Act IV - Scene I

[Cyprus. Before the castle.]

Enter Iago and Othello.

IAGO:
Will you think so?
OTHELLO:
Think so, Iago?
IAGO:
What,
To kiss in private?
OTHELLO:
An unauthorized kiss.(5)
IAGO:
Or to be naked with her friend in bed
An hour or more, not meaning any harm?
OTHELLO:
Naked in bed, Iago, and not mean harm!
It is hypocrisy against the devil:
They that mean virtuously and yet do so,(10)
The devil their virtue tempts and they tempt heaven.
IAGO:
So they do nothing, 'tis a venial slip:
But if I give my wife a handkerchief
OTHELLO:
What then?
IAGO:
Why, then, 'tis hers, my lord, and being hers,(15)
She may, I think, bestow't on any man.
OTHELLO:
She is protectress of her honor too:
May she give that?
IAGO:
Her honor is an essence that's not seen;
They have it very oft that have it not:(20)
But for the handkerchief—
OTHELLO:
By heaven, I would most gladly have forgot it:
Thou said'st—O, it comes o'er my memory,
As doth the raven o'er the infected house,
Boding to all—he had my handkerchief.(25)
IAGO:
Ay, what of that?
OTHELLO:
That's not so good now.
IAGO:
What if I had said I had seen him do you wrong?
Or heard him say—as knaves be such abroad,
Who having, by their own importunate suit,(30)
Or voluntary dotage of some mistress,
Convinced or supplied them, cannot choose
But they must blab—
OTHELLO:
Hath he said anything?
IAGO:
He hath, my lord; but be you well assured,(35)
No more than he'll unswear.
OTHELLO:
What hath he said?
IAGO:
Faith, that he did—I know not what he did.
OTHELLO:
What? what?
IAGO:
Lie—(40)
OTHELLO:
With her?
IAGO:
With her, on her, what you will.
OTHELLO:
Lie with her! lie on her!—We say lie on her, when
they belie her.—Lie with her! 'Zounds, that's fulsome!
Handkerchief—confessions—handkerchief! To confess(45)
and be hanged for his labor first, to be hanged, and then
to confess. I tremble at it. Nature would not invest herself
in such shadowing passion without some instruction. It
is not words that shakes me thus. Pish! Noses, ears, and
lips. Is't possible? Confess?—Handkerchief?—O devil!(50)

He falls down [in a trance.]

IAGO:
Work on,
My medicine, work! Thus credulous fools are caught:
And many worthy and chaste dames even thus,
All guiltless, meet reproach. What, ho! My lord!
My lord, I say! Othello!(55)

Enter Cassio.

How now, Cassio!
CASSIO:
What's the matter?
IAGO:
My lord is fall'n into an epilepsy:
This is his second fit; he had one yesterday.
CASSIO:
Rub him about the temples.(60)
IAGO:
No, forbear;
The lethargy must have his quiet course:
If not, he foams at mouth, and by and by
Breaks out to savage madness. Look, he stirs:
Do you withdraw yourself a little while,(65)
He will recover straight. When he is gone,
I would on great occasion speak with you.

[Exit Cassio.]

