Act II - Scene III

[A hall in the castle.]

Enter Othello, Cassio, Desdemona, [and Attendants.]

OTHELLO:
Good Michael, look you to the guard tonight:
Let's teach ourselves that honorable stop,
Not to outsport discretion.
CASSIO:
Iago hath direction what to do;
But notwithstanding, with my personal eye(5)
Will I look to't.
OTHELLO:
Iago is most honest.
Michael, good night. Tomorrow with your earliest
Let me have speech with you. Come, my dear love,
The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue;(10)
That profit's yet to come 'tween me and you.
Good night.

Exit Othello and Desdemona.

Enter Iago.

CASSIO:
Welcome, Iago; we must to the watch.
IAGO:
Not this hour, lieutenant; 'tis not yet ten o' the clock. Our
general cast us thus early for the love of his Desdemona;(15)
who let us not therefore blame. He hath not yet made wan-
ton the night with her, and she is sport for Jove.
CASSIO:
She's a most exquisite lady.
IAGO:
And, I'll warrant her, full of game.
CASSIO:
Indeed she's a most fresh and delicate creature.(20)
IAGO:
What an eye she has!
Methinks it sounds a parley to provocation.
CASSIO:
An inviting eye; and yet methinks right modest.
IAGO:
And when she speaks, is it not an alarum to love?
CASSIO:
She is indeed perfection.(25)
IAGO:
Well, happiness to their sheets! Come, lieutenant, I have
a stoup of wine, and here without are a brace of Cyprus
gallants that would fain have a measure to the health of
black Othello.
CASSIO:
Not tonight, good Iago: I have very poor and unhappy(30)
brains for drinking. I could well wish courtesy would
invent some other custom of entertainment.
IAGO:
O, they are our friends! But one cup; I'll drink for you.
CASSIO:
I have drunk but one cup tonight, and that was craftily
qualified too, and behold what innovation it makes here.(35)
I am unfortunate in the infirmity, and dare not task my
weakness with any more.
IAGO:
What, man! 'Tis a night of revels, the gallants desire it.
CASSIO:
Where are they?
IAGO:
Here at the door; I pray you, call them in.(40)
CASSIO:
I'll do't, but it dislikes me.

Exit.

IAGO:
If I can fasten but one cup upon him,
With that which he hath drunk tonight already,
He'll be as full of quarrel and offense
As my young mistress' dog. Now my sick fool Roderigo,(45)
Whom love hath turn'd almost the wrong side out,
To Desdemona hath tonight caroused
Potations pottledeep; and he's to watch:
Three lads of Cyprus, noble swelling spirits,
That hold their honors in a wary distance,(50)
The very elements of this warlike isle,
Have I tonight fluster'd with flowing cups,
And they watch too. Now, 'mongst this flock of
drunkards,
Am I to put our Cassio in some action(55)
That may offend the isle. But here they come:
If consequence do but approve my dream,
My boat sails freely, both with wind and stream.

[Enter Montano, Cassio and others [Gentlemen.]

CASSIO:
'Fore God, they have given me a rouse already.
MONTANO:
Good faith, a little one; not past a pint, as I am a(60)
soldier.
IAGO:
Some wine, ho!
[Sings.] “And let me the canakin clink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink:
A soldier's a man;(65)
O, man's life's but a span;
Why then let a soldier drink.”
Some wine, boys!
CASSIO:
'Fore God, an excellent song.
IAGO:
I learned it in England, where indeed they are most(70)
potent in potting. Your Dane, your German, and your
swagbellied Hollander—Drink, ho!—are nothing to your
English.
CASSIO:
Is your Englishman so expert in his drinking?
IAGO:
Why, he drinks you with facility your Dane dead(75)
drunk; he sweats not to overthrow your Almain; he gives
your Hollander a vomit ere the next pottle can be filled.
CASSIO:
To the health of our general!
MONTANO:
I am for it, lieutenant, and I'll do you justice.
IAGO:
O sweet England!(80)
[Sings.] “King Stephen was a worthy peer,
His breeches cost him but a crown;
He held them sixpence all too dear,
With that he call'd the tailor lown.
“He was a wight of high renown,(85)
And thou art but of low degree:
'Tis pride that pulls the country down;
Then take thine auld cloak about thee.”
Some wine, ho!
CASSIO:
Why, this is a more exquisite song than the other.(90)
IAGO:
Will you hear't again?
CASSIO:
No, for I hold him to be unworthy of his place that
does those things. Well, God's above all, and there be souls
must be saved, and there be souls must not be saved.
IAGO:
It's true, good lieutenant.(95)
CASSIO:
For mine own part—no offense to the general, nor any
man of quality—I hope to be saved.
IAGO:
And so do I too, lieutenant.
CASSIO:
Ay, but, by your leave, not before me; the lieutenant is
to be saved before the ancient. Let's have no more of this;(100)
let's to our affairs. God forgive us our sins! Gentlemen, let's
look to our business. Do not think, gentlemen, I am drunk:
this is my ancient, this is my right hand, and this is my left.
I am not drunk now; I can stand well enough, and I speak
well enough.(105)
ALL:
Excellent well.
CASSIO:
Why, very well then; you must not think then that I am
drunk.

Exit.

MONTANO:
To the platform, masters; come, let's set the watch.
IAGO:
You see this fellow that is gone before;(110)
He is a soldier fit to stand by Caesar
And give direction. And do but see his vice;
'Tis to his virtue a just equinox,
The one as long as the other. 'Tis pity of him.
I fear the trust Othello puts him in(115)
On some odd time of his infirmity
Will shake this island.
MONTANO:
But is he often thus?
IAGO:
'Tis evermore the prologue to his sleep;
He'll watch the horologe a double set,(120)
If drink rock not his cradle.
MONTANO:
It were well
The general were put in mind of it.
Perhaps he sees it not, or his good nature
Prizes the virtue that appears in Cassio(125)
And looks not on his evils: Is not this true?

Enter Roderigo.

IAGO:
How now, Roderigo!
I pray you, after the lieutenant; go.

Exit Roderigo.

MONTANO:
And 'tis great pity that the noble Moor
Should hazard such a place as his own second(130)
With one of an ingraft infirmity:
It were an honest action to say
So to the Moor.
IAGO:
Not I, for this fair island:
I do love Cassio well, and would do much(135)
To cure him of this evil:—But, hark! What noise?

(Without:) “Help, help!”

Enter Cassio, driving in Roderigo.

CASSIO:
'Zounds! You rogue! You rascal!
MONTANO:
What's the matter, lieutenant?
CASSIO:
A knave teach me my duty! But I'll beat the knave
into a twiggen bottle.(140)
ROD:
Beat me!
CASSIO:
Dost thou prate, rogue? Strikes Roderigo.
MONTANO:
Nay, good lieutenant; I pray you, sir, hold your
hand.
CASSIO:
Let me go, sir, or I'll knock you o'er the mazzard.(145)
MONTANO:
Come, come, you're drunk.
CASSIO:
Drunk! They fight.
IAGO:
Away, I say; go out and cry a mutiny.

[Exit Roderigo.]

Nay, good lieutenant! God's will, gentlemen!(150)
Help, ho!—Lieutenant—sir—Montano sir—
Help, masters! Here's a goodly watch indeed! (A bell rings.)
Who's that that rings the bell?—Diablo, ho!
The town will rise. God's will, lieutenant, hold!
You will be shamed forever.(155)

Enter Othello, and Gentlemen with weapons.

