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In Othello, Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between the exotic Moor Othello and the Venetian lady Desdemona that begins with elopement and mutual devotion and ends with jealous rage and death. Shakespeare builds many differences into his hero and heroine, including race, age, and cultural background. Yet most readers and audiences believe the couple’s strong love would overcome these differences were it not for Iago, who sets out to destroy Othello. Iago’s false insinuations about Desdemona’s infidelity draw Othello into his schemes, and Desdemona is subjected to Othello’s horrifying verbal and physical assaults.

The authoritative edition of Othello from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

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Essay by Susan Snyder

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476788524
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Series: Folger Shakespeare Library
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 354,861
File size: 13 MB
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About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.

Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.

Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays.

Date of Death:


Place of Birth:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Place of Death:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Read an Excerpt


By William Shakespeare

Oldcastle Books

Copyright © 2014 William Shakespeare
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84344-448-0



Venice. A street.


RODERIGO Tush, never tell me, I take it much unkindly That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.

IAGO 'Sblood, but you will not hear me. If ever I did dream Of such a matter, abhor me.

RODERIGO Thou told'st me Thou didst hold him in thy hate.

IAGO Despise me If I do not. Three great ones of the city, In personal suit to make me his lieutenant, Off-capped to him, and, by the faith of man I know my price, I am worth no worse a place. But he, as loving his own pride and purposes, Evades them, with a bombast circumstance Horribly stuffed with epithets of war, And in conclusion Nonsuits my mediators. For, 'Certes,' says he, 'I have already chose my officer.' And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician, One Michael Cassio, a Florentine, A fellow almost damned in a fair wife That never set a squadron in the field Nor the division of a battle knows More than a spinster – unless the bookish theoric, Wherein the toged consuls can propose As masterly as he. Mere prattle without practice Is all his soldiership – but he, sir, had th'election And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds, Christian and heathen, must be be-leed and calmed By debitor and creditor. This counter-caster He, in good time, must his lieutenant be And I, God bless the mark, his Moorship's ancient!

RODERIGO By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman.

IAGO Why, there's no remedy, 'tis the curse of service: Preferment goes by letter and affection And not by old gradation, where each second Stood heir to th' first. Now sir, be judge yourself Whether I in any just term am affined To love the Moor.

RODERIGO I would not follow him then.

IAGO O sir, content you! I follow him to serve my turn upon him. We cannot all be masters, nor all masters Cannot be truly followed. You shall mark Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave That, doting on his own obsequious bondage, Wears out his time much like his master's ass For nought but provender, and, when he's old, cashiered. Whip me such honest knaves! Others there are Who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves And, throwing but shows of service on their lords, Do well thrive by them, and, when they have lined their coats, Do themselves homage: these fellows have some soul And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir, It is as sure as you are Roderigo, Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago. In following him, I follow but myself: Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty But seeming so for my peculiar end, For when my outward action doth demonstrate The native act and figure of my heart In complement extern, 'tis not long after But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

RODERIGO What a full fortune does the thick lips owe If he can carry't thus!

IAGO Call up her father, Rouse him, make after him, poison his delight, Proclaim him in the streets, incense her kinsmen, And, though he in a fertile climate dwell, Plague him with flies! Though that his joy be joy Yet throw such changes of vexation on't As it may lose some color.

RODERIGO Here is her father's house, I'll call aloud.

IAGO Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell As when by night and negligence the fire Is spied in populous cities.

RODERIGO What, ho! Brabantio, Signior Brabantio ho!

IAGO Awake, what ho, Brabantio! Thieves! Thieves! Thieves! Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags! Thieves, thieves!

BRABANTIO appears above at a window.

BRABANTIO What is the reason of this terrible summons? What is the matter there?

RODERIGO Signior, is all your family within?

IAGO Are your doors locked?

BRABANTIO Why, wherefore ask you this?