How is it, general? Have you not hurt your head?
OTHELLO:
Dost thou mock me?
IAGO:
I mock you? No, by heaven.(70)
Would you would bear your fortune like a man!
OTHELLO:
A horned man's a monster and a beast.
IAGO:
There's many a beast then in a populous city,
And many a civil monster.
OTHELLO:
Did he confess it?(75)
IAGO:
Good sir, be a man;
Think every bearded fellow that's but yoked
May draw with you. There's millions now alive
That nightly lie in those unproper beds
Which they dare swear peculiar. Your case is better.(80)
O, 'tis the spite of hell, the fiend's archmock,
To lip a wanton in a secure couch,
And to suppose her chaste! No, let me know;
And knowing what I am, I know what she shall be.
OTHELLO:
O, thou art wise; 'tis certain.(85)
IAGO:
Stand you awhile apart;
Confine yourself but in a patient list.
Whilst you were here o'erwhelmed with your grief—
A passion most unsuiting such a man—
Cassio came hither. I shifted him away,(90)
And laid good ‘scuse upon your ecstasy;
Bade him anon return and here speak with me;
The which he promised. Do but encave yourself,
And mark the fleers, the gibes, and notable scorns,
That dwell in every region of his face;(95)
For I will make him tell the tale anew,
Where, how, how oft, how long ago, and when
He hath and is again to cope your wife:
I say, but mark his gesture. Marry, patience,
Or I shall say you are all in all in spleen,(100)
And nothing of a man.
OTHELLO:
Dost thou hear, Iago?
I will be found most cunning in my patience;
But—dost thou hear?—most bloody.
IAGO:
That's not amiss;(105)
But yet keep time in all. Will you withdraw?
Now will I question Cassio of Bianca,
A housewife that by selling her desires
Buys herself bread and clothes. It is a creature
That dotes on Cassio, as 'tis the strumpet's plague(110)
To beguile many and be beguiled by one.
He, when he hears of her, cannot refrain
From the excess of laughter. Here he comes.

Eenter Cassio.

As he shall smile, Othello shall go mad;
And his unbookish jealousy must construe(115)
Poor Cassio's smiles, gestures, and light behavior,
Quite in the wrong. How do you now, lieutenant?
CASSIO:
The worser that you give me the addition
Whose want even kills me.
IAGO:
Ply Desdemona well, and you are sure on't.(120)
Now, if this suit lay in Bianca's power,
How quickly should you speed!
CASSIO:
Alas, poor caitiff!
OTHELLO:
Look, how he laughs already!
IAGO:
I never knew a woman love man so.(125)
CASSIO:
Alas, poor rogue! I think, i'faith, she loves me.
OTHELLO:
Now he denies it faintly and laughs it out.
IAGO:
Do you hear, Cassio?
OTHELLO:
Now he importunes him
To tell it o'er. Go to; well said, well said.(130)
IAGO:
She gives it out that you shall marry her;
Do you intend it?
CASSIO:
Ha, ha, ha!
OTHELLO:
Do you triumph, Roman? Do you triumph?
CASSIO:
I marry her! What? A customer! I prithee, bear some(135)
charity to my wit; do not think it so unwholesome. Ha,
ha, ha!
OTHELLO:
So, so, so, so. They laugh that win.
IAGO:
Faith, the cry goes that you shall marry her.
CASSIO:
Prithee, say true.(140)
IAGO:
I am a very villain else.
OTHELLO:
Have you scored me? Well.
CASSIO:
This is the monkey's own giving out. She is persuaded
I will marry her, out of her own love and flattery, not out of
my promise.(145)
OTHELLO:
Iago beckons me; now he begins the story.
CASSIO:
She was here even now; she haunts me in every place.
I was the other day talking on the sea bank with certain
Venetians, and thither comes the bauble, and, by this hand,
she falls me thus about my neck—(150)
OTHELLO:
Crying, “O dear Cassio!” as it were; his gesture
imports it.
CASSIO:
So hangs and lolls and weeps upon me; so hales and
pulls me. Ha, ha, ha!
OTHELLO:
Now he tells how she plucked him to my chamber.(155)
O, I see that nose of yours, but not that dog I shall throw
it to.

Enter Bianca.

CASSIO:
Well, I must leave her company.
IAGO:
Before me! look where she comes.
CASSIO:
'Tis such another fitchew! marry, a perfumed one.(160)
What do you mean by this haunting of me?
BIANCA:
Let the devil and his dam haunt you! What did you
mean by that same handkerchief you gave me even now? I
was a fine fool to take it. I must take out the work? A likely
piece of work that you should find it in your chamber and(165)
not know who left it there! This is some minx's token, and
I must take out the work? There, give it your hobby-horse.
Wheresoever you had it, I'll take out no work on't.
CASSIO:
How now, my sweet Bianca! how now! how now!
OTHELLO:
By heaven, that should be my handkerchief!(170)
BIANCA:
An you'll come to supper tonight, you may; an you
will not, come when you are next prepared for.