OTHELLO:
What is the matter here?
MONTANO:
'Zounds, I bleed still; I am hurt to the death.
OTHELLO:
Hold, for your lives!
IAGO:
Hold, ho!—Lieutenant—sir—Montano—gentlemen—
Have you forgot all place of sense and duty?(160)
Hold! the general speaks to you! Hold, hold, for shame!
OTHELLO:
Why, how now, ho! from whence ariseth this? Are we
turn'd Turks, and to ourselves do that
Which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?
For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl:(165)
He that stirs next to carve for his own rage
Holds his soul light; he dies upon his motion.
Silence that dreadful bell; it frights the isle
From her propriety. What is the matter, masters?
Honest Iago, that look'st dead with grieving,(170)
Speak, who began this? On thy love, I charge thee:
IAGO:
I do not know: Friends all but now, even now,
In quarter, and in terms like bride and groom
Devesting them for bed; and then, but now
As if some planet had unwitted men,(175)
Swords out, and tilting one at other's breast,
In opposition bloody. I cannot speak
Any beginning to this peevish odds.
OTHELLO:
How comes it, Michael, you are thus forgot?
CASSIO:
I pray you, pardon me; I cannot speak.(180)
OTHELLO:
Worthy Montano, you were wont be civil;
The gravity and stillness of your youth
The world hath noted, and your name is great
In mouths of wisest censure. What's the matter,
That you unlace your reputation thus,(185)
And spend your rich opinion for the name
Of a nightbrawler? Give me answer to it.
MONTANO:
Worthy Othello, I am hurt to danger:
Your officer, Iago, can inform you—
While I spare speech, which something now offends me—(190)
Of all that I do know. Nor know I aught
By me that's said or done amiss this night;
Unless self-charity be sometimes a vice,
And to defend ourselves it be a sin
When violence assails us.(195)
OTHELLO:
Now, by heaven,
My blood begins my safer guides to rule,
And passion, having my best judgement collied,
Assays to lead the way. If I once stir,
Or do but lift this arm, the best of you(200)
Shall sink in my rebuke. Give me to know
How this foul rout began, who set it on,
And he that is approved in this offense,
Though he had twinn'd with me, both at a birth,
Shall lose me. What! in a town of war,(205)
Yet wild, the people's hearts brimful of fear,
To manage private and domestic quarrel,
In night, and on the court and guard of safety!
'Tis monstrous. Iago, who began't?
MONTANO:
If partially affined, or leagued in office,(210)
Thou dost deliver more or less than truth,
Thou art no soldier.
IAGO:
Touch me not so near:
I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth
Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio;(215)
Yet, I persuade myself, to speak the truth
Shall nothing wrong him. Thus it is, general.
Montano and myself being in speech,
There comes a fellow crying out for help,
And Cassio following him with determined sword,(220)
To execute upon him. Sir, this gentleman
Steps in to Cassio and entreats his pause:
Myself the crying fellow did pursue,
Lest by his clamor—as it so fell out—
The town might fall in fright. He, swift of foot,(225)
Outran my purpose; and I return'd the rather
For that I heard the clink and fall of swords,
And Cassio high in oath, which till tonight
I ne'er might say before. When I came back—
For this was brief —I found them close together,(230)
At blow and thrust, even as again they were
When you yourself did part them.
More of this matter cannot I report.
But men are men; the best sometimes forget:
Though Cassio did some little wrong to him,(235)
As men in rage strike those that wish them best,
Yet surely Cassio, I believe, received
From him that fled some strange indignity,
Which patience could not pass.
OTHELLO:
I know, Iago,
Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter,(240)
Making it light to Cassio. Cassio, I love thee;
But never more be officer of mine.

Enter Desdemona with others.

Look, if my gentle love be not raised up!
I'll make thee an example.
DESD:
What's the matter?(245)
OTHELLO:
All's well now, sweeting; come away to bed.
Sir, for your hurts, myself will be your surgeon.
Lead him off.

[To Montano who is led off.]

Iago, look with care about the town,
And silence those whom this vile brawl distracted.(250)
Come, Desdemona, 'tis the soldiers' life—
To have their balmy slumbers waked with strife.

Exit Moor [Othello], Desdemona, Attendents.

IAGO:
What, are you hurt, lieutenant?
CASSIO:
Ay, past all surgery.
IAGO:
Marry, heaven forbid!(255)
CASSIO:
Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my
reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and
what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!
IAGO:
As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some
bodily wound; there is more sense in that than in reputa-(260)
tion. Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got
without merit and lost without deserving. You have lost no
reputation at all, unless you repute yourself such a loser.
What, man! there are ways to recover the general again. You
are but now cast in his mood, a punishment more in policy(265)
than in malice; even so as one would beat his offenseless
dog to affright an imperious lion. Sue to him again, and he's
yours.
CASSIO:
I will rather sue to be despised than to deceive so good
a commander with so slight, so drunken, and so indiscreet(270)
an officer. Drunk? and speak parrot? and squabble?
swagger? swear? and discourse fustian with one's own
shadow? O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no
name to be known by, let us call thee devil!
IAGO:
What was he that you followed with your sword? What(275)
had he done to you?
CASSIO:
I know not.
IAGO:
Is't possible?
CASSIO:
I remember a mass of things, but nothing distinctly;
a quarrel, but nothing wherefore. O God, that men should(280)
put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!
that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause,
transform ourselves into beasts!
IAGO:
Why, but you are now well enough. How came you
thus recovered?(285)
CASSIO:
It hath pleased the devil drunkenness to give place to
the devil wrath: one unperfectness shows me another, to
make me frankly despise myself.
IAGO:
Come, you are too severe a moraler. As the time, the
place, and the condition of this country stands, I could(290)
heartily wish this had not befallen; but since it is as it is,
mend it for your own good.
CASSIO:
I will ask him for my place again; he shall tell me I
am a drunkard! Had I as many mouths as Hydra, such
an answer would stop them all. To be now a sensible man,(295)
by and by a fool, and presently a beast! O strange! Every
inordinate cup is unblest, and the ingredient is a devil.
IAGO:
Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature, if
it be well used. Exclaim no more against it. And, good
lieutenant, I think you think I love you.(300)
CASSIO:
I have well approved it, sir. I drunk!
IAGO:
You or any man living may be drunk at some time,
man. I'll tell you what you shall do. Our general's wife is
now the general. I may say so in this respect, for that he
hath devoted and given up himself to the contemplation,(305)
mark, and denotement of her parts and graces. Confess
yourself freely to her; importune her help to put you in
your place again. She is of so free, so kind, so apt, so
blessed a disposition, she holds it a vice in her goodness
not to do more than she is requested. This broken joint(310)
between you and her husband entreat her to splinter;
and, my fortunes against any lay worth naming, this crack
of your love shall grow stronger than it was before.
CASSIO:
You advise me well.
IAGO:
I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness.(315)
CASSIO:
I think it freely; and betimes in the morning I will
beseech the virtuous Desdemona to undertake for me. I
am desperate of my fortunes if they check me here.
IAGO:
You are in the right. Good night, lieutenant, I must to the
watch.(320)
CASSIO:
Good night, honest Iago.

Exit.

IAGO:
And what's he then that says I play the villain?
When this advice is free I give and honest,
Probal to thinking, and indeed the course
To win the Moor again? For 'tis most easy(325)
The inclining Desdemona to subdue
In any honest suit. She's framed as fruitful
As the free elements. And then for her
To win the Moor, were't to renounce his baptism,
All seals and symbols of redeemed sin,(330)
His soul is so enfetter'd to her love,
That she may make, unmake, do what she list,
Even as her appetite shall play the god
With his weak function. How am I then a villain
To counsel Cassio to this parallel course,(335)
Directly to his good? Divinity of hell!
When devils will the blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now. For whiles this honest fool
Plies Desdemona to repair his fortune,(340)
And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,
I'll pour this pestilence into his ear,
That she repeals him for her body's lust;
And by how much she strives to do him good,
She shall undo her credit with the Moor.(345)
So will I turn her virtue into pitch,
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all.

Enter Roderigo

How now, Roderigo!
ROD:
I do follow here in the chase, not like a hound that hunts,(350)
but one that fills up the cry. My money is almost spent; I
have been tonight exceedingly well cudgeled; and I think
the issue will be, I shall have so much experience for my
pains; and so, with no money at all and a little more wit,
return again to Venice.(355)
IAGO:
How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
Thou know'st we work by wit and not by witchcraft,
And wit depends on dilatory time.
Does't not go well? Cassio hath beaten thee,(360)
And thou by that small hurt hast cashier'd Cassio
Though other things grow fair against the sun,
Yet fruits that blossom first will first be ripe:
Content thyself awhile. By the mass, 'tis morning;
Pleasure and action make the hours seem short.(365)
Retire thee; go where thou art billeted:
Away, I say. Thou shalt know more hereafter:
Nay, get thee gone.

