Act III - Scene III

[The garden of the castle.]

Enter Desdemona, Cassio, and Emilia.

Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do
All my abilities in thy behalf.
Good madam, do: I warrant it grieves my husband
As if the cause were his.
O, that's an honest fellow. Do not doubt, Cassio,(5)
But I will have my lord and you again
As friendly as you were.
Bounteous madam,
Whatever shall become of Michael Cassio,
He's never anything but your true servant.(10)
I know't: I thank you. You do love my lord;
You have known him long; and be you well assured
He shall in strangeness stand no farther off
Than in a politic distance.
Ay, but, lady,(15)
That policy may either last so long,
Or feed upon such nice and waterish diet,
Or breed itself so out of circumstances,
That I being absent and my place supplied,
My general will forget my love and service.(20)
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;(25)
His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift;
I'll intermingle everything he does
With Cassio's suit. Therefore be merry, Cassio,
For thy solicitor shall rather die
Than give thy cause away.(30)

Enter Othello, and Iago, at a distance.

Madam, here comes my lord.
Madam, I'll take my leave.
Nay, stay and hear me speak.
Madam, not now. I am very ill at ease,
Unfit for mine own purposes.(35)
Well, do your discretion.

Exit [Cassio.]

Enter Othello and Iago.

Ha! I like not that.
What dost thou say?
Nothing, my lord; or if I know not what.
Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?(40)
Cassio, my lord! No, sure, I cannot think it,
That he would steal away so guiltylike,
Seeing you coming.
I do believe 'twas he.
How now, my lord!(45)
I have been talking with a suitor here,
A man that languishes in your displeasure.
Who is't you mean?
Why, your lieutenant, Cassio. Good my lord,
If I have any grace or power to move you,(50)
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 judgement in an honest face:
I prithee, call him back.(55)
Went he hence now?
Ay, sooth; so humbled,
That he hath left part of his grief with me,
To suffer with him. Good love, call him back.
Not now, sweet Desdemona; some other time.(60)
But shall't be shortly?
The sooner, sweet, for you.
Shall't be tonight at supper?
No, not tonight.
Tomorrow dinner then?(65)
I shall not dine at home;
I meet the captains at the citadel.
Why then tomorrow night, or Tuesday morn;
On Tuesday noon, or night, on Wednesday morn;
I prithee, name the time, but let it not(70)
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?(75)
Tell me, Othello. I wonder in my soul,
What you would ask me, that I should deny,
Or stand so mammering on. What? Michael Cassio,
That came awooing with you, and so many a time
When I have spoke of you dispraisingly(80)
Hath ta'en your part—to have so much to do
To bring him in! Trust me, I could do much—
Prithee, no more. Let him come when he will;
I will deny thee nothing.
Why, this is not a boon;(85)
'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,(90)
It shall be full of poise and difficult weight,
And fearful to be granted.
I will deny thee nothing:
Whereon, I do beseech thee, grant me this,
To leave me but a little to myself.(95)
Shall I deny you? No. Farewell, my lord.
Farewell, my Desdemona; I'll come to thee straight.
Emilia, come. Be as your fancies teach you; Whate'er
you be, I am obedient. [Exeunt Desdemona and Emilia.]
Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul,(100)
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.
My noble lord—
What dost thou say, Iago?
Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady,(105)
Know of your love?
He did, from first to last. Why dost thou ask?
But for a satisfaction of my thought;
No further harm.
Why of thy thought, Iago?(110)
I did not think he had been acquainted with her.
O, yes, and went between us very oft.
Indeed? ay, indeed. Discern'st thou aught in that?
Is he not honest?(1155)
Honest, my lord?
Honest? Ay, honest.
My lord, for aught I know.
What dost thou think?
Think, my lord?(120)
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 even now, thou like'st not that,
When Cassio left my wife. What didst not like?(125)
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,(130)
Show me thy thought.
My lord, you know I love you.
I think thou dost;
And for I know thou'rt full of love and honesty
And weigh'st thy words before thou givest them breath,(135)
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're close dilations, working from the heart,
That passion cannot rule.(140)
For Michael Cassio,
I dare be sworn I think that he is honest.
I think so too.
Men should be what they seem;
Or those that be not, would they might seem none!(145)
Certain, men should be what they seem.
Why then I think Cassio's an honest man.
Nay, yet there's more in this:
I prithee, speak to me as to thy thinkings,
As thou dost ruminate, and give thy worst of thoughts(150)
The worst of words.
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;(155)
As where's that palace where in to foul things
Sometimes intrude not? Who has a breast so pure,
But some uncleanly apprehensions
Keep leets and lawdays, and in session sit
With meditations lawful?(160)
Thou dost conspire against thy friend, Iago,
If thou but think'st him wrong'd and makest his ear
A stranger to thy thoughts.
I do beseech you—
Though I perchance am vicious in my guess,(165)
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(170)
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.
What dost thou mean?(175)
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(180)
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
By heaven, I'll know thy thoughts.
You cannot, if my heart were in your hand;
Nor shall not, whilst 'tis in my custody.(185)
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;(190)
But O, what damned minutes tells he o'er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!
O misery!
Poor and content is rich, and rich enough;
But riches fineless is as poor as winter(195)
To him that ever fears he shall be poor.
Good heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend
From jealousy!
Why, why is this?
Think'st thou I'ld make a life of jealousy,(200)
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,(205)
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(210)
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!(215)
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;(220)
Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure.
I would not have your free and noble nature
Out of selfbounty be abused. Look to't.
I know our country disposition well;
In Venice they do let heaven see the pranks(225)
They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience
Is not to leave't undone, but keep't unknown.
Dost thou say so?
She did deceive her father, marrying you;
And when she seem'd to shake and fear your looks,(230)
She loved them most.
And so she did.
Why, go to then.
She that so young could give out such a seeming,
To seel her father's eyes up close as oak—(235)
He thought 'twas witchcraft—but I am much to blame;
I humbly do beseech you of your pardon
For too much loving you.
I am bound to thee forever.
I see this hath a little dash'd your spirits.(240)
Not a jot, not a jot.
I' faith, I fear it has.
I hope you will consider what is spoke
Comes from my love. But I do see you're moved;
I am to pray you not to strain my speech(245)
To grosser issues, nor to larger reach
Than to suspicion.
I will not.
Should you do so, my lord,
My speech should fall into such vile success(250)
Which my thoughts aim not at. Cassio's my worthy friend—
My lord, I see you're moved.
No, not much moved.
I do not think but Desdemona's honest.
Long live she so! and long live you to think so!(255)
And yet, how nature erring from itself—
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—(260)
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 judgement,(265)
May fall to match you with her country forms,
And happily repent.
Farewell, farewell:
If more thou dost perceive, let me know more;
Set on thy wife to observe. Leave me, Iago.(270)
My lord, I take my leave.
Why did I marry? This honest creature doubtless
Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds.
My lord, I would I might entreat your honor
To scan this thing no further; leave it to time:(275)
Though it be fit that Cassio have his place,
For sure he fills it up with great ability,
Yet, if you please to hold him off awhile,
You shall by that perceive him and his means:
Note if your lady strain his entertainment(280)
With any strong or vehement importunity;
Much will be seen in that. In the meantime,
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 honor.(285)
Fear not my government.
I once more take my leave.


This fellow's of exceeding honesty,
And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,
Of human dealings. If I do prove her haggard,(290)
Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings,
I'ld 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 declined(295)
Into the vale of years—yet that's not much—
She's gone. I am abused, and my relief
Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage,
That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad,(300)
And live upon the vapor of a dungeon,
Than keep a corner in the thing I love
For others' uses. Yet, 'tis the plague of great ones;
Prerogatived are they less than the base;
'Tis destiny unshunnable, like death:(305)
Even then this forked plague is fated to us
When we do quicken. Desdemona comes:

Enter Desdemona and Emilia.

If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself!
I'll not believe't.
How now, my dear Othello!(310)
Your dinner, and the generous islanders
By you invited, do attend your presence.
I am to blame.
Why do you speak so faintly?
Are you not well?(315)
I have a pain upon my forehead here.
Faith, that's with watching; 'twill away again:
Let me but bind it hard, within this hour
It will be well.
Your napkin is too little;(320)

[He puts the handkerchief from him, and she drops it.]

Let it alone. Come, I'll go in with you.
I am very sorry that you are not well.

Exeunt Othello and Desdemona

I am glad I have found this napkin:
This was her first remembrance from the Moor:
My wayward husband hath a hundred times(325)
Woo'd me to steal it; but she so loves the token,
For he conjured 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(330)
Heaven knows, not I;
I nothing but to please his fantasy.

Enter Iago.

How now, what do you here alone?
Do not you chide; I have a thing for you.
A thing for me? It is a common thing—(335)
To have a foolish wife.
O, is that all? What will you give me now
For that same handkerchief?
What handkerchief?(340)
What handkerchief?
Why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona;
That which so often you did bid me steal.
Hast stol'n it from her?
No, faith; she let it drop by negligence,(345)
And, to the advantage, I being here took't up.
Look, here it is.
A good wench; give it me.
What will you do with't, that you have been so
To have me filch it?
Why, what is that to you?
If't be not for some purpose of import,
Give't me again. Poor lady, she'll run mad
When she shall lack it.(355)
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(360)
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(365)
Burn like the mines of sulphur. I did say so:
Look, where he comes!

Enter Othello.

Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep(370)
Which thou owedst yesterday.
Ha, ha, false to me?
Why, how now, general! No more of that.
Avaunt! be gone! Thou hast set me on the rack:
I swear 'tis better to be much abused(375)
Than but to know't a little.
How now, my lord?
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;(380)
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.
I am sorry to hear this.
I had been happy if the general camp,(385)
Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,
So I had nothing known. O, now forever
Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troop and the big wars
That make ambition virtue! O, farewell,(390)
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spiritstirring drum, the earpiercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats(395)
The immortal Jove's dread clamors counterfeit,
Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone!
Is't possible, my lord?
Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore;
Be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof;(400)
Or, by the worth of man's eternal soul,
Thou hadst been better have been born a dog
Than answer my waked wrath!
Is't come to this?
Make me to see't; or at the least so prove it,(405)
That the probation bear no hinge nor loop
To hang a doubt on; or woe upon thy life!
My noble lord—
If thou dost slander her and torture me,
Never pray more; abandon all remorse;(410)
On horror's head horrors accumulate.
Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amazed;
For nothing canst thou to damnation add
Greater than that.
O grace! O heaven defend me!(415)
Are you a man? have you a soul or sense?
God be wi' you; take mine office. O wretched fool,
That livest to make thine honesty a vice!
O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world,
To be direct and honest is not safe.(420)
I thank you for this profit, and from hence
I'll love no friend sith love breeds such offense.
Nay, stay; thou shouldst be honest.
I should be wise; for honesty's a fool,
And loses that it works for.(425)
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 begrimed and black(430)
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!
I see, sir, you are eaten up with passion;
I do repent me that I put it to you.(435)
You would be satisfied?
Would? Nay, I will.
And may. But, how? how satisfied, my lord?
Would you, the supervisor, grossly gape on?
Behold her topp'd?(440)
Death and damnation! O!
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?(445)
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,(450)
If imputation and strong circumstances,
Which lead directly to the door of truth,
Will give you satisfaction, you may have't.
Give me a living reason she's disloyal.
I do not like the office;(455)
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.(460)
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”;(465)
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(470)
Cried, “Cursed fate that gave thee to the Moor!”
O monstrous! monstrous!
Nay, this was but his dream.
But this denoted a foregone conclusion:
'Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream.(475)
And this may help to thicken other proofs
That do demonstrate thinly.
I'll tear her all to pieces.
Nay, but be wise; yet we see nothing done;
She may be honest yet. Tell me but this;(480)
Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief
Spotted with strawberries in your wife's hand?
I gave her such a one; 'twas my first gift.
I know not that; but such a handkerchief—
I am sure it was your wife's—did I today(485)
See Cassio wipe his beard with.
If it be that—
If it be that, or any that was hers,
It speaks against her with the other proofs.
O, that the slave had forty thousand lives!(490)
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 thy hollow cell!(495)
Yield up, O love, thy crown and hearted throne
To tyrannous hate! Swell, bosom, with thy fraught,
For 'tis of aspics' tongues!
Yet be content.
O, blood, blood, blood!(500)
Patience, I say; your mind perhaps may change.
Never, Iago: Like to the Pontic Sea,
Whose icy current and compulsive course
Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontic and the Hellespont,(505)
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. Now, by yond marble heaven,
In the due reverence of a sacred vow(510)
I here engage my words.
Do not rise yet.
Witness, you everburning lights above,
You elements that clip us round about, Iago Kneels.
Witness that here Iago doth give up(515)
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.
I greet thy love,(520)
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.
My friend is dead, 'tis done at your request;(525)
But let her live.
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.(530)
I am your own forever.



  1. As the scene draws to a close, Othello agrees to the plot Iago has devised. When Iago beseeches Othello to let Desdemona live, he may be employing his often-used tactic of reverse psychology. By expressing a desire to let her live, Iago further coaxes Othello into choosing to kill her.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Othello offers a dense metaphor for his rage. This passage alludes to the Pontic Sea, today known as the Black Sea, a body of water without a balanced tide which flows in and out. Othello describes his anger as similarly ceaseless, without ebb. The image he produces likens his violent urges to an “icy current” as well as to “bloody thoughts,” a pair of contradictory images. This contradiction indicates the lack of clarity in his thinking.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Othello expresses his internal shift from love to hate. He characterizes his vengeance as “black,” drawing upon both racial and moral connotations. Othello’s self-awareness in this passage is fascinating. He understands how toxic his shift in perspective is—“‘tis of aspics’ tongues”—and yet he is helpless in controlling his emotions.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. In an intriguing double metaphor, Othello characterizes Desdemona’s shift in reputation as a change in her face’s complexion. Her face was once “fresh as Dian’s”—an allusion to the Greek goddess Diana, whose virginity and moonlike skin are used to symbolize purity. Now her face is as “black” as Othello’s, an image that draws again on the play’s complicated association between racial blackness and moral blackness. Othello’s metaphor suggests that Desdemona’s fall from grace would place her at his level.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. In this couplet, Othello admits to the nuanced nature of his trust in others. In this moment he cannot decide whether Desdemona is faithful and Iago dishonest, or if Desdemona is faithless and Iago honest. Shakespeare structures this phrase to encompass both realities. The audience, of course, knows well which line of thinking is accurate.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. For the first time in the play, Othello directs his anger towards Iago, calling him “villain.” It is a shallow label; Othello does not understand the depths of Iago’s villainy. Rather, he projects his confusion and rage about the possibility of Desdemona’s faithlessness onto Iago, demanding “the ocular proof.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. For the first time in the play, Othello directs his anger towards Iago, calling him “villain.” It is a shallow label; Othello does not understand the depths of Iago’s villainy. Rather, he projects his confusion and rage about the possibility of Desdemona’s faithlessness onto Iago, demanding “the ocular proof.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Othello makes reference to “the rack,” an infamous medieval torture device which stretches the prisoner’s limbs in opposite directions. Othello’s point is that knowing just “a little” about Desdemona’s adultery is the greatest torture of all. Even full knowledge of the situation is manageable by comparison.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. Emilia explains the significance of the napkin, giving meaning to the previous exchange between Desdemona and Othello. Desdemona tries to heal Othello’s ache with this symbol of their love, but he refuses it, and it falls to the floor. This small moment foreshadows the breaking down of their relationship.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Othello makes a subtle reference to the cuckold’s horns. The horns are from a medieval myth in which cuckolded men were thought to sprout horns as a result of their symbolic castration.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Othello uses a falconry metaphor to explain his torn feelings for Desdemona. Part of him wishes to let her fly free and do as she wishes. As Othello describes it, however, Desdemona’s jesses—the cords that attach a falcon to its falconer—are his heartstrings. In other words, he loves her too deeply to let her go.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Iago fuels Othello’s concerns, claiming that nature’s course would guide Desdemona to choose someone of the same clime—or social status—and race. According to Iago’s lies, Desdemona found neither characteristics in Othello, suggesting a “will most rank.” In other words, Iago characterizes Desdemona as deceitful and manipulative.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Othello thinks of the racial divide between Desdemona and himself. Brabantio has remarked time and again that Desdemona’s love for Othello is an aberration from nature. Othello finds this insecurity resurfacing in the context of Desdemona’s possible adultery.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. Iago succeeds in recasting Othello’s courtship with Desdemona as evidence of her duplicitous nature. In this exchange, Iago evokes what psychologists refer to as “confirmation bias.” After planting doubt in Othello’s mind, Iago compels him to look for evidence, knowing that he will find further grounds for jealousy even where they do not exist. The growth of jealousy based on nonexistent evidence becomes one of the play’s central themes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. True to his character, Othello does not believe in Iago’s stance of jealousy. In a reiteration of the theme of emotion versus reason, Othello uses reason to suppress any potential flarings of emotion. As he judiciously puts it, “I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. Iago cleverly employs personification here, identifying not Cassio as the foe but rather jealousy itself. This continues Iago’s tactic of withholding the specific accusation of Cassio, allowing the thought to emerge in Othello’s mind. This moment represents the beginning of the play’s climax. Now that Othello knows of the fictional adultery, the rest of the play is devoted to the unfolding consequences.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. On one level, Iago speaks of himself hypothetically. He expresses his concern that his reputation would be ruined should he freely give his thoughts away. His words also ironically reflect on Othello’s situation. If Iago’s false allegations of adultery between Cassio and Desdemona were true, Othello’s reputation would be destroyed. In Elizabethan times, to be a cuckold was a severe embarrassment.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  18. Iago cleverly frames his thoughts as untrustworthy and beyond his own control. He claims that his thoughts about Cassio might be unnecessarily upsetting. All the while, Iago builds Othello’s anticipation.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. Othello’s words reveal a trace of dramatic irony. Othello wishes to know the “horrible conceit” about Cassio that Iago has “shut up in [his] brain.” In truth, the horrible conceit in Iago’s brain is a much deeper one than Cassio’s fictional adultery. The horrible conceit is Iago’s larger plan to exact revenge on Othello and Cassio.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  20. Iago’s tactic in this exchange with Othello is to give away slight inclinations of distrust in Cassio. He then pretends not to have reasons for distrusting Cassio. Iago’s tactic is meant to cultivate Othello’s doubts about Cassio without behaving as if he intends to do so.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. Othello refers to himself as an “excellent wretch,” an oxymoron that characterizes his status as a foolish, out-of-control lover. Othello acknowledges that his love for Desdemona has the power to influence him negatively. Iago knows this well and capitalizes on it.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. As if to quell Othello’s concerns about her intentions, Desdemona assures him that her case to reinstate Cassio is not a “boon,” or personal favor. Rather, it is in Othello’s best interests.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  23. Desdemona stresses the immediacy of Cassio’s case because of Cassio’s fears that Othello might leave him behind entirely after too long. From Othello’s perspective, Desdemona may be stressing the urgency of the case out of her feelings for Cassio.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. Desdemona’s case for reinstating Cassio is that his crime is one of ignorance, not cunning. Her method of argument is fascinating because it contains an unseen irony: the qualities she brings up are those which separate Cassio and Iago. Cassio, the ignorant one, is condemned. Meanwhile Iago, the cunning one, runs free.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  25. Iago knows well that Othello saw Cassio exit, and yet he shrouds Cassio’s presence in intrigue. Ever the master of irony, Iago’s goal here is to sow seeds of jealousy in Othello. Iago understands that Cassio spoke to Desdemona about his reinstatement. By pointing to the man’s “guiltylike” movements, though, Iago introduces the idea that Cassio is guilty of some other indiscretion.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  26. Desdemona promises to take up Cassio’s cause and to torment Othello about it incessantly. The scene she paints represents a fascinating overlap between the domestic and the political. The images of Othello’s home life—his bed, his dining table—become political locations where affairs of state are discussed. That Desdemona characterizes her relationship to Othello in this way indicates the level of power she commands in both her marriage and the political sphere.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  27. In this case, “strangeness” means “estrangement.” In other words, even though Othello has distanced himself Cassio, the distance is short because of the history the two men share.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  28. This exchange between Cassio and Desdemona places Desdemona in a higher tier of importance than Othello. Not only does she claim to have the power to reinstate Cassio, Cassio himself pledges to be her servant, not Othello’s.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  29. 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.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. 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.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. Renaissance men often suspected their wives of adultery because of the stigma around being a "cuckold." A cuckolded man (a man whose wife is cheating on him) faced both social humiliation and ruined credit. Such harsh consequences led to frequent paranoia, also called horn-madness because of the metaphorical horns that supposedly sprout from the cuckold's brow. Othello's anxiety, though unfair, is understandable.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. 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.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. "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).

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. 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.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  35. 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.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  36. Jove, king of the gods in Roman mythology and known as Zeus in Greek, ruled the sky and heavens. His dread clamors represent thunderbolts.

    — Owl Eyes Reader
  37. The reflexive pronoun construction "their own" refers to "their own eyes," which is to say that no one, aside from them, will be able to catch them.

    — Owl Eyes Reader