Exit.

IAGO:
After her, after her.
CASSIO:
Faith, I must; she'll rail i' the street else.
IAGO:
Will you sup there?(175)
CASSIO:
Faith, I intend so.
IAGO:
Well, I may chance to see you, for I would very fain
speak with you.
CASSIO:
Prithee, come; will you?
IAGO:
Go to; say no more.(180)

Exit Cassio.

OTHELLO:
How shall I murder him, Iago?
IAGO:
Did you perceive how he laughed at his vice?
OTHELLO:
O Iago!
IAGO:
And did you see the handkerchief?
OTHELLO:
Was that mine?(185)
IAGO:
Yours, by this hand. And to see how he prizes the fool-
ish woman your wife! She gave it him, and he hath given
it his whore.
OTHELLO:
I would have him nine years akilling. A fine
woman! a fair woman! a sweet woman!(190)
IAGO:
Nay, you must forget that.
OTHELLO:
Ay, let her rot, and perish, and be damned tonight,
for she shall not live. No, my heart is turned to stone; I
strike it, and it hurts my hand. O, the world hath not a
sweeter creature. She might lie by an emperor's side, and(195)
command him tasks.
IAGO:
Nay, that's not your way.
OTHELLO:
Hang her! I do but say what she is. So delicate with
her needle, an admirable musician. O, she will sing the
savageness out of a bear. Of so high and plenteous wit and(200)
invention!
IAGO:
She's the worse for all this.
OTHELLO:
O, a thousand, a thousand times. And then, of so
gentle a condition!
IAGO:
Ay, too gentle.(205)
OTHELLO:
Nay, that's certain. But yet the pity of it, Iago! O
Iago, the pity of it, Iago!
IAGO:
If you are so fond over her iniquity, give her patent to
offend, for, if it touch not you, it comes near nobody.
OTHELLO:
I will chop her into messes. Cuckold me!(210)
IAGO:
O, 'tis foul in her.
OTHELLO:
With mine officer!
IAGO:
That's fouler.
OTHELLO:
Get me some poison, Iago, this night. I'll not
expostulate with her, lest her body and beauty unprovide(215)
my mind again. This night, Iago:
IAGO:
Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed, even the
bed she hath contaminated.
OTHELLO:
Good, good, the justice of it pleases, very good.
IAGO:
And for Cassio, let me be his undertaker. You shall hear(220)
more by midnight.

Enter Lodovico, Desdemona, and Attendants.

OTHELLO:
Excellent good. A trumpet without. What trumpet is
that same?
IAGO:
Something from Venice, sure. 'Tis Lodovico
Come from the Duke. And, see your wife is with him.(225)
LODOVICO:
God save the worthy general!
OTHELLO:
With all my heart, sir.
LODOVICO:
The Duke and Senators of Venice greet you.
OTHELLO:
I kiss the instrument of their pleasures.
DESD:
And what's the news, good cousin Lodovico?(230)
IAGO:
I am very glad to see you, signior; Welcome to Cyprus.
LODOVICO:
I thank you. How does Lieutenant Cassio?
IAGO:
Lives, sir.
DESD:
Cousin, there's fall'n between him and my lord
An unkind breech; but you shall make all well.(235)
OTHELLO:
Are you sure of that?
DESD:
My lord?
OTHELLO:
“This fail you not to do, as you will”—
LODOVICO:
He did not call; he's busy in the paper.
Is there division 'twixt my lord and Cassio?(240)
DESD:
A most unhappy one. I would do much
To atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio.
OTHELLO:
Fire and brimstone!
DESD:
My lord?
OTHELLO:
Are you wise?(245)
DESD:
What, is he angry?
LODOVICO:
May be the letter moved him;
For, as I think, they do command him home,
Deputing Cassio in his government.
DESD:
By my troth, I am glad on't.(250)
OTHELLO:
Indeed!
DESD:
My lord?
OTHELLO:
I am glad to see you mad.
DESD:
Why, sweet Othello?
OTHELLO:
Devil!(255)

[Strikes her.]

