Act II - Scene I

[A seaport in Cyprus.]

[Enter Montano, govenor of Cyprus, and two other Gentlemen.]

MONTANO:
What from the cape can you discern at sea?
FIRST GENTLEMAN:
Nothing at all. It is a highwrought flood;
I cannot, 'twixt the heaven and the main,
Descry a sail.
MONTANO:
Methinks the wind hath spoke aloud at land;(5)
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?
SECOND GENTLEMAN:
A segregation of the Turkish fleet: For do(10)
but stand upon the foaming shore,
The chidden billow seems to pelt the clouds;
The windshaked surge, with high and monstrous mane,
Seems to cast water on the burning bear,
And quench the guards of the everfixed pole:(15)
I never did like molestation view
On the enchafed flood.
MONTANO:
If that the Turkish fleet
Be not enshelter'd and embay'd, they are drown'd;
It is impossible to bear it out.(20)

Enter a third Gentleman.

THIRD GENTLEMAN:
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 wreck and sufferance
On most part of their fleet.(25)
MONTANO:
How? Is this true?
THIRD GENTLEMAN:
The ship is here put in;
A Veronesa, Michael Cassio,
Lieutenant to the warlike Moor, Othello,
Is come on shore; the Moor himself at sea,(30)
And is in full commission here for Cyprus.
MONTANO:
I am glad on't; 'tis a worthy governor.
THIRD GENTLEMAN:
But this same Cassio, though he speak
of comfort
Touching the Turkish loss, yet he looks sadly(35)
And prays the Moor be safe; for they were parted
With foul and violent tempest.
MONTANO:
Pray heavens he be;
For I have served him, and the man commands
Like a full soldier. Let's to the seaside, ho!(40)
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 GENTLEMAN:
Come, let's do so;(45)
For every minute is expectancy
Of more arrivance.

Enter Cassio.

CASSIO:
Thanks, you the valiant of this warlike isle,
That so approve the Moor! O, let the heavens
Give him defense against the elements,(50)
For I have lost him on a dangerous sea.
MONTANO:
Is he well shipp'd?
CASSIO:
His bark is stoutly timber'd, and his pilot
Of very expert and approved allowance;
Therefore my hopes, not surfeited to death,(55)
Stand in bold cure.

Enter a messenger

MESSENGER:
A sail, a sail, a sail!
CASSIO:
What noise?
MESSENGER:
The town is empty; on the brow o' the sea
Stand ranks of people, and they cry, “A sail!”
CASSIO:
My hopes do shape him for the governor.(60)

A shot.

SECOND GENTLEMAN:
They do discharge their shot of courtesy:
Our friends at least.
CASSIO:
I pray you, sir, go forth,
And give us truth who 'tis that is arrived.
SECOND GENTLEMAN:
I shall.(65)

Exit.

MONTANO:
But, good lieutenant, is your general wived?
CASSIO:
Most fortunately: he hath achieved a maid
That paragons description and wild fame;
One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens,
And in the essential vesture of creation(70)
Does tire the ingener.

Enter second Gentleman.

How now! who has put in?
SECOND GENTLEMAN:
'Tis one Iago, ancient to the general.
CASSIO:
He has had most favorable and happy speed:
Tempests themselves, high seas, and howling winds,
The gutter'd rocks, and congregated sands,(75)
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.
MONTANO:
What is she?(80)
CASSIO:
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,(85)
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.

Enter Desdemona, Iago, Emilia, Roderigo.

O, behold,(90)
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!(95)
DESD:
I thank you, valiant Cassio.
What tidings can you tell me of my lord?
CASSIO:
He is not yet arrived; nor know I aught
But that he's well and will be shortly here.
DESD:
O, but I fear—How lost you company?(100)
CASSIO:
The great contention of the sea and skies
Parted our fellowship—But, hark! a sail.

Within: “A sail, a sail!”

SECOND GENTLEMAN:
They give their greeting to the citadel:
This likewise is a friend.
CASSIO:
See for the news.(105)

[Exit Gentleman.]

