Quotes to learn from Othello

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe. Iago to Brabantio, Act I Scene I, page 7- Iago references Othello’s skin colour, and points out the difference between he and Desemona by contrasting ‘black’ and ‘white’ in hopes of alarming Brabantio- He also uses animal imagery to describe Othello, hinting that he has a ‘savage’, more animal side to him
Because we come to do you service and you think we are ruffians, you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse… Iago to Brabantio, Act I Scene I, page 9- A Barbary horse is one of North-African breeding- Further animal imagery used to describe Othello, this time that particularly references his skin colour
I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs. Iago to Brabantio, Act I Scene I, page 9- Further animal imagery used to describe Othello, here also implying that he turning Desdemona savage to alarm her father
Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors, / My very noble and approved good masters… Othello to the Duke and Senators, Act I Scene III, page 27- At the beginning of the play, Othello is composed, eloquent and convincing in his speech- This only highlights just how much he deteriorates throughout the play
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs Othello about Desdemona, Act I Scene III, page 31- This proves that Desdemona is an empathetic person; although she and Othello are different in their skin colours, their origins, and the lives they have lived, she is understanding towards him
I will incontinently drown myself. Roderigo, Act I Scene III, page 41- The word ‘incontinent’ both as ‘having no control over urination or defecation’ and ‘lacking self-restraint’- Shakespeare plays on this dual meaning to show the ridiculousness of Roderigo’s character; he seems to believe that he has a chance with Desdemona and that the entire play is about him, when in reality he simply another pawn in Iago’s plan, and even ends up getting killed by him
I hate the Moor, / And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets / He’s done my office. Iago, Act I Scene III, page 45
O, my fair warrior! Othello to Desdemona, Act II, Scene I, page 59- Describing a woman as a ‘warrior’ was fairly progressive for the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when Shakespeare wrote his plays- This quotation shows the enormous respect which Othello and Desdemona have for one another at the beginning of the play, making it all the more tragic when it become ruined
Come, my dear love, / The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue;/ That profit’s et to come ‘tween me and you. Othello to Desdemona, Act II Scene III, page 67
…she is sport for Jove. Iago to Cassio, Act II Scene III, page 69- Jove was the king of the God, known for his sexual prowess- Here, Iago speaks of Desdemona’s sexuality, suggesting that she is sexually very active and skilled, and thus is disrespecting her and Othello
I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth / Than it should do offence to Michael Cassio. / Yet I persuade myself, to speak the truth… Iago, Act II Scene III, page 79- He puts on such an act and pretends to be loyal to Cassio, but that his honesty and his morals force him to tell the truth, when in fact it is the complete opposite
Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. Cassio, Act II Scene III, page 83
…I play the villain… Iago, Act II Scene III, page 87- This summarises the act that Iago puts on; as a a character, he plays a character within the play
So will I turn her virtue into pitch, / And out of her own goodness make the net / That shall enmesh them all. Iago, Act II Scene III, page 87- Another reference to Othello’s blackness
I never knew a Florentine more kind and honest. Cassio about Iago, Act III Scene I, page 95
My lord shall never rest, / I’ll watch him tame and talk him out of patience; / His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift; / I’ll intermingle every thing he does / With Cassio’s suit […] Thy solicitor shall rather die / Than give thy cause away. Desdemona to Cassio, Act III Scene III, page 99
Cassio, my lord? No, sure I cannot think it / That he would steal away so guilty-like, / Seeing you coming. Iago to Othello, Act III Scene III, page 99
I have been talking with a suitor here… Desdemona about Cassio, Act III Scene III, page 99- The word ‘suitor’ has two meanings: a person with whom you conduct business (Desdemona’s intention) and a man pursuing a relationship- With Iago having implanted doubt into his mind, Othello could understand the word for its second meaning and become even more suspicious of Desdemona
Michael Cassio, / That came a-wooing with you… Desdemona, Act III Scene III, page 101
…I do love thee; and when I love thee not, / Chaos is come again. Othello about Desdemona, Act III Scene III, page 103
Did Michael Cassio, / When you wooed my lady, know of your love? Iago to Othello, Act III Scene III, page 103
OTHELLO: Is he not honest?IAGO: Honest, my lord![…]OTHELLO: What dost thou think?IAGO: Think, my lord!OTHELLO: Think, my lord! By heaven, he echoes me, / As if there were some monster in his thought / Too hideous to be shown. Act III Scene III, page 103
And for I know thou’rt full of love and honesty… Othello to Iago, Act III Scene III, page 105
…I confess it is in my nature’s plague / To spy into abuses, and oft my jealousy / Shapes faults that are not… Iago, Act III Scene III, page 107
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, Act III Scene III, page 107
O beware, my lord, of jealousy: / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on. Iago to Othello, Act III Scene III, page 107- Iago plays this as an outburst
I do not think but Desdemona’s honest. Othello, Act III Scene III, page 111- The line’s awkward syntax makes it seem as though Othello is emotional, overwhelmed and scrambling for words to defend his wife
Not to affect many proposèd matches / Of her own clime, complexion, and degree, / Whereto we see in all things nature tends – Iago about Desdemona, Act III Scene III, page 113- Iago is referring to Desdemona’s Venetian origins, but also to their mixed-race marriage – is she naturally more attracted towards other white people?
Haply for I am black, / And have not those soft parts of conversation / That chamberers have, or for I am declined / Into the vale of years… Othello, Act III Scene III, page 115- Perhaps due to Iago’s manipulating, he seems to blame himself for Desdemona’s alleged unfaithfulness- He sees himself as too old and, notably, too black, for her
I have a pain upon my forehead here. Othello to Desdemona, Act III Scene III, page 117- In Shakespearian times, there was a myth that cuckolded husbands grew horns
My wayward husband hath a hundred times / Wooed me to steal it… Emilia about Desdemona’s handkerchief, Act III Scene III, page 117- The word ‘wooed’ has romantic connotations, suggesting this is Emilia’s idea of romance in her relationship with Iago- This line also suggests that Iago has been asking about the handkerchief since before the start of the play
I nothing but to please his fantasy Emilia about Iago, Act III Scene III, page 117
EMILIA: …I have a thing for you.IAGO: You have a thing for me? It is a common thing -EMILIA: Ha!IAGO: To have a foolish wife. Act III Scene III, page 120- ‘Thing’ was slang for the female reproductive organs in Shakespearian times, so Iago is taking what I suspect are Emilia’s innocent words and twisting them- He calls her ‘common’ insinuating she is easy to woo and perhaps referencing her alleged relationship with Othello- He then pretends as though he was only saying it is common to have a foolish wife, still managing to mock her and call her ‘foolish
I had been happy if the general camp, / Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body / So I had nothing known. […] Farewell the plumèd troop, and the big wars / That make ambition virtue – O, farewell! / Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump, / The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife, / The royal banner, and all quality, / Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war! Othello, Act III Scene III, page 121
Her name, that was as fresh / As Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black / As mine own face. Othello, Act III Scene III, page 123- Dian was the goddess of virginity- Hints of Othello’s insecurity, perhaps even self-hate
Arise, black vengence, from thy hollow cell! Othello, Act III Scene III, page 127
Within these three days let me hear thee say / That Cassio’s not alive. Othello to Iago, Act III Scene III, page 129
But let her live. Iago to Othello, Act III Scene III, page 129- By saying this, he appears merciful, but is in fact planting the idea of killing Desdemona in Othello’s mind
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! […] Pish! Noses, ears, and lips. Is’t possible? – Confess? Handkerchief? O devil! Othello, Act IV Scene I, page 147- His speech has become incredibly broken up
OTHELLO: Ay, let her rot and perish, and be damned tonight, for she shall not live. No, my heart is turned tostone: I strike it and it hurts my hand. O, theworld hath not a sweeter creature! She might lie byan emperor’s side and command him tasks.IAGO: Nay, that’s not your way.OTHELLOHang her, I do but say what she is: so delicatewith her needle, an admirable musician – O, shewill sing the savageness out of a bear – of so highand plenteous wit and invention -IAGO: She’s the worse for all this.OTHELLO: O, a thousand thousand times – and then of sogentle a condition!IAGO: Ay, too gentle. Act IV Scene I, page 155- Othello goes back and forth between hating and loving Desdemona, torn by the two extremes of emotions that he feels for her; it is as though he is falling apart, breaking into two before our very eyes- Iago takes advantage of this uncertainty and pushes Othello towards hatred and murder
She says enough; yet she’s a simple bawd / That cannot say as much. This is a subtle wh*re… Othello, Act IV Scene II, page 163- Othello says this just after Emilia states to him, clearly and sensibly, that Desdemona is honest, yet he dismisses her- Perhaps he is becoming increasingly disrespectful of women due to the time he is spending with Iago
DESDEMONA: I have heard it said so. O, these men, these men! / Dost thou in conscience think – tell me, Emilia – / That there be women do abuse their husbands / In such gross kind?EMILIA: There be some such, no question.DESDEMONA: Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?EMILIA: Why, would not you?DESDEMONA: No, by this heavenly light.EMILIA: Nor I neither by this heavenly light; / I might do’t as well i’th’dark.DESDEMONA: Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?EMILIA: The world’s a huge thing; it is a great price / For a small vice. Act IV Scene III, pages 179-181- This intimate exchange between Desdemona and Emilia occurs at the pinnacle of the story’s tension, just before Othello kills her – it acts almost like a pause in the development of the story- Emilia is unusually honest, humorous even in her speech, giving the scene quite an empowering and modern feel
Put out the light, and then put out the light: / If I quench thee, thou flaming minister, / I can again thy former light restore, / Should I repent me; but once put out thy light, / Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature, / I know not where is that Promethean heat / That can thy light relume Othello, Act V, Scene II, page 195- He is reflecting of the irreversible nature of murder, revealing a certain hesitance in his decision to kill Desdemona- He juxtaposes and plays with the dual meaning of the word ‘light’, which signifies both the light of the candle which he holds, and Desdemona’s life
My wife, my wife! What wife? I have no wife. Othello, Act V, Scene II, page 201- Mirrors Cassio’s ‘reputation’ quote in Act II Scene III- It is as though the truly irreversible results of his actions are only just hitting him
O, the more angel she, / And you the blacker devil! Emilia, Act V Scene II, page 203- Emilia contrasts Desdemona’s innocence with the sin that Othello has committed- She also uses his blackness as an attack against him, although this is done in anger, in rage- Anger brings out the worst of characters throughout the play, and for her brings out the racism
That’s he that was Othello: here I am. Othello, Act V Scene II, page 213- He begins speaking about himself in the third person, as if he is watching his body through a TV screen- He has become completely disconnected from everything he used to know; he is not the intelligent, composed and confident Othello we met at the beginning of the play; he is not himself
Set you down this; / And say besides that in Aleppo once, / Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk / Beat a Venetian and traduced the state, / I took by the throat the circumcisèd dog / And smote him thus. [He stabs himself] Othello, Act V Scene II, page 217- He refers to himself as both a turbaned Turk and a circumcisèd dog (meaning a Muslim soldier), two terms that carry implications of race, origin or religion- He seems to have internalised the subtle racism that has followed him throughout the play; his insecurity has taken over him at the same as his anger; he has become the worst version of himself
Adjectives to describe Othello’s speech early in the play – confident- composed- eloquent
Adjectives to describe Othello’s speech at the end of the play, when he has decided to kill himself – decided- resolved
Adjectives to describe Othello’s speech later in the play – frantic- erratic- disjointed
Animal descriptions of Othello – ‘Beast with two backs’- ‘A Barbary horse’- ‘An old black ram is tupping your white ewe’- ‘The circumcisèd dog’
References to Othello’s blackness – His nickname, commonly used throughout the play, ‘the Moor’, which designates an African Muslin person- ‘A Barbary horse’, which is a specific African breed of horse- ‘An old black ram is tupping your white ewe’- ‘The circumcisèd dog’, which designates a Muslim soldier- The accusation of him by Emilia of being a ‘blacker devil’
Evidence that Othello internalises the racism he is surrounded by the end of the play – He begins wondering if the reason that Desdemona is supposedly cheating him is his race or his age in Act III Scene III- Before killing himself, he calls himself a ‘circumcisèd dog’, which designates a Muslim soldier

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