Exit Roderigo

Two things are to be done:
My wife must move for Cassio to her mistress;(370)
I'll set her on;
Myself the while to draw the Moor apart,
And bring him jump when he may Cassio find
Soliciting his wife: Ay, that's the way;
Dull not device by coldness and delay.(375)

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Iago’s plot enters its next phase. His aim is for Cassio to plead to Desdemona for his position as lieutenant. Iago will then lie to Othello that Cassio is making sexual advances on Desdemona. The idea is that when Desdemona then approaches Othello to relay Cassio’s request, Othello will believe that Desdemona is helping Cassio out of mutual, adulterous infatuation. Once again, Iago constructs the next phase of his scheme at the act’s end so as to executes it in the next.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Iago again uses the tension between heaven and hell to describe his motives. Iago is a “Divinity of hell,” a devil whose “blackest sins” project “heavenly shows.” This passage shows why Iago is such a perplexing character. Whereas many unfavorable characters think themselves noble, Iago is a villain who owns his villainy. He is a devil who admits to his sins and relishes them.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In another moment of dramatic irony, Iago adds insult to injury. Not only did Cassio lose his rank “without deserving” as a result of Iago’s scheming, Iago subtly indicates that Cassio achieved his rank in the first place “without merit.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Ever the brilliant orator, Iago takes the outward stance of defending Cassio while revealing the man’s identity as instigator. As is the case with much of Iago’s scheming, this speech pulsates with dramatic irony, for the audience alone knows Iago’s purposes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. For the first time in the play, we witness Othello subject to his own temper. It is uncharacteristic of him to leverage his authority in such a tyrannical way. Once again, we see the interplay between emotion and reason; in this case, Othello’s passions collie—or control—his “best judgment.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Othello takes control of the scene with a commanding, eloquent speech. The musicality of his phrasing marks a change in tone from the brawl to the aftermath. He employs a number of subtle rhymes and alliterations: “turn’d Turks”; “barbarous brawl”; “holds his soul”; “dreadful bell”; “matter, masters.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. “‘Zounds” is a common exclamation in Shakespeare’s plays. It rhymes with “wounds,” as opposed to “sounds” because it is a shortening of the old English curse “God’s wounds!”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Shakespeare uses a combination of consonance and assonance to give this phrase emphasis. The pair of r and k sounds in “drink” are repeated in “rock.” This is an example of rim rhyme, a technique in which the beginning and ending sounds of a word are repeated in another. “Rock” shares its short o sound with “not,” creating a short rhyming chain. The phrase is additionally startling because of the trio of stressed syllables in “drink rock not.” These effects are purposeful; we get the sense of a cradle being rocked.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. In this humorous exchange, Cassio drunkenly attempts to convince the party of his sobriety. He stumbles into a hilarious but poetic moment. These lines are often staged so that Cassio reaches for Iago—his “right-hand man”—with his right hand as he utters “this is my ancient, this is my right hand”; he then flourishes his left hand.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. While the play and, in most cases, its productions are English, Othello’s characters are almost exclusively Italian. In tangential passages such as this, Shakespeare pokes fun at his countrymen to the likely delight of his Elizabethan audiences.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Shakespeare pens this tune using onomatopoeia, a technique in which the sounds of the words imitate their subject. In this case the words “canakin”—a drinking can—and “clink” recreate the sounds of cups and cans clinking together in a toast.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Iago uses this lively phrase to describe Roderigo’s drinking. Shakespeare pulls together some inventive, alliterative language to give the phrase a festive tone. “Pottledeep” is a word invented by Shakespeare (a pottle being a half gallon.)

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Shakespeare uses a clever metrical device here. These two lines of iambic pentameter have eleven syllables, so that each has an unstressed syllable hanging off the end. This effect gives these lines a loose, uncontrolled feeling. This is fitting, for in these lines Iago plots to get Cassio drunk.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. In this dialogue, Iago and Cassio share slightly different opinions on Desdemona’s character. Cassio views Desdemona with admiration and respect, referring to her as “exquisite,” “fresh and delicate.” Without disagreeing, Iago adds a sexual tone, calling Desdemona provocative and “full of game.” Iago’s goal is to compel Cassio to make advances on Desdemona.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. 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.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff