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Othello and Desdemona

Othello (The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice) (ca. 1603) by William Shakespeare is a concentrated, tightly constructed domestic tragedy, with almost no subplot for relief, centered on five or six central characters.
Othello is commonly considered one of Shakespeare's great tragedies and one of his finest works.

Act I

In following him, I follow but myself.
• Iago, scene I

Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end:
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In compliment extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.
Iago, scene I

Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) | Desdemona (Othello) 1888

William Shakespeare

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe.
Iago, scene I

Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.
Iago, scene I

Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.
Othello, scene II

Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
My very noble and approved good masters,
That I have ta'en away this old man's daughter,
It is most true; true, I have married her:
The very head and front of my offending
Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,
And little bless'd with the soft phrase of peace:
For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
Their dearest action in the tented field,
And little of this great world can I speak,
More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
What conjuration and what mighty magic,
For such proceeding I am charged withal,
I won his daughter.
Othello, scene III

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura
Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) - Otello e Desdemona

Her father loved me; oft invited me;
Still question'd me the story of my life,
From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes,
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days,
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and fieldv
Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels' history:
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak,--such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline:
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence:
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
She'ld come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse: which I observing,
Took once a pliant hour, and found good means
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively: I did consent,
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffer'd. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, twas strange, 'twas passing strange,
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful:
She wish'd she had not heard it, yet she wish'd
That heaven had made her such a man: she thank'd me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story.
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:
She loved me for the dangers I had pass'd,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady; let her witness it.
Othello, scene III

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura
Alexandre-Marie Colin - Otello e Desdemona

That I did love the Moor to live with him,
My downright violence and storm of fortunes
May trumpet to the world: my heart's subdued
Even to the very quality of my lord:
Desdemona, scene III

But he bears both the sentence and the sorrow
That, to pay grief, must of poor patience borrow.
Duke, scene III

The robb'd that smiles, steals something from the thief;
He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.
Duke of Venice, scene III

Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) Othello and Desdemona

Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:
She has deceived her father, and may thee.
Brabantio, scene III

Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.
Iago, scene III

I hate the Moor;And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if 't be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, will do as if for surety.
Iago, scene III

The Moor is of a free and open nature,That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,
And will as tenderly be led by the nose
As asses are.
Iago, scene III

Henri Jean-Baptiste Victoire Fradelle (1778-1865) Othello relating his life story to Desdemona

Act II

If after every tempest come such calms,
May the winds blow till they have waken'd death!
Othello, scene i

She never yet was foolish that was fair; For even her folly help'd her to an heir.
Iago, scene I

Knavery's plain face is never seen till us'd.
Iago, scene i

Now, by heaven,
My blood begins my safer guides to rule;
And passion, having my best judgment collied,
Assays to lead the way. 'Zounds, if I stir,
Or do but lift this arm, the best of you
Shall sink in my rebuke. Give me to know
How this foul rout began, who set it on;
And he that is approv'd in this offence,
Though he had twinn'd with me, both at a birth,
Shall lose me. What! in a town of war,
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?
Othello, scene iii

But men are men; the best sometimes forget:
Iago, scene iii

Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit and lost without deserving.
Iago, scene iii

Giuseppe Sabatelli (Italian painter, 1813-1843) | Othello and Desdemona, 1834

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
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,
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,
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 fortunes
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.
So will I turn her virtue into pitch,
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all.
Iago, scene iii


Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I'll away. Go, vanish into air, away!
Clown, scene i

Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul,
But I do love thee; and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.
Othello, scene iii

Jack Leigh Wardleworth (1863-1925) Desdemona and Othello | Hartlepool Museums

Men should be what they seem;
Or those that be not, would they might seem none!
Iago, scene iii

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,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
Iago, scene iii

O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
Iago, scene iii

Eugène Delacroix | Othello and Desdemona, 1847-1849| National Gallery of Canada

Think'st thou I'd make a life of jealousy,
To follow still the changes of the moon
With fresh suspicions? No; to be once in doubt,
Is once to be resolved.
Othello, scene iii

She did deceive her father, marrying you;
And when she seem'd to shake and fear your looks
She lov'd them most.
Iago, scene iii

Othello: I do not think but Desdemona's honest.
Iago: Long live she so, and long live you to think so!
Othello: And, yet, how nature erring from itself, -
Iago: Ay, there's the point.
Scene iii

If she be false, O! then heaven mocks itself.
I'll not believe't.
Othello, scene iii

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura
William Powell Frith - Otello e Desdemona

O! now, for ever
Farewell the tranquil mind; farewell content!
Othello, scene iii

Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore,
Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof;
Or, by the worth of mine eternal soul,
Thou hadst been better have been born a dog
Than answer my wak'd wrath.
Othello, scene iii

There are a kind of men so loose of soul,
That in their sleeps will mutter their affairs.
Iago, scene iii

'Tis not a year or two shows us a man:
They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;
They eat us hungerly, and when they are full,
They belch us.
• Emilia, scene iv

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura
Daniel Maclise (1806-1870)

Act IV

Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed.
Iago, scene i

Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch?
Emilia, scene iii

Heaven me such uses send,
Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend.
Desdemona, scene iii

Act V

O damn'd Iago! O inhuman dog!
Roderigo, scene i

Put out the light, and then put out the light.
Othello, scene ii

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura
Carl Ludwig Friedrich Becker - Otello e Desdemona

[He kisses her]
O balmy breath, that dost almost persuade
Justice to break her sword. One more, one more!
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
And love thee after. One more, and that's the last!
So sweet was ne'er so fatal. I must weep,
But they are cruel tears. This sorrow's heavenly;
It strikes where it doth love. She wakes.
Othello, scene ii

What noise is this? Not dead — not yet quite dead?
I that am cruel am yet merciful;
I would not have the linger in thy pain
So, so.
Othello, scene ii

It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near the earth than she was wont;
And makes men mad.
Othello, scene ii

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura
Christian Köhler - Otello e Desdemona

I hold my peace, sir? no;
No, I will speak as liberal as the north;
Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,
All, all, cry shame against me, yet I'll speak.
Emilia, scene ii

Demand me nothing: what you know, you know:
From this time forth I never will speak word.
Iago, scene ii

I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then, must you speak
Of one that lov'd not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but, being wrought,
Perplex'd in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdu'd eyes
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their med'cinable gum. Set you down this;
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduc'd the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him thus.
Othello, scene ii

I kissed thee ere I killed thee, no way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.
Othello, scene ii | Source: © Wikipedia

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura

Otello e Desdemona nella pittura

Eugène Delacroix | Desdemona Cursed by her Father

Eugène Delacroix | The Death of Desdemona, 1858

James Clarke Hook | Othello and Desdemona

Rodolfo Amoedo (Brazilian painter, 1857-1941) Desdemona, 1892

Solomon Alexander Hart (British painter, 1806-1881) Othello and Iago


William Blake | Othello and Desdemona, 1780 | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston