Othello Quotes

Cassio’s a proper man: let me see now:To get his place and to plume up my willIn double knavery–How, how? Let’s see:–After some time, to abuse Othello’s earThat he is too familiar with his wife.He hath a person and a smooth disposeTo be suspected, framed to make women false.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 noseAs asses are.I have’t. It is engender’d. Hell and nightMust bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light. (1.3.12) A few lines earlier (see above passage), Iago claimed that he suspects Othello has been sleeping with his wife, Emilia. Here, Iago shares his plot to destroy Othello with the audience – since Othello is so gullible, Iago will lead him “by the nose,” making Othello believe that his, Othello’s, wife is having an affair with Cassio. Iago plans to plant the seeds of jealousy in Othello. What’s interesting about this passage is the way Iago sees his evil plan as a “monstrous birth,” a thing that he will bring to “light.” What’s up with that?
OTHELLOWhy, why is this?Think’st thou I’ld make a life of jealousy,To follow still the changes of the moonWith fresh suspicions? No; to be once in doubtIs once to be resolved: exchange me for a goat,When I shall turn the business of my soulTo such exsufflicate and blown surmises,Matching thy inference. ‘Tis not to make me jealousTo 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 drawThe 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! (3.3.31) Here, Othello claims that he won’t be destroyed by jealousy. He reasons that Desdemona “had eyes, and chose [him]” despite, presumably, the fact that he is black. But, then, Othello lets slip that he may in fact be a bit more jealous and suspicious of his wife than he lets on – he says he wants some “proof” of Desdemona’s infidelity. Looks like Iago’s master plan may work out after all.
IAGOThe 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.Burn like the mines of Sulphur. I did say so:Look, where he comes!Not poppy, nor mandragora,Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleepWhich thou owedst yesterday. (3.3.33) Iago realizes the unbelievable power of jealousy. Here, he claims that he has poisoned Othello’s mind by suggesting Desdemona may be up to something naughty. Because Iago has succeeded in making Othello suspicious, Othello will never, ever have a good night of sleep again, not even if he used the best sleeping medicine in the world.
BRABANTIO this is Venice;My house is not a grange.[…]IAGO Because we come todo you service and you think we are ruffians, you’llhave your daughter covered with a Barbary horse;you’ll have your nephews neigh to you; you’ll havecoursers for cousins and gennets for germans.[…]I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughterand the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.you’ll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse;you’ll have your nephews neigh to you. (1.1.7) We’ve seen how Iago uses animal imagery in his racist diatribe against Othello, which is grounded in the idea that black men (and women) are inhuman. Here, Brabantio objects to Iago’s middle-of-the-night assertions that Desdemona has eloped by saying his house isn’t a “grange” (a farm or a farmhouse). Iago takes the opportunity to pun on the term “grange,” as he claims that Desdemona is having sex with a “barbary horse” and, as a result, Brabantio will have relatives that “neigh to him.” Desdemona and Othello, he says, are “making the beast with two backs” (in other words, humping, like camels). This isn’t the first time Iago has implied that Othello’s animal-like sexuality corrupts Desdemona. Compare this to 1.1.9 above.We also want to point out how the tragedy of Othello is that, by play’s end, Othello ends up fulfilling a racist stereotype (that black men are savage murderers) when he kills his white wife in her bed. In other words, Othello ends up becoming not unlike the murdering exotics he talks about in his adventure stories. So, what’s going on here? Does this mean the play is racist? Or, was Shakespeare trying to provoke his sixteenth-century audiences into (re)thinking their ideas about racial identity?
OTHELLOMy name, that was as freshAs Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and blackAs mine own face. (3.3.54) . When Othello suspects that Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio (she’s not, by the way), he suggests that his “name,” or his reputation, is now soiled and “begrimed” because of his wife’s supposed infidelity. (This idea, that a wife’s fidelity to her husband can make or break a man’s good reputation is pretty common in Shakespeare’s plays. See, for example, The Comedy of Errors, where the fidelity of Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife plays such an important role in her husband’s good name around town.)The point we’re trying to make here is that, by this moment in the play, Othello seems to have internalized the racist ideologies of other characters. He sees himself as a soiled (and soiling) black man.
Yet I’ll not shed her blood;Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,And smooth as monumental alabaster.Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.Put out the light, and then put out the light:If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,I can again thy former light restore. (5.2.1) As Othello resolves to kill Desdemona, he is noticeably preoccupied with Desdemona’s “whiter” than snow skin. He implies he won’t stab her because he doesn’t want to “scar” her flesh. He also seems to think of her as a kind of pale statue – her skin’s as “smooth as monumental alabaster.” What’s up with that? Why does Othello fixate on Desdemona’s skin color (as he contemplates her infidelity) just before he kills her?
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speakOf one that loved not wisely but too well;Of one not easily jealous, but being wroughtPerplex’d in the extreme; of one whose hand,Like the base Indian, threw a pearl awayRicher than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,Albeit unused to the melting mood,Drop tears as fast as the Arabian treesTheir medicinal gum.(5.2.68) By this point, it’s pretty clear that Othello has internalized the racist ideas that were so common in the sixteenth century. When Othello realizes that he murdered Desdemona for no good reason (Desdemona has been faithful and loving all along), he imagines he’s just like a “base Indian” who “threw a pearl away” without knowing its true worth. What’s interesting about this passage is the way Othello’s comparison gives voice to a common notion among Elizabethans – that Native Americans and black Africans alike are “base,” or uncivilized. (Accounts of European encounters with Native Americans are full of stories about how Europeans were able to trade worthless beads for precious gems and gold – the idea being that natives were too ignorant to know the “true” value of anything.) It’s also worth noting that Othello compares Desdemona to a pearl, a white gem commonly associated with purity.
Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see:She has deceived her father, and may thee. (1.3.10) Brabantio perpetuates a pretty unfair stereotype of young women in these lines – he suggests that since Desdemona has “deceived her father” by running off to elope with Othello, she’ll probably “deceive” her new husband too. The idea is that an unruly daughter will make an unruly and promiscuous wife. Compare this to 3.3.17, below.
But I do think it is their husbands’ faultsIf wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,And pour our treasures into foreign laps,Or else break out in peevish jealousies,Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,Or scant our former having in despite;Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands knowTheir wives have sense like them: they see and smellAnd have their palates both for sweet and sour,As husbands have. What is it that they doWhen they change us for others? Is it sport?I think it is: and doth affection breed it?I think it doth: is’t frailty that thus errs?It is so too: and have not we affections,Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?Then let them use us well: else let them know,The ills we do, their ills instruct us so. (4.3.16) After Desdemona naively asks if there are any women who would actually cheat on their husbands, Emilia replies that, yes, there sure are and it’s the fault of unkind husbands. According to Emilia, husbands cheat on their wives and often physically abuse them, prompting women to stray. What’s more, women have sexual desires, just like men, and women are also “frail” and imperfect, just like some husbands. In other words, Emilia recognizes there’s a double standard when it comes to gender and fidelity and she heartily objects.OK, it’s pretty clear Emilia is fed up with men, and who can blame her? She’s married to Iago, the biggest jerk in the world. At the same time, however, we wonder why in the world Emilia would be so loyal to Iago if she knows what a creep he is. Why, for example, does she willingly agree to give Iago Desdemona’s handkerchief? She has to know Iago is up to no good, doesn’t she? Is Emilia a hypocrite? Or, is she the victim of abuse like Desdemona?
OTHELLOI had been happy, if the general camp,Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,So I had nothing known. O, now, for everFarewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,The royal banner, and all quality,Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!And, O you mortal engines, whose rude throatsThe immortal Jove’s dead clamours counterfeit,Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone! (3.3.49) Because Othello (mistakenly) believes Desdemona has cheated on him, Othello feels like he can’t be a soldier any more. All the manly, warlike things – military music, thrusting cannons, and big wars – are denied him; he is convinced that he has lost his masculine, soldier identity. What’s up with that? Does he say this because he feels that he has been emasculated? Because he believes that his credibility as a military leader has been compromised? Or, is he suggesting that he is so distraught by Desdemona’s supposed affair that he will never find pleasure in the things he once loved (being a military man)? Something else?
OTHELLOO curse of marriage,That we can call these delicate creatures ours,And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad,And live upon the vapour of a dungeon, Than keep a corner in the thing I loveFor others’ uses. Yet, ’tis the plague of great ones;Prerogatived are they less than the base;’Tis destiny unshunnable, like death:Even then this forked plague is fated to usWhen we do quicken. (3.3.42) When Othello is convinced (by Iago) that Desdemona has cheated on him, he reveals something pretty interesting about himself. It seems that Othello believes all men, both “great” and “base,” are “destin[ed]” to be cuckolds. FYI: A “cuckold” is a man whose been cheated on by his wife – cuckolds are commonly associated with horns, which is why Othello refers to cuckoldry as a “forked plague” that men suffer from.So, if Othello believes that all men are destined, from the moment of their birth, to be cheated on by their wives, then this helps to explain why Othello is so easily convinced that Desdemona has been unfaithful, despite the fact that Iago never actually shows Othello any real evidence.
EMILIA O, who hath done this deed?DESDEMONA Nobody; I myself. FarewellCommend me to my kind lord: O, farewell! (5.2.29) When Emilia asks Desdemona who has harmed her, Desdemona blames herself instead of holding Othello accountable. As we know, this isn’t the first time Desdemona has been abused by her husband, who accuses her of cheating on him, slaps her in public, and calls her a “*****” – actions that culminate in Othello murdering Desdemona. We can’t help but notice that Desdemona exhibits a classic symptom of “battered woman syndrome” – instead of telling Emilia the truth about Othello strangling her, she blames herself (and not her attacker) for the abuse she endures.

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