IAGO Zounds, sir, you're robbed, for shame, put on your gown! Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul, Even now, now, very now, an old black ram Is tupping your white ewe! Arise, arise, Awake the snorting citizens with the bell Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you, Arise I say!

BRABANTIO What, have you lost your wits?

RODERIGO Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?

BRABANTIO Not I, what are you?

RODERIGO My name is Roderigo.

BRABANTIO The worser welcome! I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors: In honest plainness thou hast heard me say My daughter is not for thee; and now in madness, Being full of supper and distempering draughts, Upon malicious bravery dost thou come To start my quiet?

RODERIGO Sir, sir, sir, –

BRABANTIO But thou must needs be sure My spirit and my place have in them power To make this bitter to thee.

RODERIGO Patience, good sir!

BRABANTIO What tell'st thou me of robbing? This is Venice: My house is not a grange.

RODERIGO Most grave Brabantio, In simple and pure soul I come to you –

IAGO Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not serve God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to do you service, and you think we are ruffians, you'll have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll have your nephews neigh to you, you'll have coursers for cousins and jennets for germans!

BRABANTIO What profane wretch art thou?

IAGO I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

BRABANTIO Thou art a villain!

IAGO You are a senator!

BRABANTIO This thou shalt answer. I know thee, Roderigo!

RODERIGO Sir, I will answer anything. But I beseech you, If 't be your pleasure and most wise consent, As partly I find it is, that your fair daughter At this odd-even and dull watch o' th' night, Transported with no worse nor better guard But with a knave of common hire, a gondolier, To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor – If this be known to you, and your allowance, We then have done you bold and saucy wrongs. But if you know not this, my manners tell me We have your wrong rebuke. Do not believe That, from the sense of all civility I thus would play and trifle with your reverence. Your daughter, if you have not given her leave, I say again, hath made a gross revolt, Tying her duty, beauty, wit, and fortunes In an extravagant and wheeling stranger Of here and everywhere. Straight satisfy yourself: If she be in her chamber or your house Let loose on me the justice of the state For thus deluding you.

BRABANTIO Strike on the tinder, ho! Give me a taper, call up all my people. This accident is not unlike my dream, Belief of it oppresses me already. Light, I say, light!

Exit above.

IAGO Farewell, for I must leave you. It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place, To be produced, as, if I stay, I shall, Against the Moor. For I do know the state, However this may gall him with some check, Cannot with safety cast him, for he's embarked With such loud reason to the Cyprus wars, Which even now stand in act, that for their souls Another of his fathom they have none To lead their business – in which regard, Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains, Yet, for necessity of present life I must show out a flag and sign of love, Which is indeed but sign. That you shall surely find him, Lead to the Sagittary the raised search, And there will I be with him. So farewell.


Enter BRABANTIO in his night-gown and servants with torches.

BRABANTIO It is too true an evil, gone she is, And what's to come of my despised time Is nought but bitterness. Now Roderigo, Where didst thou see her? – O unhappy girl! – With the Moor, say'st thou? – Who would be a father? – How didst thou know 'twas she? – O, she deceives me Past thought! – What said she to you? – Get more tapers, Raise all my kindred. Are they married, think you?

RODERIGO Truly, I think they are.

BRABANTIO O heaven, how got she out? O treason of the blood! – Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds By what you see them act. – Is there not charms By which the property of youth and maidhood May be abused? Have you not read, Roderigo, Of some such thing?

RODERIGO Yes sir, I have indeed.

BRABANTIO Call up my brother. – O, would you had had her! Some one way, some another. – Do you know Where we may apprehend her and the Moor?

RODERIGO I think I can discover him, if you please To get good guard and go along with me.

BRABANTIO Pray you lead on. At every house I'll call, I may command at most: get weapons, ho! And raise some special officers of night. On, good Roderigo, I'll deserve your pains.




Venice. Another street.

Enter OTHELLO, IAGO, and attendants with torches.

IAGO Though in the trade of war I have slain men Yet do I hold it very stuff o' th' conscience To do no contrived murder: I lack iniquity Sometimes to do me service. Nine or ten times I had thought t'have yerked him here, under the ribs.

OTHELLO 'Tis better as it is.

IAGO Nay, but he prated And spoke such scurvy and provoking terms Against your honour, That, with the little godliness I have I did full hard forbear him. But I pray, sir, Are you fast married? Be assured of this, That the magnifico is much beloved And hath in his effect a voice potential As double as the duke's: he will divorce you Or put upon you what restraint and grievance The law, with all his might to enforce it on, Will give him cable.

OTHELLO Let him do his spite; My services, which I have done the signiory, Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know – Which, when I know that boasting is an honour, I shall promulgate – I fetch my life and being From men of royal siege, and my demerits May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune As this that I have reached. For know, Iago, But that I love the gentle Desdemona I would not my unhoused free condition Put into circumscription and confine

For the sea's worth. But, look! what lights come yond?

Enter CASSIO, with officers and torches.

IAGO Those are the raised father and his friends, You were best go in.

OTHELLO Not I, I must be found. My parts, my title, and my perfect soul Shall manifest me rightly. Is it they?

IAGO By Janus, I think no.

OTHELLO The servants of the duke? and my lieutenant? The goodness of the night upon you, friends. What is the news?

CASSIO The duke does greet you, general, And he requires your haste-post-haste appearance Even on the instant.

OTHELLO What is the matter, think you?

CASSIO Something from Cyprus, as I may divine; It is a business of some heat. The galleys Have sent a dozen sequent messengers This very night, at one another's heels, And many of the consuls, raised and met, Are at the duke's already. You have been hotly called for, When, being not at your lodging to be found, The Senate hath sent about three several quests To search you out.

OTHELLO 'Tis well I am found by you: I will but spend a word here in the house And go with you.


CASSIO Ancient, what makes he here?

IAGO Faith, he tonight hath boarded a land carrack: If it prove lawful prize, he's made forever.

CASSIO I do not understand.

IAGO He's married.

CASSIO To whom?

IAGO Marry, to –


Come, captain, will you go?

OTHELLO Ha' with you.

CASSIO Here comes another troop to seek for you. Enter BRABANTIO, RODERIGO, with officers and torches and weapons.

IAGO It is Brabantio: general, be advised, He comes to bad intent.

OTHELLO Holla, stand there!

RODERIGO Signior, it is the Moor.

BRABANTIO Down with him, thief! [They draw on both sides.]

IAGO You, Roderigo! Come sir, I am for you.

OTHELLO Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them. Good signior, you shall more command with years Than with your weapons.

BRABANTIO O thou foul thief, where hast thou stowed my daughter? Damned as thou art, thou hast enchanted her, For I'll refer me to all things of sense, If she in chains of magic were not bound, Whether a maid so tender fair and happy, So opposite to marriage that she shunned The wealthy curled darlings of our nation, Would ever have, t'incur a general mock, Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom Of such a thing as thou? To fear, not to delight. Judge me the world, if 'tis not gross in sense That thou hast practised on her with foul charms, Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals That weakens motion: I'll have't disputed on, 'Tis probable, and palpable to thinking. I therefore apprehend and do attach thee For an abuser of the world, a practiser Of arts inhibited and out of warrant. Lay hold upon him; if he do resist Subdue him at his peril!

OTHELLO Hold your hands, Both you of my inclining and the rest: Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it Without a prompter. Where will you that I go To answer this your charge?

BRABANTIO To prison, till fit time Of law, and course of direct session Call thee to answer.

OTHELLO What if I do obey? How may the duke be therewith satisfied, Whose messengers are here about my side Upon some present business of the state, To bring me to him?

OFFICER 'Tis true, most worthy signior, The duke's in council, and your noble self I am sure is sent for.

BRABANTIO How? The duke in council? In this time of the night? Bring him away: Mine's not an idle cause, the duke himself, Or any of my brothers of the state, Cannot but feel this wrong as 'twere their own. For if such actions may have passage free Bond-slaves and pagans shall our statesmen be.




Venice. A council chamber.

Enter DUKE and Senators, set at a table, with lights and attendants.

DUKE There is no composition in these news That gives them credit.

FIRST SENATOR Indeed, they are disproportioned. My letters say a hundred and seven galleys.

DUKE And mine a hundred and forty.

SECOND SENATOR And mine two hundred. But though they jump not on a just account – As in these cases, where the aim reports, 'Tis oft with difference – yet do they all confirm A Turkish fleet, and bearing up to Cyprus.

DUKE Nay, it is possible enough to judgement: I do not so secure me in the error But the main article I do approve In fearful sense.

SAILOR [within] What ho, what ho, what ho!

Enter Sailor.

OFFICER A messenger from the galleys.

DUKE Now? What's the business?

SAILOR The Turkish preparation makes for Rhodes, So was I bid report here to the state By Signior Angelo.

DUKE How say you by this change?

FIRST SENATOR This cannot be, By no assay of reason: 'tis a pageant To keep us in false gaze. When we consider Th'importancy of Cyprus to the Turk, And let ourselves again but understand That as it more concerns the Turk than Rhodes, So may he with more facile question bear it, For that it stands not in such warlike brace, But altogether lacks th'abilities That Rhodes is dressed in. If we make thought of this We must not think the Turk is so unskilful To leave that latest which concerns him first, Neglecting an attempt of ease and gain To wake and wage a danger profitless.

DUKE Nay, in all confidence, he's not for Rhodes.

OFFICER Here is more news.

Enter a Messenger.

MESSENGER The Ottomites, reverend and gracious, Steering with due course toward the isle of Rhodes, Have there injointed them with an after fleet –

FIRST SENATOR Ay, so I thought; how many, as you guess?

MESSENGER Of thirty sail; and now they do re-stem Their backward course, bearing with frank appearance Their purposes toward Cyprus. Signior Montano, Your trusty and most valiant servitor, With his free duty recommends you thus And prays you to relieve him.

DUKE 'Tis certain, then, for Cyprus. Marcus Luccicos, is not he in town?

FIRST SENATOR He's now in Florence.

DUKE Write from us to him; post-post-haste, despatch.

FIRST SENATOR Here comes Brabantio and the valiant Moor.


DUKE Valiant Othello, we must straight employ you Against the general enemy Ottoman. [to Brabantio] I did not see you: welcome, gentle signior, We lacked your counsel and your help tonight.

BRABANTIO So did I yours. Good your grace, pardon me, Neither my place nor aught I heard of business Hath raised me from my bed, nor doth the general care Take hold on me, for my particular grief Is of so flood-gate and o'erbearing nature That it engluts and swallows other sorrows And it is still itself.

DUKE Why? What's the matter?

BRABANTIO My daughter, O my daughter!


BRABANTIO Ay, to me: She is abused, stolen from me and corrupted By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks, For nature so preposterously to err Being not deficient, blind, or lame of sense, Sans witchcraft could not.

DUKE Whoe'er he be, that in this foul proceeding Hath thus beguiled your daughter of herself, And you of her, the bloody book of law You shall yourself read, in the bitter letter, After your own sense, yea, though our proper son Stood in your action.

BRABANTIO Humbly I thank your grace. Here is the man, this Moor, whom now it seems Your special mandate for the state affairs Hath hither brought.

ALL We are very sorry for't.

DUKE [to Othello] What in your own part can you say to this?

BRABANTIO Nothing, but this is so.


Excerpted from Othello by William Shakespeare. Copyright © 2014 William Shakespeare. Excerpted by permission of Oldcastle Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction; Note on the text; List of characters; The play; Supplementary notes; Textual analysis; Reading list.

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