Act I - Scene II

[Another street.]

Enter Othello, Iago, and Attendants with torches.

IAGO:
Though in the trade of war I have slain men,
Yet do I hold it very stuff o' the conscience
To do no contrived murder. I lack iniquity
Sometimes to do me service. Nine or ten times
I had thought to have yerk'd him here under the ribs.(5)
OTHELLO:
'Tis better as it is.
IAGO:
Nay, but he prated
And spoke such scurvy and provoking terms
Against your honor
That, with the little godliness I have,(10)
I did full hard forbear him. But I pray you, sir,
Are you fast married? Be assured of this,
That the magnifico is much beloved,
And hath in his effect a voice potential
As double as the Duke's. He will divorce you,(15)
Or put upon you what restraint and grievance
The law, with all his might to enforce it on,
Will give him cable.
OTHELLO:
Let him do his spite.
My services, which I have done the signiory,(20)
Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know—
Which, when I know that boasting is an honor,
I shall promulgate—I fetch my life and being
From men of royal siege; and my demerits
May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune(25)
As this that I have reach'd. For know, Iago,
But that I love the gentle Desdemona,
I would not my unhoused free condition
Put into circumscription and confine
For the sea's worth. But, look! What lights come yond?(30)
IAGO:
Those are the raised father and his friends.
You were best go in.
OTHELLO:
Not I; I must be found.
My parts, my title, and my perfect soul
Shall manifest me rightly. Is it they?(35)
IAGO:
By Janus, I think no.

Enter Cassio and certain Officers with torches.

OTHELLO:
The servants of the Duke?
And my lieutenant?
The goodness of the night upon you, friends!
What is the news?(40)
CASSIO:
The Duke does greet you, general,
And he requires your haste-post-haste appearance,
Even on the instant.
OTHELLO:
What is the matter, think you?
CASSIO:
Something from Cyprus, as I may divine;(45)
It is a business of some heat. The galleys
Have sent a dozen sequent messengers
This very night at one another's heels;
And many of the consuls, raised and met,
Are at the Duke's already. You have been hotly call'd for;(50)
When, being not at your lodging to be found,
The Senate hath sent about three quests
To search you out.
OTHELLO:
'Tis well I am found by you.
I will but spend a word here in the house(55)
And go with you.

[Exit.]

CASSIO:
Ancient, what makes he here?
IAGO:
Faith, he tonight hath boarded a land carack;
If it prove lawful prize, he's made forever.
CASSIO:
I do not understand.(60)
IAGO:
He's married.
CASSIO:
To who?

[Reenter Othello.]

IAGO:
Marry, to—Come, captain, will you go?
OTHELLO:
Have with you.
CASSIO:
Here comes another troop to seek for you.(65)
IAGO:
It is Brabantio.—General, be advised;
He comes to bad intent.

Enter Brabantio, Roderigo, and Officers with torches and weapons.

OTHELLO:
Holla! Stand there!
ROD:
Signior, it is the Moor.
BRAB:
Down with him, thief! They draw on both sides.(70)
IAGO:
You, Roderigo! Come, sir, I am for you.
OTHELLO:
Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust
them.—
Good signior, you shall more command with years
Than with your weapons.(75)
BRAB:
O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my
daughter?
Damn'd as thou art, thou hast enchanted her,
For I'll refer me to all things of sense,
If she in chains of magic were not bound,(80)
Whether a maid so tender, fair, and happy,
So opposite to marriage that she shunn'd
The wealthy, curled darlings of our nation,
Would ever have, to incur a general mock,
Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom(85)
Of such a thing as thou—to fear, not to delight.
Judge me the world, if 'tis not gross in sense
That thou hast practiced on her with foul charms;
Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals
That weaken motion:—I'll have't disputed on;(90)
'Tis probable, and palpable to thinking.
I therefore apprehend and do attach thee
For an abuser of the world, a practicer
Of arts inhibited and out of warrant.—
Lay hold upon him. If he do resist,(95)
Subdue him at his peril.
OTHELLO:
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.—Where will you that I go(100)
To answer this your charge?
BRAB:
To prison; till fit time
Of law and course of direct session,
Call thee to answer.
OTHELLO:
What if I do obey?(105)
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?
FIRST OFFICER:
'Tis true, most worthy signior;(110)
The Duke's in council, and your noble self,
I am sure, is sent for.
BRAB:
How? The Duke in council?
In this time of the night?—Bring him away;
Mine's not an idle cause. The Duke himself,(115)
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.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Iago’s choice to swear by Janus is important for two reasons. Janus is the Roman god of transitions, of beginnings and endings. In this transitional moment, on the brink of Brabantio’s clash with Othello, Janus is the pertinent god. Janus, in his looking forward and backward through time, is also two-faced. Shakespeare draws a comparison between Janus and the deceitful, two-faced Iago.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. It is not clear whether Brabantio actually believes that Othello has committed a crime, or whether he is just threatened on a personal level. Nonetheless, Brabantio frames his condemnation of Othello as a broader act of justice. It is notable that Brabantio ends his lines, and the scene as well, with a rhyming couplet, a departure from the usual blank verse of the play. Shakespeare often uses this technique to end a scene or speech with emphasis.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Brabantio repeatedly characterizes Desdemona’s elopement with Othello as an act of coercion or theft. The variety of ways in which he describes the event—as the result of theft, magic, and drugging—indicates that he uses his imagination to cope with the reality that his daughter may have fallen in love with Othello.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Brabantio’s language betrays his view of his own daughter as an object of monetary value. By calling Othello a “foul thief,” he denies Desdemona’s agency, as if she were a stolen object rather than a participant in her affairs. “Stow’d” reiterates the image of Desdemona as a piece of treasure.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Othello reasons with Brabantio using a clever diplomatic strategy. On the surface, Othello takes a reverential stance toward Brabantio, praising the statesman’s “years.” Yet Othello remains in control, for his statement is powerfully prescriptive—”you shall”—and paints Brabantio as childishly hostile.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Shakespeare employs an intriguing formal technique to convey Othello’s authority. The line consists of a series of eleven monosyllabic words, more than the typical ten. The shortness of the words gives the line a sense of forcefulness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Iago refers to Desdemona as a carack, a type of merchant vessel. From his perspective, Othello’s marriage to Desdemona has only to do with wealth. Iago focuses on the riches Desdemona offers as a bride.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. In this case, “ancient” would have been pronounced “ensign,” Iago’s rank in the troops. The ensign would have been the lowest-ranking commissioned officer. The rank of ensign is particularly fitting for Iago because it was traditionally the ensign’s role to bear the general’s flag. This is an apt metaphor for Iago in that he is a character who holds up a thin image of loyalty to Othello.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The opposing reactions of Iago and Othello in the face of Brabantio’s approach speaks volumes about their differences in character. Iago’s impulse is for Othello to hide. Othello, ever authentic and secure in himself, chooses to stand his ground.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The magnifico is the title of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. Iago wishes to know whether Othello and Desdemona have consummated their marriage, for Brabantio has the power to separate them.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. In the audience’s first encounter with Othello, the man himself is clearly different from the portrayal offered forth by Iago. Othello is not the beastly figure Iago portrays him as. He is refined, well-spoken. By his own word, he married Desdemona out of love, not animal lust as Iago has suggested. Othello also understands the confinements of marriage and finds Desdemona worthy nonetheless.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Iago has just told Othello of Rodrigo’s desire for Desdemona, and here he claims to wish to have attacked Rodrigo. This is, of course, a lie. Othello’s response is typical of his character: just and even-keeled.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. This statement perfectly encapsulates Iago’s character. Iago is deeply iniquitous—or immoral—and all the more so for the fact that he claims not to be. A great many of Iago’s words are steeped in irony.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff