Quotes in Othello

Quotes Examples in Othello:

Act I - Scene I 3

"I am not what I am...."   (Act I - Scene I)

This classic line brings the audience in on Iago’s schemes. There is a deep dramatic irony at the core of this statement: while Iago declares that he is not what he appears to be, he admits to the nature of his façade. Thus the audience knows who Iago is, even if the rest of the play’s characters do not.

"I follow him to serve my turn upon him..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Iago is furious with Othello, the great Moorish general, for promoting Cassio over himself. Iago admits to Roderigo, who is in love with the woman Othello has just married (Desdemona), that he only serves Othello because he plans to seek his revenge. Iago encourages Roderigo to join him and win Desdemona's hand.

"heart upon my sleeve..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Iago admits to Roderigo that he only seems to be loyal to Othello. By confessing that he has ulterior motives (a "peculiar end," or selfish aim), he has made himself vulnerable to betrayal. Iago accepts this risk: he effectively wears his heart upon his sleeve for the "daws" (jackdaws, which are crow-like birds common to Europe) to peck at, meaning he is being honest even though he will probably be betrayed.

"Put money in thy purse..."   (Act I - Scene III)

Roderigo, who is hopelessly in love with Desdemona, frequently falls into Iago's snares. Iago convinced Roderigo to send gifts (via Iago) to Desdemona, though Iago always keeps them for himself. Whenever Roderigo becomes frustrated and discouraged by his lack of success with Desdemona, Iago urges him to "put money in thy purse"; of course, Iago will just keep the money for himself.

"'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;..."   (Act I - Scene III)

"Passing strange" means "stranger than strange," or "exceedingly strange." Othello is telling the story of how he convinced Desdemona to marry him; not with black magic, as he is accused, but with anecdotes. The "passing" strangeness of his story effectively seduced Desdemona, who responded with "a world of sighs" and fell in love with him.

"I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver..."   (Act I - Scene III)

When Brabantio accuses Othello of employing black magic to seduce Desdemona, Othello defends himself with "a round unvarnish'd tale." "Round" here means "frank" or "straightforward," and "unvarnish'd" means free of rhetorical tricks.

"How poor are they that have not patience!..."   (Act II - Scene III)

Iago tries to convince Roderigo to remain in Cyprus, where his evil plot is in full force. Iago pretends to help Roderigo, who is in love with Desdemona, while at the same time cheats him out of money. Roderigo, however, is impatient to return to Venice. Impatience is the undoing of many of Shakespeare's characters; those who "have not patience" are usually ill-fated.

"Who steals my purse steals trash..."   (Act III - Scene III)

Iago pretends to be reluctant to reveal the fictitious affair between Cassio and Desdemona because stealing a person's honor is far worse than stealing his/her money. According to Iago, "Who steals my purse steals trash" because money doesn't compare to honor; honor can only belong to a specific person, whereas money doesn't change based on who possesses it. The idea of reputation is the idea on which Iago will build all of his deceit.

"vale of years..."   (Act III - Scene III)

A "vale of years" is the flat stretch between middle age, beyond the slope of youth. In Shakespeare's time, a vale (which is a broad, flat valley) was often used as a metaphor for the span of life between the peaks of life and death. Othello thinks that his decline into the vale of years may be a reason for Desdemona to cheat on him.

"green-eyed monster,..."   (Act III - Scene III)

Shakespeare was not the only Renaissance Englishman to pair colors with emotions or personal qualities, though he is the first we know of to do so in print. Green and yellow are both emblematic of jealousy, so jealousy is a "green-eyed monster." Iago argues that the fortunate man knows his wife is adulterous, while the unfortunate man is plagued by the anxiety of unconfirmed suspicion.

"pomp, and circumstance..."   (Act III - Scene III)

"Pomp, and circumstance" are the glories and ceremonies of warfare. Othello swears off his profession, as well as marital bliss, because Iago has convinced him that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Othello can no longer enjoy the "pomp, and circumstance" of his occupation because he believes he has been cuckolded (betrayed by his adulterous wife).

"foregone conclusion:..."   (Act III - Scene III)

Iago has convinced Othello that Desdemona had an affair with Lieutenant Cassio; however, Iago is pretending to downplay it by insisting that he only heard Lieutenant Cassio dreaming (audibly) about Desdemona. Othello, however, interprets Cassio's dream as a "foregone conclusion" that Desdemona betrayed him.

"Chaos is come again...."   (Act III - Scene III)

Othello insists that only the collapse of form and order (chaos) would cause him to fall out of love with his wife, Desdemona. Desdemona is essentially tasked with maintaining the sanity of her husband.

"All that's spoke is marr'd...."   (Act V - Scene II)

Gratiano’s famous line gets at one of the core problems explored in Othello. Throughout the play, language proves to be deceptive and insufficient. From Iago’s lies to Othello’s cryptic final utterances, words consistently sidestep the truth or fall short of it. Communication between characters often fails. For Othello and Desdemona, such failures bear fatal consequences.

"So sweet was ne'er so fatal..."   (Act V - Scene II)

The meaning of "So sweet was ne'er so fatal" is not entirely clear. Othello either refers to Desdemona's sweetness, which Othello thinks led to adultery and her eventual murder, or the sweetness of Othello's parting kisses before he suffocates her.

"Of one that loved not wisely but too well..."   (Act V - Scene II)

Othello argues that he was driven to suffocate Desdemona because he "loved not wisely but too well," meaning he simply got carried away after hearing the (erroneous) charges made against her. He believes he is guilty of loving too deeply, as opposed to being jealous, rash, and violent.