Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- 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.

Othello: Act 4, Scene 1

Othello and Iago
Laurence Fishburne as Othello and Kenneth Branagh as Iago
1995 film
           Enter OTHELLO and IAGO.

  1   Will you think so?

                        Think so, Iago!

  2   To kiss in private?

                         An unauthorized kiss.

  3   Or to be naked with her friend in bed
  4   An hour or more, not meaning any harm?

  5   Naked in bed, Iago, and not mean harm!
  6   It is hypocrisy against the devil:
  7   They that mean virtuously, and yet do so,
  8   The devil their virtue tempts, and they tempt heaven.

  9   So they do nothing, 'tis a venial slip;
 10   But if I give my wife a handkerchief —

 11   What then?

 12   Why, then, 'tis hers, my lord; and, being hers,
 13   She may, I think, bestow't on any man.

 14   She is protectress of her honor too:
 15   May she give that?

 16   Her honor is an essence that's not seen;
 17   They have it very oft that have it not:
17. They have it very oft that have it not: i.e., often individuals who have a reputation for honor don't have any honor.

 18   But, for the handkerchief —

 19   By heaven, I would most gladly have forgot it.
 20   Thou said'st (O, it comes o'er my memory,
 21   As doth the raven o'er the infected house,
21. raven o'er the infected house: This is an allusion to the belief that a raven would hover over a house of sickness or infection, such as one visited by the plague.

 22   Boding to all) he had my handkerchief.

 23   Ay, what of that?

                     That's not so good now.

 24   If I had said I had seen him do you wrong?
 25   Or heard him say — as knaves be such abroad,
25. abroad: around or about.

 26   Who having, by their own importunate suit,
 27   Or voluntary dotage of some mistress,
 28   Convinced or supplied them, cannot choose
28. Convinced or supplied them: Seduced or satisfied them.

 29   But they must blab —

                                     Hath he said any thing?

 30   He hath, my lord; but be you well assured,
 31   No more than he'll unswear.

                                                  What hath he said?

 32   Faith, that he did—I know not what he did.

 33   What? what?

 34   Lie—

                  With her?

                                  With her, on her; what you will.

 35   Lie with her! lie on her! We say lie on her, when
 36   they belie her. Lie with her! that's fulsome.
 37   —Handkerchief—confessions—handkerchief!—To
 38   confess, and be hanged for his labor;—first, to be
 39   hanged, and then to confess.—I tremble at it.
 40   Nature would not invest herself in such shadowing
 41   passion without some instruction. It is not words
40-41. Nature would not invest herself in such shadowing / passion without some instruction: i.e., It is not natural that I would feel such overwhelming ("shadowing") emotion without some foundation in fact. instruction: cause.

 42   that shake me thus. Pish! Noses, ears, and lips.
 43   —Is't possible?—Confess—handkerchief!—O devil!

           Falls in a trance.

Iago with foot on Othello who is in a trance
"Work on, my medicine, Work!"
Illustrator: H.C. Selous
 44   Work on,
 45   My medicine, work! Thus credulous fools are caught;
 46   And many worthy and chaste dames even thus,
 47   All guiltless, meet reproach. —What, ho! my lord!
 48   My lord, I say! Othello!

           Enter CASSIO.

 48                              How now, Cassio!

 49   What's the matter?

 50   My lord is fall'n into an epilepsy.
 51   This is his second fit; he had one yesterday.

 52   Rub him about the temples.

                                                   No, forbear;
 53   The lethargy must have his quiet course:
53. lethargy: morbid drowsiness. must have his quiet course: run its course quietly.

 54   If not, he foams at mouth and by and by
 55   Breaks out to savage madness. Look he stirs:
 56   Do you withdraw yourself a little while,
 57   He will recover straight: when he is gone,
 58   I would on great occasion speak with you.

           [Exit Cassio.]

 59   How is it, general? Have you not hurt your head?
59. hurt your head: Othello takes this as alluding to a cuckold's horns.

 60   Dost thou mock me?

                                      I mock you not, by heaven.
 61   Would you would bear your fortune like a man!

 62   A horned man's a monster and a beast.

 63   There's many a beast then in a populous city,
 64   And many a civil monster.
64. civil monster: i.e., monster among the citizenry.

 65   Did he confess it?

                                      Good sir, be a man;
 66   Think every bearded fellow that's but yoked
66. yoked: married.

 67   May draw with you. There's millions now alive
67. draw with you: i.e., share your fate as cuckold.

 68   That nightly lie in those unproper beds
68. lie in . . . peculiar: lie in beds which are not exclusively their own, which they dare to swear are their own. your case is better: Othello's case is better because he knows the truth.

 69   Which they dare swear peculiar: your case is better.
 70   O, 'tis the spite of hell, the fiend's arch-mock,
 71   To lip a wanton in a secure couch,
71. lip: kiss. secure: unsuspected.

 72   And to suppose her chaste! No, let me know;
 73   And knowing what I am, I know what she shall be.

 74   O, thou art wise; 'tis certain.

                                               Stand you awhile apart;
 75   Confine yourself but in a patient list.
75. Confine yourself but in a patient list: hold yourself within the bounds of patience.

 76   Whilst you were here o'erwhelmed with your grief—
 77   A passion most unsuiting such a man—
 78   Cassio came hither: I shifted him away,
 79   And laid good 'scuse upon your ecstasy,
79. laid good 'scuse upon your ecstasy: made a plausible excuse for you trance.

 80   Bade him anon return and here speak with me;
81. encave: conceal.
 81   The which he promised. Do but encave yourself,
 82   And mark the fleers, the gibes, and notable scorns,
82. fleers: sneers. notable scorns: obvious instances of disrespect.

 83   That dwell in every region of his face,
 84   For I will make him tell the tale anew:
 85   Where, how, how oft, how long ago, and when
 86   He hath, and is again to cope your wife.
86. cope: copulate with.

 87   I say, but mark his gesture. Marry, patience;
 88   Or I shall say you are all in all in spleen,
88. all in all in spleen: utterly governed by passionate impulses.

 89   And nothing of a man.

Othello spying from behind a wall
Illustrator: Kenny Meadows
                                         Dost thou hear, Iago?
 90   I will be found most cunning in my patience;
 91   But—dost thou hear?—most bloody.

                                                      That's not amiss;
 92   But yet keep time in all. Will you withdraw?

           [Othello hides himself where he can see
           what is happening.]

 93   Now will I question Cassio of Bianca,
 94   A huswife that by selling her desires
94. huswife: hussy.

 95   Buys herself bread and clothes: it is a creature
 96   That dotes on Cassio; as 'tis the strumpet's plague
96. strumpet: prostitute.

 97   To beguile many and be beguiled by one:
 98   He, when he hears of her, cannot refrain
 99   From the excess of laughter. Here he comes:

           Enter CASSIO.

100   As he shall smile, Othello shall go mad;
101   And his unbookish jealousy must construe
101. unbookish: uninstructed; ignorant. construe: interpret.

102   Poor Cassio's smiles, gestures and light behavior,
103   Quite in the wrong. How do you now, lieutenant?

104   The worser that you give me the addition
104. the addition: the title of "lieutenant."

105   Whose want even kills me.
105. want: lack. Being addressed as "lieutenant" makes Cassio feel "worser" because he is no longer a lieutenant.

106   Ply Desdemona well, and you are sure on't.

           [Speaking "Bianca" lower, so Othello
           can't hear.]

107   Now, if this suit lay in Bianca's power,
108   How quickly should you speed!

                                       Alas, poor caitiff!
108. caitiff: wretch.

109   Look, how he laughs already!

110   I never knew woman love man so.

111   Alas, poor rogue! I think, i' faith, she loves me.

112   Now he denies it faintly, and laughs it out.
112. faintly: not very earnestly.

113   Do you hear, Cassio?

113                             Now he importunes him
114   To tell it o'er: go to; well said, well said.

115   She gives it out that you shall marry her:
116   Do you intend it?

117   Ha, ha, ha!

118   Do you triumph, Roman? do you triumph?
118. Roman: the Romans were noted for their triumphal processions, called "triumphs."

119   I marry her! what? a customer! Prithee,
119. customer: prostitute.

120   bear some charity to my wit: do not think
121   it so unwholesome. Ha, ha, ha!
121. unwholesome: unsound, sick.

122   So, so, so, so: they laugh that win.
122. they laugh that win: i.e., they that laugh last laugh best.

123   Faith, the cry goes that you shall marry her.

124   Prithee, say true.

125   I am a very villain else.

126   Have you scor'd me? Well.
126. you: i.e., Cassio. scor'd me: scored off me, made a joke of me

127   This is the monkey's own giving out. She is
127. the monkey's own giving out: i.e., Bianca's own story.

128   persuaded I will marry her, out of her own
128-129. her own / love and flattery: her self-love and self-satisfaction.

129   love and flattery, not out of my promise.

130   Iago beckons me; now he begins the
130. beckons: signals.

131   story.

132   She was here even now; she haunts me in
133   every place. I was the other day talking on
134   the sea-bank with certain Venetians; and
135   thither comes the bauble, and, by this hand,
135. bauble: plaything; toy.

136   she falls me thus about my neck—

137   Crying "O dear Cassio!" as it were: his gesture
138   imports it.

139   So hangs, and lolls, and weeps upon me; so hales,
139. hales: tugs.

140   and pulls me: ha, ha, ha!

141   Now he tells how she plucked him to my chamber.
142   O, I see that nose of yours, but not that dog I shall
143   throw it to.

144   Well, I must leave her company.

145   Before me! look, where she comes.
145. Before me: i.e., on my soul.

           Enter BIANCA.

146   'Tis such another fitchew! marry, a perfumed one.—
146. fitchew: polecat (thought to be very lecherous as well as strong smelling); also a slang word for prostitute.

147   What do you mean by this haunting of me?

148   Let the devil and his dam haunt you! What did you
149   mean by that same handkerchief you gave me even
150   now? I was a fine fool to take it. I must take out the
151   work?—A likely piece of work, that you should
150-151. take out the work: i.e., sew another handkerchief with the same design.

152   find it in your chamber, and not know who left it
153   there! This is some minx's token, and I must take
154   out the work? There; give it your hobby-horse:
154. hobby-horse: harlot; woman of easy virtue.

155   wheresoever you had it, I'll take out no work on't.
Cassio; Bianca with the handkerchief
Patrick Vaill as Cassio; Natascia Diaz as Bianca
--Shakespeare Theatre Company, 2016--

156   How now, my sweet Bianca! how now! how
157   now!

158   By heaven, that should be my handkerchief!

159   An you'll come to supper tonight, you may;
160   an you will not, come when you are next
161   prepared for.


162   After her, after her.

163   Faith, I must; she'll rail in the street else.

164   Will you sup there?

165   Faith, I intend so.

166   Well, I may chance to see you; for I would
167   very fain speak with you.

168   Prithee, come; will you?

169   Go to; say no more.

           [Exit Cassio.]

      OTHELLO [Coming out of hiding.]
170   How shall I murder him, Iago?

171   Did you perceive how he laughed at his vice?

172   O Iago!

173   And did you see the handkerchief?

174   Was that mine?

175   Yours by this hand: and to see how he prizes the
176   foolish woman your wife! she gave it him, and he
177   hath given it his whore.

178   I would have him nine years a-killing.
179   A fine woman! a fair woman! a sweet woman!

180   Nay, you must forget that.

181   Ay, let her rot, and perish, and be damned tonight;
182   for she shall not live: no, my heart is turned to
183   stone; I strike it, and it hurts my hand. O, the
184   world hath not a sweeter creature! she might lie by
185   an emperor's side and command him tasks.

186   Nay, that's not your way.
186. your way: your proper course, the direction your mind should take; i.e., the way you should think of her.

187   Hang her! I do but say what she is. So delicate
188   with her needle: an admirable musician! O, she
189   will sing the savageness out of a bear. Of so high
190   and plenteous wit and invention!

191   She's the worse for all this.

192   O, a thousand thousand times: and then, of so
192-193. of so gentle a condition: so nobly born and bred.

193   gentle a condition!

194   Ay, too gentle.
194. gentle: i.e., generous with her favors.

195   Nay, that's certain. But yet the pity of it, Iago!
196   O Iago, the pity of it, Iago!

197   If you are so fond over her iniquity, give her
197. fond: dotingly foolish.

198   patent to offend; for, if it touch not you, it comes
198. patent: license.

199   near nobody.

200   I will chop her into messes. Cuckold me!
200. messes: portions of food. i.e., little pieces.

201   O, 'tis foul in her.

202   With mine officer!

203   That's fouler.

204   Get me some poison, Iago; this night. I'll not
205   expostulate with her, lest her body and beauty
205. body and beauty: physical beauty.

206   unprovide my mind again. This night, Iago.

207   Do it not with poison, strangle her in her bed,
208   even the bed she hath contaminated.

209   Good, good: the justice of it pleases: very
210   good.

211   And for Cassio, let me be his undertaker: you
211. be his undertaker: be the one to undertake his killing.

212   shall hear more by midnight.

213   Excellent good.

           [A trumpet within.]

                                  What trumpet is that same?

214   I warrant something from Venice.

           Enter LODOVICO, DESDEMONA,
           and ATTENDANTS.

                                                             'Tis Lodovico—
215   This comes from the Duke. See, your wife's with him.

216   God save you, worthy general!

                                                        With all my heart, sir.
216. With all my heart: i.e., I heartily thank you.

217   The duke and senators of Venice greet you.

           [Gives him a letter.]

218   I kiss the instrument of their pleasures.

           [Opens the letter, and reads.]

219   And what's the news, good cousin Lodovico?

220   I am very glad to see you, signior
221   Welcome to Cyprus.

222   I thank you. How does Lieutenant Cassio?

223   Lives, sir.

224   Cousin, there's fall'n between him and my lord
225   An unkind breach; but you shall make all well.

226   Are you sure of that?

227   My lord?

      OTHELLO [Reads.]
228   "This fail you not to do, as you
229   will—"

230   He did not call; he's busy in the paper.
231   Is there division 'twixt my lord and Cassio?

232   A most unhappy one. I would do much
233   To atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio.
233. atone them: reconcile them.

234   Fire and brimstone!

                                    My lord?

                                                  Are you wise?

235   What, is he angry?

                              May be the letter moved him;
236   For, as I think, they do command him home,
237   Deputing Cassio in his government.
237. Deputing Cassio in his government: naming Cassio as his replacement.

238   By my troth, I am glad on't.


                                                               My lord?

239   I am glad to see you mad.
Othello slapping Desdemona

                                           Why, sweet Othello,—

      OTHELLO [Striking her.]
240   Devil!

241   I have not deserved this.

242   My lord, this would not be believed in Venice,
243   Though I should swear I saw't: 'tis very much:
244   Make her amends; she weeps.

                                                      O devil, devil!
245   If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
245. teem with: breed, be made pregnant by.

246   Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.
246. falls: lets fall. crocodile: Crocodiles were supposed to weep hypocritical tears for their victims.

247   Out of my sight!

                                 I will not stay to offend you.


248   Truly, an obedient lady:
249   I do beseech your lordship, call her back.

250   Mistress!

                     My lord?

                                  What would you with her, sir?

251   Who, I, my lord?

252   Ay; you did wish that I would make her turn:
253   Sir, she can turn, and turn, and yet go on,
254   And turn again; and she can weep, sir, weep;
255   And she's obedient, as you say, obedient,
256   Very obedient. —Proceed you in your tears.—
257   Concerning this, sir,—O well-painted passion!—
258   I am commanded home. —Get you away;
259   I'll send for you anon. —Sir, I obey the mandate,
260   And will return to Venice. —Hence, avaunt!
260. avaunt: begone.

           [Exit Desdemona.]

261   Cassio shall have my place. And, sir, tonight,
262   I do entreat that we may sup together:
263   You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus.—Goats and monkeys!
263. Goats and monkeys!: Both animals were known to be extremely lecherous.


264   Is this the noble Moor whom our full senate
265   Call all in all sufficient? Is this the nature
266   Whom passion could not shake? whose solid virtue
267   The shot of accident, nor dart of chance,
268   Could neither graze nor pierce?

                                             He is much changed.

269   Are his wits safe? is he not light of brain?
269. safe: sound.

270   He's that he is; I may not breathe my censure
271   What he might be. If what he might he is not,
272   I would to heaven he were!
270-272. I may not . . . he were!: I dare not venture an opinion as to whether he's of unsound mind, as you suggest; but if he isn't, then it might be better to wish he were in fact insane, since only that could excuse his wild behavior.

                                           What, strike his wife!

273   'Faith, that was not so well; yet would I knew
274   That stroke would prove the worst!

                                                   Is it his use?
274. use: custom, habit.

275   Or did the letters work upon his blood,
275. blood: passions.

276   And new-create this fault?

                                                 Alas, alas!
277   It is not honesty in me to speak
278   What I have seen and known. You shall observe him,
279   And his own courses will denote him so
280   That I may save my speech: do but go after,
281   And mark how he continues.

282   I am sorry that I am deceived in him.