DESD:
I have not deserved this.
LODOVICO:
My lord, this would not be believed in Venice,
Though I should swear I saw't. 'Tis very much:
Make her amends; she weeps.
OTHELLO:
O devil, devil!(260)
If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.
Out of my sight!
DESD:
I will not stay to offend you.
LODOVICO:
Truly, an obedient lady:(265)
I do beseech your lordship, call her back.
OTHELLO:
Mistress!
DESD:
My lord?
OTHELLO:
What would you with her, sir?
LODOVICO:
Who, I, my lord?(270)
OTHELLO:
Ay, you did wish that I would make her turn:
Sir, she can turn and turn, and yet go on,
And turn again; and she can weep, sir, weep;
And she's obedient, as you say, obedient,
Very obedient. Proceed you in your tears.(275)
Concerning this, sir—O well-painted passion!—
I am commanded home. Get you away;
I'll send for you anon. Sir, I obey the mandate,
And will return to Venice. Hence, avaunt!
Cassio shall have my place. And, sir, tonight,(280)
I do entreat that we may sup together.
You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys!

Exit.

LODOVICO:
Is this the noble Moor whom our full Senate
Call all in all sufficient? This the nature
Whom passion could not shake? whose solid virtue(285)
The shot of accident nor dart of chance
Could neither graze nor pierce?
IAGO:
He is much changed.
LODOVICO:
Are his wits safe? Is he not light of brain?
IAGO:
He's that he is. I may not breathe my censure(290)
What he might be: if what he might he is not,
I would to heaven he were!
LODOVICO:
What, strike his wife!
IAGO:
Faith, that was not so well; yet would I knew
That stroke would prove the worst!(295)
LODOVICO:
Is it his use?
Or did the letters work upon his blood,
And new create this fault?
IAGO:
Alas, alas!
It is not honesty in me to speak(300)
What I have seen and known. You shall observe him,
And his own courses will denote him so
That I may save my speech: do but go after,
And mark how he continues.
LODOVICO:
I am sorry that I am deceived in him.(305)

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Iago’s plan is coming to fruition. Lodovico, a Venetian nobleman, has seen the results of Othello’s rage and will spread the word of Othello’s apparent insanity. Iago, always calculated in his speech, reveals as little as he needs to in order to reinforce Lodovico’s perspective. His reply of “He is much changed” is technically true, but it does not tell the whole truth. The audience understands the irony nonetheless.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Iago’s plan is coming to fruition. Lodovico, a Venetian nobleman, has seen the results of Othello’s rage and will spread the word of Othello’s apparent insanity. Iago, always calculated in his speech, reveals as little as he needs to in order to reinforce Lodovico’s perspective. His reply of “He is much changed” is technically true, but does not tell the whole truth. The audience understands the irony nonetheless.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In this humorous, final exclamation, Othello indirectly points to the source of his problems. Goats and monkeys are known to be demonstratively sexual animals. Relatedly, Othello’s concerns are around Desdemona’s promiscuity.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In his rage, Othello fails to cogently explain to Lodovico why he has stricken Desdemona. He rants and babbles, repeating the words “turn,” “weep,” and “obedient.” The phrase “well-painted passion” expresses Othello’s belief that Desdemona’s displays of emotion, her weeping and her obedience, are fake.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. This line marks the moment in which Othello makes his anger for Desdemona clear to her. The reference to “fire and brimstone” frames Desdemona’s actions as sinful. The dramatic irony is at a peak here; Othello entirely misunderstands what Desdemona means by “the love I bear to Cassio.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. In this exchange, we can see how Othello struggles with his shifting view of Desdemona. He begins with “Ay, let her rot” but loses this steely edge when he says “O, the world hath not a sweeter creature.” Indeed, after each of Othello’s lines, Iago must renew the general’s anger for Desdemona with a “Nay, you must forget that” or a “Nay, that’s not your way.” Despite the evidence of adultery before him, Othello’s feelings for Desdemona are mixed.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The handkerchief serves as another convenient source of confusion in this scene. Othello believes that Desdemona gave the kerchief to Cassio as a token of love and that Cassio in turn insolently gave the kerchief to the prostitute Bianca. The dramatic irony is sharp here, for only Iago and the audience understand that Iago is the culprit. It is also interesting that Bianca refers to Desdemona as a “minx” shortly after Cassio calls Bianca a “fitchew”—another type of weasel.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. A “bauble” refers to a cheap piece of jewelry, and thus it becomes both a metaphor and metonym for Bianca. Cassio refers to her as a bauble, but a bauble is also something she is likely to wear. This line is one of several instances throughout the play in which women are referred to as objects of monetary value.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. “Caitiff” means “coward” and comes from “captivus,” the same Latin root as “captive.” In the previous line, Iago cleverly lowers his voice before making mention of Bianca but after bringing up Desdemona. Thus, Othello believes that Cassio is referring to Desdemona, and he becomes enraged.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Shakespeare may well have invented the adjective “unbookish” here to describe Othello’s emotionally charged jealousy. This phrase reiterates one of the play’s central themes: the dichotomy of reason versus emotion. “Unbookish” here most nearly means “without reason.” One of Iago’s core beliefs as a character is that one ought to apply reason rather than follow one’s emotions.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Iago claims that Bianca is a prostitute: a “strumpet” in Middle English. As he puts it, Bianca draws in many men but loves only Cassio. Iago plans to use this relationship between Cassio and Bianca to his own ends. Iago will encourage Cassio to talk about Bianca while the eavesdropping Othello will believe that Cassio is discussing Desdemona.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Iago brings Othello in on the next phase of his plan: to draw out Cassio’s stories of seduction in front of a hidden, “encaved” Othello. Iago asks Othello to search for the expressions of bravado in Cassio’s face. The word “fleer,” of Scandinavian origin, indicates a look of mockery. A “gibe” is an insult, and a word derived from the French “giber”—to shake.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Iago attempts to calm Othello by saying how common jealousy is. Iago uses the metaphor of a team of oxen to describe the shared plight of suspicious husbands together drawing the heavy plough of jealousy. Shakespeare assembles a sonorous trio of rhyming words in “dare swear peculiar.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. It is up for debate whether or not Othello’s fit is a result of epilepsy or entirely triggered by his rage at the thought of Desdemona’s adultery. As is the case with much that Iago says, the truth is difficult to discern. If Othello is not epileptic, his fainting indicates the extremity of his jealousy.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. This is a subtle sentence from Othello. Once again the notion of Nature is reiterated, the suggestion being that the alleged affair between Cassio and Desdemona is unnatural. The manner in which Othello personifies Nature as a woman indicates that “Nature” is synonymous with Desdemona herself. Othello believes that Desdemona would only commit adultery by “some instruction”—which is to say, manipulation—and not by her own volition. The word pair “shadowing passion” is notably musical in its repetition of sh, n and short a sounds.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. In this exchange, Iago plays with Othello’s imagination. He lingers on the word “lie” before supplying “with her, on her” to evoke sexual images in Othello’s mind and thus enrage him. The irony is that “lie” takes on an additional meaning: Iago is lying about the relationship between Cassio and Desdemona.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Othello’s simile alludes to the ancient practice of augury—predicting the future, often by reading the activity of birds. As with many of Shakespeare’s metaphors, there are multiple meanings to unpack. The example Othello uses—ravens flying over an infected house—points to an omen of death, which serves as an important piece of foreshadowing. The metaphor of his mind as an “infected house” bolsters the theme of jealousy as a monstrous, poisonous force.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Iago discusses the intangible nature of honor, and he adds a twist of dramatic irony. By saying that “they have it very oft that have it not,” Iago admits that honor is often attributed to those without honor. This is true of Iago himself, who is repeatedly referred to as “honest Iago.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff