Act IV - Scene II

[A room in the castle.]

Enter Othello and Emilia.

OTHELLO:
You have seen nothing, then?
EMILIA:
Nor ever heard, nor ever did suspect.
OTHELLO:
Yes, you have seen Cassio and she together.
EMILIA:
But then I saw no harm, and then I heard
Each syllable that breath made up between them.(5)
OTHELLO:
What, did they never whisper?
EMILIA:
Never, my lord.
OTHELLO:
Nor send you out o' the way?
EMILIA:
Never.
OTHELLO:
To fetch her fan, her gloves, her mask, nor nothing?(10)
EMILIA:
Never, my lord.
OTHELLO:
That's strange.
EMILIA:
I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest,
Lay down my soul at stake. If you think other,
Remove your thought; it doth abuse your bosom.(15)
If any wretch have put this in your head,
Let heaven requite it with the serpent's curse!
For if she be not honest, chaste, and true,
There's no man happy; the purest of their wives
Is foul as slander.(20)
OTHELLO:
Bid her come hither; go.

Exit Emilia.

She says enough; yet she's a simple bawd
That cannot say as much. This is a subtle whore,
A closet lock and key of villainous secrets:
And yet she'll kneel and pray; I have seen her do't.(25)

Enter Desdemona and Emilia.

DESD:
My lord, what is your will?
OTHELLO:
Pray, chuck, come hither.
DESD:
What is your pleasure?
OTHELLO:
Let me see your eyes; Look in my face.
DESD:
What horrible fancy's this?(30)

[To Emilia.]

OTHELLO:
Some of your function, mistress,
Leave procreants alone and shut the door;
Cough, or cry “hem,” if anybody come:
Your mystery, your mystery; nay, dispatch.

Exit Emilia.

DESD:
Upon my knees, what doth your speech import?(35)
I understand a fury in your words,
But not the words.
OTHELLO:
Why, what art thou?
DESD:
Your wife, my lord, your true and loyal wife.
OTHELLO:
Come, swear it, damn thyself;(40)
Lest, being like one of heaven, the devils themselves
Should fear to seize thee. Therefore be doubledamn'd;
Swear thou art honest.
DESD:
Heaven doth truly know it.
OTHELLO:
Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.(45)
DESD:
To whom, my lord? with whom? how am I false?
OTHELLO:
O Desdemona! Away! away! away!
DESD:
Alas the heavy day! Why do you weep?
Am I the motive of these tears, my lord?
If haply you my father do suspect(50)
An instrument of this your calling back,
Lay not your blame on me. If you have lost him:
Why, I have lost him too.
OTHELLO:
Had it pleased heaven
To try me with affliction; had they rain'd(55)
All kinds of sores and shames on my bare head,
Steep'd me in poverty to the very lips,
Given to captivity me and my utmost hopes,
I should have found in some place of my soul
A drop of patience; but, alas, to make me(60)
A fixed figure for the time of scorn
To point his slow unmoving finger at!
Yet could I bear that too, well, very well;
But there, where I have garner'd up my heart,
Where either I must live or bear no life;(65)
The fountain from the which my current runs,
Or else dries up; to be discarded thence!
Or keep it as a cistern for foul toads
To knot and gender in! Turn thy complexion there,
Patience, thou young and roselipp'd cherubin,(70)
Ay, there, look grim as hell!
DESD:
I hope my noble lord esteems me honest.
OTHELLO:
O, ay, as summer flies are in the shambles,
That quicken even with blowing. O thou weed,
Who art so lovely fair and smell'st so sweet(75)
That the sense aches at thee, would thou hadst ne'er been
born!
DESD:
Alas, what ignorant sin have I committed?
OTHELLO:
Was this fair paper, this most goodly book,
Made to write “whore” upon? What committed?(80)
Committed! O thou public commoner!
I should make very forges of my cheeks,
That would to cinders burn up modesty,
Did I but speak thy deeds. What committed!
Heaven stops the nose at it, and the moon winks;(85)
The bawdy wind, that kisses all it meets,
Is hush'd within the hollow mine of earth,
And will not hear it. What committed.
Impudent strumpet!
DESD:
By heaven, you do me wrong.(90)
OTHELLO:
Are not you a strumpet?
DESD:
No, as I am a Christian.
If to preserve this vessel for my lord
From any other foul unlawful touch
Be not to be a strumpet, I am none.(95)
OTHELLO:
What, not a whore?
DESD:
No, as I shall be saved.
OTHELLO:
Is't possible?
DESD:
O, heaven forgive us!
OTHELLO:
I cry you mercy then;(100)
I took you for that cunning whore of Venice
That married with Othello. You, mistress,
That have the office opposite to Saint Peter,
And keep the gate of hell!

Enter Emilia.

You, you, ay, you!(105)
We have done our course; there's money for your pains:
I pray you, turn the key, and keep our counsel.

Exit.

EMILIA:
Alas, what does this gentleman conceive?
How do you, madam? How do you, my good lady?
DESD:
Faith, half asleep.(110)
EMILIA:
Good madam, what's the matter with my lord?
DESD:
With who?
EMILIA:
Why, with my lord, madam.
DESD:
Who is thy lord?
EMILIA:
He that is yours, sweet lady.(115)
DESD:
I have none. Do not talk to me, Emilia;
I cannot weep, nor answer have I none
But what should go by water. Prithee, tonight
Lay on my bed my wedding sheets. Remember;
And call thy husband hither.(120)
EMILIA:
Here's a change indeed!

Exit.

DESD:
'Tis meet I should be used so, very meet.
How have I been behaved, that he might stick
The small'st opinion on my least misuse?

Enter Iago with Emilia.

IAGO:
What is your pleasure, madam? How is't with you?(125)
DESD:
I cannot tell. Those that do teach young babes
Do it with gentle means and easy tasks:
He might have chid me so, for in good faith,
I am a child to chiding.
IAGO:
What's the matter, lady?(130)
EMILIA:
Alas, Iago, my lord hath so bewhored her,
Thrown such despite and heavy terms upon her,
As true hearts cannot bear.
DESD:
Am I that name, Iago?
IAGO:
What name, fair lady?(135)
DESD:
Such as she says my lord did say I was.
EMILIA:
He call'd her whore; a beggar in his drink
Could not have laid such terms upon his callet.
IAGO:
Why did he so?
DESD:
I do not know; I am sure I am none such.(140)
IAGO:
Do not weep, do not weep. Alas the day!
EMILIA:
Hath she forsook so many noble matches,
Her father and her country and her friends,
To be call'd whore? Would it not make one weep?
DESD:
It is my wretched fortune.(145)
IAGO:
How comes this trick upon him?
DESD:
Nay, heaven doth know.
EMILIA:
I will be hang'd, if some eternal villain,
Some busy and insinuating rogue,
Some cogging cozening slave, to get some office,(150)
Have not devised this slander; I'll be hang'd else.
IAGO:
Fie, there is no such man; it is impossible.
DESD:
If any such there be, heaven pardon him!
EMILIA:
A halter pardon him! And hell gnaw his bones!
Why should he call her whore? Who keeps her company?(155)
What place? What time? What form? What likelihood?
The Moor's abused by some most villainous knave,
Some base notorious knave, some scurvy fellow.
O heaven, that such companions thou'ldst unfold,
And put in every honest hand a whip(160)
To lash the rascals naked through the world
Even from the east to the west!
IAGO:
Speak within door.
EMILIA:
O, fie upon them! Some such squire he was
That turn'd your wit the seamy side without,(165)
And made you to suspect me with the Moor.
IAGO:
You are a fool; go to.
DESD:
O good Iago,
What shall I do to win my lord again?
Good friend, go to him, for by this light of heaven,(170)
I know not how I lost him. Here I kneel:
If e'er my will did trespass ‘gainst his love
Either in discourse of thought or actual deed,
Or that mine eyes, mine ears, or any sense,
Delighted them in any other form,(175)
Or that I do not yet, and ever did,
And ever will, though he do shake me off
To beggarly divorcement, love him dearly,
Comfort forswear me! Unkindness may do much,
And his unkindness may defeat my life,(180)
But never taint my love. I cannot say “whore.”
It doth abhor me now I speak the word;
To do the act that might the addition earn
Not the world's mass of vanity could make me.
IAGO:
I pray you, be content; 'tis but his humor:(185)
The business of the state does him offense,
And he does chide with you.
DESD:
If 'twere no other—
IAGO:
'Tis but so, I warrant.

[Trumpets without.]

Hark, how these instruments summon to supper!(190)
The messengers of Venice stay the meat:
Go in, and weep not; all things shall be well.

Exit women.

Enter Roderigo

How now, Roderigo!
ROD:
I do not find that thou dealest justly with me.
IAGO:
What in the contrary?(195)
ROD:
Every day thou daffest me with some device, Iago; and
rather, as it seems to me now, keepest from me all conve-
niency than suppliest me with the least advantage of
hope. I will indeed no longer endure it; nor am I yet per-
suaded to put up in peace what already I have foolishly(200)
suffered.
IAGO:
Will you hear me, Roderigo?
ROD:
Faith, I have heard too much, for your words and per-
formances are no kin together.
IAGO:
You charge me most unjustly.(205)
ROD:
With nought but truth. I have wasted myself out of my
means. The jewels you have had from me to deliver to
Desdemona would half have corrupted a votarist. You
have told me she hath received them and returned me
expectations and comforts of sudden respect and acquain-(210)
tance; but I find none.
IAGO:
Well, go to, very well.
ROD:
Very well! go to! I cannot go to, man; nor 'tis not very
well. By this hand, I say 'tis very scurvy, and begin to find
myself fopped in it.(215)
IAGO:
Very well.
ROD:
I tell you 'tis not very well. I will make myself known to
Desdemona: If she will return me my jewels, I will give over
my suit and repent my unlawful solicitation; if not, assure
yourself I will seek satisfaction of you.(220)
IAGO:
You have said now.
ROD:
Ay, and said nothing but what I protest intendment of
doing.
IAGO:
Why, now I see there's mettle in thee; and even from this
instant do build on thee a better opinion than ever before.(225)
Give me thy hand, Roderigo. Thou hast taken against me a
most just exception; but yet, I protest, have dealt most
directly in thy affair.
ROD:
It hath not appeared.
IAGO:
I grant indeed it hath not appeared, and your suspicion(230)
is not without wit and judgement. But, Roderigo, if thou
hast that in thee indeed, which I have greater reason to
believe now than ever, I mean purpose, courage, and valor,
this night show it; if thou the next night following enjoy
not Desdemona, take me from this world with treachery(235)
and devise engines for my life.
ROD:
Well, what is it? Is it within reason and compass?
IAGO:
Sir, there is especial commission come from Venice to
depute Cassio in Othello's place.
ROD:
Is that true? Why, then Othello and Desdemona return(240)
again to Venice.
IAGO:
O, no; he goes into Mauritania, and takes away with him
the fair Desdemona, unless his abode be lingered here by
some accident; wherein none can be so determinate as the
removing of Cassio.(245)
ROD:
How do you mean, removing of him?
IAGO:
Why, by making him uncapable of Othello's place;
knocking out his brains.
ROD:
And that you would have me to do?
IAGO:
Ay, if you dare do yourself a profit and a right. He sups(250)
tonight with a harlotry, and thither will I go to him. He
knows not yet of his honorable fortune. If you will watch
his going thence, which his will fashion to fall out between
twelve and one, you may take him at your pleasure; I will
be near to second your attempt, and he shall fall between(255)
us. Come, stand not amazed at it, but go along with me; I
will show you such a necessity in his death that you shall
think yourself bound to put it on him. It is now high sup-
pertime, and the night grows to waste. About it.
ROD:
I will hear further reason for this.(260)
IAGO:
And you shall be satisfied.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Iago responds to Rodrigo’s doubts by pulling him deeper into his plans. Iago’s next step is to have Othello killed. Iago hopes to manipulate Rodrigo into committing the murder for him.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Having handed his money over to Iago in exchange for the promise of Desdemona’s affections, Rodrigo understands that Iago has lied to him. With the exception of Emilia, Rodrigo is the only character who suspects that Iago is not as “honest” as his reputation suggests.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In this passage, Desdemona frames her repentance to Othello as a prayer to God. In fact, Shakespeare draws some of the language of her repentance from the Catholic Eucharist, specifically the section devoted to the confession of sin. There is an irony to this moment, because Desdemona confesses to a sin she did not commit.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In a clever twist of language, Emilia turns “heaven” to “halter,” a synonym for “noose.” Emilia bolsters her role as a truth-teller here. She strengthens her conviction that there is a “villainous knave” responsible for the slander and foreshadows Iago’s fate.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Emilia’s accusation of a hypothetical rogue, followed by Iago’s dismissal of her claim, is one of the play’s most pointed moments of dramatic irony. Emilia’s description of Iago as a “cogging cozening slave” is humorous; “cozening” means deceiving and comes from the Italian “cozzone,” which means “horse trader.” Emilia even accurately guesses the purpose of Iago’s plans—“to get some office”—which heightens the irony.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Emilia gets to the heart of Desdemona’s suffering. Desdemona sacrificed a great deal in order to marry Othello. She abandoned her family and her status for her husband, only to be abandoned by him now as well.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. It was a tradition in Elizabethan times for a newlywed couple to display their bedsheets in public. The bloodstains on the sheets would serve as proof of the bride’s preserved virginity. Desdemona wishes to show Othello their bedsheets to remind him of her chastity.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. When he says “there’s money for your pains,” Othello once again uses the metaphor of Desdemona as whore and Emilia as mistress. Othello thus frames his conversation with Desdemona as an exchange between a mistress and a client.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Desdemona’s characterization of herself as a “vessel” serves as a response to Othello’s description of her as “The fountain from the which my current runs.” Shakespeare chooses the word “vessel” for both of its meanings: a container and a ship. Desdemona’s vessel is her womb, and thus, a container. It is also a ship upon Othello’s “current,” carrying his seed to the next generation.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. In beautiful imagery, Othello reiterates the theme of Nature as a means of judging human action. To illustrate how unnatural Desdemona’s actions are, Othello paints a personified picture of heaven, with the moon and the wind scorning her.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. This is a fascinating and, in some ways, accurate metaphor. Othello compares Desdemona to a book upon whose pages “whore” has been written. We can indeed think of Desdemona’s reputation as a book that Iago has soiled with stories of adultery. Othello does not recognize that the word “whore” is a lie in Desdemona’s book.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Othello claims that any other hardship would be preferable to Desdemona’s adultery. He could accept disease, shame, poverty, and scorn. The thought of Desdemona’s faithlessness leaves Othello with a feeling of desolation. He refers to her as “the fountain from the which my current runs.” Much of his pain comes from the idea that her womb—the “fountain” her refers to—has been violated.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. This is a tragic and powerful line. Desdemona defines herself in terms of her faithfulness to Othello, but he does not trust her. Shakespeare chose to construct Desdemona’s statement as a line of perfect iambic pentameter in order to heighten its impact.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Othello has undergone a significant shift since the play’s beginning. In the opening act, the general is calm, collected, and eloquent. After hearing and believing the lies about Desdemona, Othello can no longer express himself coherently. His communication here is defined by his snarling tone since his words do not explain his anger.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Not only does Othello discard Emilia’s words of reason, he calls her a “bawd”—a brothel mistress—responsible to the “subtle whore” that is Desdemona. Othello believes that the two women are colluding and concealing the truth. Othello’s reaction reveals his inability to consider reason and his broader disrespect for women.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. This passage represents a note of clarity and truth amidst the sea of confusion. Indeed, Emilia has never seen any signs of infidelity because there are none. Emilia is bold enough to challenge Othello on his assumptions despite his position of authority. Emilia goes on to make a broader statement about the nature of relationships between men and women. She deconstructs the widely accepted double standard that expects women to be entirely chaste and pure. To Emilia, such an expectation is unrealistic, for “there’s no man happy” regardless of a woman’s supposed virtue. Emilia’s comments reveal a great deal about Elizabethan society and remain relevant to this day.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff