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Selection 2: Iago and Cassio (from Act II Scene III)

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In this selection from Act II Scene III Othello has just sent Cassio out to guard his house.

"Cassio says that Iago will keep watch with him. Othello replies: 'Iago is most honest.' Of course, the audience is fully aware that this is far from the truth and this statement makes Othello look very vulnerable.

"When Cassio goes out and meets with Iago, Iago describes how enticing Desdemona is. Whereas Iago describes Desdemona in terms of sexuality, Cassio talks of her as being modest, exquisite, and delicate. When Iago invites Cassio to drink with him, Cassio says he becomes easily intoxicated. Iago [later] uses this to get Cassio drunk and to involve him in a public brawl." 1

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IAGO.

What, are you hurt, lieutenant?

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CASSIO.

Ay, past all surgery.

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IAGO.

Marry, heaven forbid!

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CASSIO.

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my
reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what
remains is bestial.–My reputation, Iago, my reputation!

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IAGO.

As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some
bodily wound; there is more sense in that than in reputation.
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without
merit and lost without deserving: you have lost no reputation at
all, unless you repute yourself such a loser. What, man! there
are ways to recover the general again: you are but now cast in
his mood, a punishment more in policy than in malice; even so as
one would beat his offenceless dog to affright an imperious lion:
sue to him again, and he is yours.

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CASSIO.

I will rather sue to be despised than to deceive so good a
commander with so slight, so drunken, and so indiscreet an
officer. Drunk? and speak parrot? and squabble? swagger?
swear? and discourse fustian with one's own shadow?–O thou
invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by,
let us call thee devil!

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IAGO.

What was he that you followed with your sword? What had he done to you?

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CASSIO.

I know not.

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IAGO.

Is't possible?

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CASSIO.

I remember a mass of things, but nothing distinctly; a quarrel,
but nothing wherefore.–O God, that men should put an enemy in
their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with
joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into
beasts!

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IAGO.

Why, but you are now well enough: how came you thus recovered?

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CASSIO.

It hath pleased the devil drunkenness to give place to the
devil wrath: one unperfectness shows me another, to make me
frankly despise myself.

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IAGO.

Come, you are too severe a moraler: as the time, the place, and
the condition of this country stands, I could heartily wish
this had not befallen; but since it is as it is, mend it for
your own good.

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CASSIO.

I will ask him for my place again;–he shall tell me I am a
drunkard! Had I as many mouths as Hydra, such an answer would
stop them all. To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool,
and presently a beast! O strange!–Every inordinate cup is
unbless'd, and the ingredient is a devil.

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IAGO.

Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be
well used: exclaim no more against it. And, good lieutenant,
I think you think I love you.

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CASSIO.

I have well approved it, sir.–I drunk!

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IAGO.

You, or any man living, may be drunk at a time, man. I'll tell
you what you shall do. Our general's wife is now the general;–
I may say so in this respect, for that he hath devoted and
given up himself to the contemplation, mark, and denotement
of her parts and graces:–confess yourself freely to her;
importune her help to put you in your place again: she is of
so free, so kind, so apt, so blessed a disposition, she holds
it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested:
this broken joint between you and her husband entreat her to
splinter; and, my fortunes against any lay worth naming, this
crack of your love shall grow stronger than it was before.

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CASSIO.

You advise me well.

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IAGO.

I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness.

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CASSIO.

I think it freely; and betimes in the morning I will beseech
the virtuous Desdemona to undertake for me; I am desperate
of my fortunes if they check me here.

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IAGO.

You are in the right. Good-night, lieutenant; I must to the
watch.

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CASSIO.

Good night, honest Iago.

[Exit.]

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IAGO.

And what's he, then, that says I play the villain?
When this advice is free I give and honest,
Probal to thinking, and, indeed, the course
To win the Moor again? For 'tis most easy
The inclining Desdemona to subdue
In any honest suit: she's fram'd as fruitful
As the free elements. And then for her
To win the Moor,–were't to renounce his baptism,
All seals and symbols of redeemed sin,–
His soul is so enfetter'd to her love
That she may make, unmake, do what she list,
Even as her appetite shall play the god
With his weak function. How am I, then, a villain
To counsel Cassio to this parallel course,
Directly to his good? Divinity of hell!
When devils will the blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now: for whiles this honest fool
Plies Desdemona to repair his fortune,
And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor,
I'll pour this pestilence into his ear,–
That she repeals him for her body's lust;
And by how much she strives to do him good,
She shall undo her credit with the Moor.
So will I turn her virtue into pitch;
And out of her own goodness make the net
That shall enmesh them all.

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References

  1. "Othello." Shakespeare for Students: Critical Interpretations of Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry. Ed. Anne Marie Hacht. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2007. 649-687. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 July 2011.

    Document URL
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