Good ancient, you are welcome. 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.
IAGO:
Sir, would she give you so much of her lips(110)
As of her tongue she oft bestows on me,
You'ld have enough.
DESD:
Alas, she has no speech.
IAGO:
In faith, too much;
I find it still when I have list to sleep:(115)
Marry, before your ladyship, I grant
She puts her tongue a little in her heart
And chides with thinking.
EMILIA:
You have little cause to say so.
IAGO:
Come on, come on. You are pictures out of doors,(120)
Bells in your parlors, wildcats in your kitchens,
Saints in your injuries, devils being offended,
Players in your housewifery, and housewives in your
beds.
DESD:
O, fie upon thee, slanderer!(125)
IAGO:
Nay, it is true, or else I am a Turk:
You rise to play, and go to bed to work.
EMILIA:
You shall not write my praise.
IAGO:
No, let me not.
DESD:
What wouldst thou write of me, if thou shouldst praise(130)
me?
IAGO:
O gentle lady, do not put me to't;
For I am nothing if not critical.
DESD:
Come on, assay—There's one gone to the harbor?
IAGO:
Ay, madam.(135)
DESD:
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 frieze;(140)
It plucks out brains and all. But my Muse labors,
And thus she is deliver'd.
If she be fair and wise, fairness and wit,
The one's for use, the other useth it.
DESD:
Well praised! How if she be black and witty?(145)
IAGO:
If she be black, and thereto have a wit,
She'll find a white that shall her blackness fit.
DESD:
Worse and worse.
EMILIA:
How if fair and foolish?
IAGO:
She never yet was foolish that was fair;(150)
For even her folly help'd her to an heir.
DESD:
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 thereunto,(155)
But does foul pranks which fair and wise ones do.
DESD:
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?(160)
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,(165)
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;(170)
She was a wight, if ever such wight were—
DESD:
To do what?
IAGO:
To suckle fools and chronicle small beer.
DESD:
O most lame and impotent conclusion! Do not learn
of him, Emilia, though he be thy husband. How say you,(175)
Cassio? Is he not a most profane and liberal counselor?
CASSIO:
He speaks home, madam. You may relish him more
in the soldier than in the scholar.

[Aside.]

IAGO:
He takes her by the palm; ay, well said, whis-
per. With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly(180)
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.(185)
Very good. Well kissed! an excellent courtesy! 'tis so,
indeed. Yet again your fingers to your lips? Would they
were clysterpipes for your sake! (Trumpets without.) The
Moor! I know his trumpet.
CASSIO:
'Tis truly so.(190)
DESD:
Let's meet him and receive him.
CASSIO:
Lo, where he comes!

Enter Othello and Attendants.

OTHELLO:
O my fair warrior!
DESD:
My dear Othello!
OTHELLO:
It gives me wonder great as my content(195)
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 laboring bark climb hills of seas
Olympus high, and duck again as low(200)
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.(205)
DESD:
The heavens forbid
But that our loves and comforts should increase,
Even as our days do grow!
OTHELLO:
Amen to that, sweet powers!
I cannot speak enough of this content;(210)
It stops me here; it is too much of joy:
And this, and this, the greatest discords be They kiss.
That e'er our hearts shall make!
IAGO:
O, you are well tuned now!
But I'll set down the pegs that make this music,(215)
As honest as I am.
OTHELLO:
Come, let us to the castle.
News, friends: our wars are done, the Turks are drown'd.
Honey, you shall be well desired in Cyprus;
I have found great love amongst them. O my sweet,(220)
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(225)
Does challenge much respect. Come, Desdemona,
Once more well met at Cyprus.

Exit Othello and Desdemona.

