

In Venice they do let heaven see the pranks

They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience

Is not to leave ’t undone, but keep ’t unknown.

Oth.Dost thou say so?

Iago.She did deceive her father, marrying you;

And when she seem’d to shake and fear your looks,

She lov’d them most.

Oth.And so she did.

Iago.Why, go to, then;

She that so young could give out such a seeming,

To seel her father’s eyes up close as oak,

He thought ’twas witchcraft; but I am much to blame;

I humbly do beseech you of your pardon

For too much loving you.

Oth.I am bound to thee for ever.

Iago.I see, this hath a little dash’d your spirits.

Oth.Not a jot, not a jot.

Iago.I’ faith, I fear it has.

I hope you will consider what is spoke

Comes from my love. But, I do see you’re mov’d;

I am to pray you not to strain my speech

To grosser issues nor to larger reach

Than to suspicion.

Oth.I will not.

Iago.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 mov’d.

Oth.No, not much mov’d:

I do not think but Desdemona’s honest.

Iago.Long live she so! and long live you to think so!

Oth.And, yet, how nature erring from itself,—

Iago.Ay, there’s the point: as, to be bold with you,

Not to affect many proposed matches

Of her own clime, complexion, and degree,

Whereto, we see, in all things nature tends;

Foh! one may smell in such, a will most rank,

Foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural.

But pardon me; I do not in position

Distinctly speak of her, though I may fear

Her will, recoiling to her better judgment,

May fail to match you with her country forms

And happily repent.

Oth.Farewell, farewell:

If more thou dost perceive, let me know more;

Set on thy wife to observe. Leave me, Iago.

Iago.My lord, I take my leave.[Going.

Oth.Why did I marry? This honest creature, doubtless,

Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds.

Iago.[Returning.]My lord, I would I might entreat your honour

To scan this thing no further; leave it to time.

Although ’tis fit that Cassio have his place,

For, sure he fills it up with great ability,

Yet, if you please to hold him off a while,

You shall by that perceive him and his means:

Note if your lady strain his entertainment

With any strong or vehement importunity;

Much will be seen in that. In the mean time,

Let me be thought too busy in my fears,

As worthy cause I have to fear I am,

And hold her free, I do beseech your honour.

Oth.Fear not my government.

Iago.I once more take my leave.[Exit.

Oth.This fellow’s of exceeding honesty,

And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,

Of human dealings; if I do prove her haggard,

Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings,

I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind,

To prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black,

And have not those soft parts of conversation

That chamberers have, or, for I am declin’d

Into the vale of years—yet that’s not much—

She’s gone, I am abus’d; and my relief

Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage!

That we can call these delicate creatures ours,

And not their appetities. I had rather be a toad,

And live upon the vapour of a dungeon,

Than keep a corner in the thing I love

For others’ uses. Yet, ’tis the plague of great ones;

Prerogativ’d are they less than the base;

’Tis destiny unshunnable, like death:

Even then this forked plague is fated to us

When we do quicken.

Look! where she comes.

If she be false, O! then heaven mocks itself.

I’ll not believe it.


Des.How now, my dear Othello!

Your dinner and the generous islanders

By you invited, do attend your presence.

Oth.I am to blame.

Des.Why do you speak so faintly?

Are you not well?

Oth.I have a pain upon my forehead here.

Des.Faith, that’s with watching; ’twill away again:

Let me but bind it hard, within this hour

It will be well.

Oth.Your napkin is too little:[She drops her handkerchief.

Let it alone. Come, I’ll go in with you.

Des.I am very sorry that you are not well.[Exeunt OTHELLO and DESDEMONA.

Emil.I am glad I have found this napkin;

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 conjur’d her she should ever keep it,

That she reserves it evermore about her

To kiss and talk to. I’ll have the work ta’en out,

And give ’t Iago:

What he will do with it heaven knows, not I;

I nothing but to please his fantasy.

Enter IAGO.

Iago.How now! what do you here alone?

Emil.Do not you chide; I have a thing for you.

Iago.A thing for me? It is a common thing—


Iago.To have a foolish wife.

Emil.O! is that all? What will you give me now

For that same handkerchief?

Iago.What handkerchief?

Emil.What handkerchief!

Why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona:

That which so often you did bid me steal.

Iago.Hast stol’n it from her?

Emil.No, faith; she let it drop by negligence,

And, to the advantage, I, being there, took ’t up.

Look, here it is.

Iago.A good wench; give it me.

Emil.What will you do with ’t, that you have been so earnest

To have me filch it?

Iago.Why, what’s that to you?[Snatches it.

Emil.If it be not for some purpose of import

Give ’t me again; poor lady! she’ll run mad

When she shall lack it.

Iago.Be not acknown on ’t; I have use for it.

Go, leave me.[Exit EMILIA,

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.

The Moor already changes with my poison:

Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons,

Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,

But with a little act upon the blood,

Burn like the mines of sulphur. I did say so:

Look! where he comes!


Not poppy, nor mandragora,

Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,

Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep

Which thou ow’dst yesterday.

Oth.Ha! ha! false to me?

Iago.Why, how now, general! no more of that.

Oth.Avaunt! be gone! thou hast set me on the rack;

I swear ’tis better to be much abus’d

Than but to know ’t a little.

Iago.How now, my lord!

Oth.What sense had I of her stol’n hours of lust?

I saw ’t not, thought it not, it harm’d not me;

I slept the next night well, was free and merry;

I found not Cassio’s kisses on her lips;

He that is robb’d, not wanting what is stol’n,

Let him not know ’t and he’s not robb’d at all.

Iago.I am sorry to hear this.

Oth.I had been happy, if the general camp,

Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,

So I had nothing known. O! now, for ever

Farewell the tranquil mind; farewell content!

Farewell the plumed troop and the big wars

That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!

Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,

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 dread clamours counterfeit,

Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!

Iago.Is it possible, my lord?

Oth.Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore,

Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof;

Or, by the worth of mine eternal soul,

Thou hadst been better have been born a dog

Than answer my wak’d wrath.

Iago.Is ’t come to this?

Oth.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!

Iago.My noble lord,—

Oth.If thou dost slander her and torture me,

Never pray more; abandon all remorse;

On horror’s head horrors accumulate;

Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amaz’d;

For nothing canst thou to damnation add

Greater than that.

Iago.O grace! O heaven forgive me!

Are you a man! have you a soul or sense?

God be wi’ you; take mine office. O wretched fool!

That liv’st 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.

Oth.Nay, stay; thou shouldst be honest.

Iago.I should be wise; for honesty’s a fool,

And loses that it works for.

Oth.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 Dian’s visage, is now begrim’d and black

As mine own face. If there be cords or knives,

Poison or fire or suffocating streams,

I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied!

Iago.I see, sir, you are eaten up with passion.

I do repent me that I put it to you.

You would be satisfied?

Oth.Would! nay, I will.

Iago.And may; but how? how satisfied, my lord?

Would you, the supervisor, grossly gape on;

Behold her tupp’d?

Oth.Death and damnation! O!

Iago.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 fools as gross

As ignorance made drunk; but yet, I say,

If imputation, and strong circumstances,

Which lead directly to the door of truth,

Will give you satisfaction, you may have it.

Oth.Give me a living reason she’s disloyal.

Iago.I do not like the office;

But, sith I am enter’d in this cause so far,

Prick’d to ’t by foolish honesty and love,

I will go on. I lay with 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 will mutter their affairs;

One of this kind is Cassio.

In sleep I heard him say, ‘Sweet Desdemona,

Let us be wary, let us hide our loves!’

And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,

Cry, ‘O, sweet creature!’ and then kiss me hard,

As if he pluck’d up kisses by the roots,

That grew upon my lips; then laid his leg

Over my thigh, and sigh’d, and kiss’d; and then

Cried, ‘Cursed fate, that gave thee to the Moor!’

Oth.O monstrous! monstrous!

Iago.Nay, this was but his dream.

Oth.But this denoted a foregone conclusion:

’Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream.

Iago.And this may help to thicken other proofs

That do demonstrate thinly.

Oth.I’ll tear her all to pieces.

Iago.Nay, but be wise; 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?

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

Iago.I know not that; but such a handkerchief—

I am sure it was your wife’s—did I to-day

See Cassio wipe his beard with.

Oth.If it be that,—

Iago.If it be that, or any that was hers,

It speaks against her with the other proofs.

Oth.O! 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;

All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven:

’Tis gone.

Arise, black vengeance, from the hollow hell!

Yield up, O love! thy crown and hearted throne

To tyrannous hate. Swell, bosom, with thy fraught,

For ’tis of aspics’ tongues!

Iago.Yet be content.

Oth.O! blood, blood, blood!

Iago.Patience, I say; your mind, perhaps, may change.

Oth.Never, Iago. Like to the Pontick 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 to humble love,

Till that a capable and wide revenge

Swallow them up.[Kneels.

Now, by yond marble heaven,

In the due reverence of a sacred vow

I here engage my words.

Iago.Do not rise yet.[Kneels.

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 wrong’d Othello’s service! Let him command,

And to obey shall be in me remorse,

What bloody business ever.

Oth.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.

Iago.My friend is dead; ’tis done at your request:

But let her live.

Oth.Damn her, lewd minx! O, 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.

Iago.I am your own for ever.[Exeunt.