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-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 436
NOTES ON OTHELLO

report about the handkerchief; and, on the other hand, he now seems to have fallen into a dazed lethargic state, and must be stimulated to action. Iago's plan seems to be to remind Othello of everything that would madden him again, but to do so by professing to make light of the whole affair, and by urging Othello to put the best construction on the facts, or at any rate to acquiesce. So he says, in effect: 'After all, if she did kiss Cassio, that might mean little. Nay, she might even go much further without meaning any harm.1 Of course there is the handkerchief (10); but then why should she not give it away?' Then, affecting to renounce this hopeless attempt to disguise his true opinion, he goes on: 'However, I cannot, as your friend, pretend that I really regard her as innocent: the fact is, Cassio boasted to me in so many words of his conquest. [Here he is interrupted by Othello's swoon.] But, after all, why make such a fuss? You share the fate of most married men, and you have the advantage of not being deceived in the matter.' It must have been a great pleasure to Iago to express his real cynicism thus, with the certainty that he would not be taken seriously and would advance his plot by it. At 208-210 he recurs to the same plan of maddening Othello by suggesting that, if he is so fond of Desdemona, he had better let the matter be, for it concerns no one but him. This speech follows Othello's exclamation 'O Iago, the pity of it,' and this is perhaps the moment when we most of all long to destroy Iago.

     (2) At 216 Othello tells Iago to get him some poison, that he may kill Desdemona that night. Iago objects: 'Do it not with poison: strangle her in her bed, even the bed she hath contaminated.' Why does he object to poison? Because through the sale of the poison he himself would be involved? Possibly. Perhaps his idea was that, Desdemona being killed by Othello, and Cassio killed by Roderigo, he would then admit that he had informed Othello of the adultery, and perhaps even that he had undertaken Cassio's death; but he would declare that he never meant to fulfil his promise as to Cassio, and that he had nothing to do with Desdemona's death (he seems to be preparing for this at 285). His buying poison might wreck this plan. But it may be that his objection to poison springs merely from contempt for Othello's intellect.

   1The reader who is puzzled by this passage should refer to the conversation at the end of the thirtieth tale in the Heptameron.

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