Clown, a servant in Othello's household






A "clown" is a bumpkin, or fool, or wisecracker. In Shakespeare's company, one or two actors would have specialized in clown parts, and it looks like one of those actors got Shakespeare to write him into Othello, where he doesn't really belong. His jokes are so lame that they don't even provide comic relief. As a servant in Othello's household, the clown comes out to send away the musicians that Cassio is paying to play as a prelude to his attempt to get his job back. The clown first makes a derogatory comment about the nasal quality of the music, saying, "Why masters, have your instruments been in Naples, that they speak i' the nose thus?" (3.1.3-4). The clown follows this with an extended fart joke, and then tells the musicians that if they can play some music that won't be heard, they should play that. Finally, he just orders them to begone and agrees to go in and fetch Emilia for Cassio. [Scene Summary]




Desdemona, accompanied by Emilia, asks her servant a simple question, "Do you know, sirrah, where Lieutenant Cassio lies? (3.4.1). She just wants to know if the servant knows where Cassio is staying, but the servant -- being a clown -- answers with a pun on another meaning of the word "lie." He says "I dare not say he lies any where" (3.4.2), because Cassio is a soldier, and to say that a soldier lies could get you stabbed. "Go to! where lodges he?" (3.4.7), Desdemona exclaims. "Go to" is an extremely common phrase which means something like "get out of my face" or "stop kidding"; in this case, Desdemona seems to be expressing a kind of exasperated amusement. After bandying a few more words with the clown, Desdemona gets him to go summon Cassio. [Scene Summary]