IAGO:
Do thou meet me presently at the harbor. 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(230)
them—list me. The lieutenant tonight 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.(235)
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(240)
of sport, there should be, again to inflame it and to give
satiety a fresh appetite, loveliness in favor, sympathy in
years, manners, and beauties; all which the Moor is defec-
tive in. Now, for want of these required conveniences, her
delicate tenderness will find itself abused, begin to heave(245)
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;(250)
no further conscionable than in putting on the mere
form of civil and humane seeming, for the better com-
passing 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 counter-(255)
feit 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.(260)
ROD:
I cannot believe that in her; she's full of most blest
condition.
IAGO:
Blest fig'send! The wine she drinks is made of grapes.
If she had been blest, she would never have loved the
Moor. Blest pudding! Didst thou not see her paddle with(265)
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.(270)
Villainous 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 tonight; for the command, I'll lay't upon you.(275)
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 favorably
minister.(280)
ROD:
Well.
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 qual-
ification shall come into no true taste again but by the(285)
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, with-
out the which there were no expectation of our prosperity.
ROD:
I will do this, if I can bring it to any opportunity.(290)
IAGO:
I warrant thee. Meet me by and by at the citadel. I must
fetch his necessaries ashore. Farewell.
ROD:
Adieu.

Exit.

IAGO:
That Cassio loves her, I do well believe it;
That she loves him, 'tis apt and of great credit:(295)
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(300)
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,(305)
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 judgement cannot cure. Which thing to do,(310)
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 nightcap too;(315)
Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me,
For making him egregiously an ass
And practicing upon his peace and quiet
Even to madness. 'Tis here, but yet confused:
Knavery's plain face is never seen till used.(320)

Exit.

Footnotes

  1. Iago sets the stage for the knavery of the rest of the act: a brawl in which Cassio will debase himself to the point of demotion. Keeping up his tradition of ending scenes and speeches with a rhymed couplet, Iago reminds us of his slippery identity. Recalling his motto of “I am not what I am,” Iago removes his mask and reveals his “plain face” only to the audience.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Iago takes on an ironic tone to convince Roderigo that Desdemona will soon fall out of love with Othello. As Iago puts it, she will grow tired of Othello’s war stories, not to mention his old age, lack of manners, and unattractive appearance. Iago has no good reason to believe any of this, but he must give Roderigo hope in order to pull the man—and his money—into his schemes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In a moment of distinct dramatic irony, Desdemona calls to the heavens for a continued increase of “loves and comforts.” The audience, of course, knows of Iago’s plots and thus knows that such an increase is unlikely.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Othello enters the port of Cyprus with an elegant and philosophically astute statement about the nature of happiness. Othello’s moment of joy, his “calms,” come only after the ordeal of the tempest. As many thinkers have remarked, happiness is most powerful when balanced by pain and sorrow. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it in The Gay Science, “What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other?”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Iago sets the stage for the knavery of the rest of the act: a brawl in which Cassio will debase himself to the point of demotion. Keeping up his tradition of ending scenes and speeches with a rhymed couplet, Iago reminds us of his slippery identity. Recalling his motto of “I am not what I am,” Iago removes his mask and reveals his “plain face” only to the audience.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The opposing views of Desdemona shared by Roderigo and Iago in this exchange represent two archetypes of Shakespearean characters. Roderigo is a romantic; Iago is a classicist. Romantic types—think Romeo—are driven by emotion and idealism. Classical types are colder and more analytical. The dialogue between Roderigo and Iago in Act I about emotion versus reason is a perfect example of a clash between romanticism and classicism. In this exchange, Roderigo idealizes Desdemona. Iago, who idealizes nothing, retorts with the humorous, sobering truth that “the wine she drinks is made of grapes.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Iago paints an ironic portrait of Cassio as the right “knave” to steal Desdemona’s heart: he is charming, sly, handsome, and young. Good qualities aside, Iago’s personal hatred for Cassio finds its way into the description: “a devilish knave!… a pestilent complete knave.” Despite Iago’s speech in Act I about using reason to control the emotions, Iago often allows his emotions to guide his words and actions.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Iago takes an ironic tone to convince Roderigo that Desdemona will soon fall out of love with Othello. As Iago puts it, she will grow tired of Othello’s war stories, not to mention his old age, lack of manners and unattractive appearance. Iago has no good reason to believe any of this, but he must give Roderigo hope in order to pull the man—and his money—into his schemes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. In a moment of distinct dramatic irony, Desdemona calls to the heavens for a continued increase of “loves and comforts.” The audience, of course, knows of Iago’s plots, and thus knows that such an increase is unlikely.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Othello enters the port of Cyprus with an elegant and philosophically astute statement about the nature of happiness. Othello’s moment of joy, his “calms,” come only after the ordeal of the tempest. As many thinkers have remarked, happiness is most powerful when balanced by pain and sorrow. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other?”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Iago’s goal is to lure Cassio into courting Desdemona. By playing the role of the irreverent knave, he has succeeded in bringing Desdemona and Cassio closer together.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. After detailing the ideal woman in a series of rhymed couplets, Iago claims that her ultimate goal is to raise children and do housework. This poem within the play represents a parody of the courtly love poem. Rather than praising a woman for her perfection, Iago’s poem takes a turn into cheekiness and disrespect.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. As in the case of the woman of “blackness and wit,” Iago claims that the woman who is “foolish [and] fair” will succeed so long as she makes an “heir.” Iago assumes that the purpose of all women is to procreate. This attitude reflects both the historical setting of the play, as well as Iago’s particularly low regard for women. This moment is exemplary of the play’s ongoing interest in gender relations.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Desdemona responds to Iago’s notion of “fairness and wit” with the idea of a woman with “blackness and wit.” In this case, “blackness” refers to ugliness, the opposite of fairness. Iago retorts with a clever pun, claiming that such a woman would use her wit to find a suitable “white”—in this case a play on “wight,” which means man.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Iago’s praise for Desdemona comes down to her combination of “fairness and wit”—her beauty and intelligence. As he puts it, beauty is a resource meant to be used by one’s wit. The rhyming couplets Iago uses to praise Desdemona underscore the irreverence and frivolity of his words.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. In a humorous image, Iago jokes about the challenge of imagining kind things to say about Desdemona. Such a compliment would come from his pate, or head, the way “birdlime does from frieze,” “birdlime” being a very sticky substance and “frieze” being cloth.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Desdemona subtly admits to putting on a lively façade. She claims that she is not truly merry, but that she appears so in order to amuse herself. This statement adds depth to Desdemona and parallels Iago’s infamous utterance: “I am not what I am.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. By Iago’s word, every aspect of Emilia’s life is awry. In a flurry of figurative language, Iago offers a series of images that represent things out of place: “bells in your parlors, wildcats in your kitchens,” etc.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. As soon as Emilia enters the play, we come to understand the nature of her relationship with Iago. Disrespectful as ever, Iago publicly scolds Emilia for “her tongue she oft bestows on me”—in other words, her talkativeness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. Cassio’s characterization of Desdemona cleverly places her in a militaristic hierarchy above Othello. Though Othello is used to a position of command, his love for Desdemona puts him in a position of servitude.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. Cassio’s description of Desdemona alludes to the poetic tradition of the blazon while drawing attention to that tradition in a teasing manner. The blazon is a style of poem in which the poet lists the favorable attributes of a lovely woman. Cassio performs a short blazon of Desdemona while admitting that she “excels the quirks of blazoning pens.” Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets offer examples of the blazon form.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. In a clever instance of the pathetic fallacy, the interaction between the storm and the sea is described through the metaphor of a battle. This metaphor is fitting, considering the naval battle taking place.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. Shakespeare devises a distinctive metaphor for the stormy sea that Montano and his men face. Instead of waves, we have “mountains” which “melt,” which is an unusual metaphor in that the verb “melt” is an action that neither waves nor mountains technically perform. Shakespeare is known for such attention-grabbing twists of language. The “ribs of oak” refer to the beams of the ship, the “mortise” being the joints between beams and planks.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff