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Selection 4: Emilia and Desdemona (Act IV Scene III)

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"This is another short scene, with Emilia helping Desdemona prepare for bed. Desdemona asks Emilia if there are women who 'abuse' their husbands. Emilia says there are. Desdemona asks Emilia if she could do so to her husband. Emilia responds by asking if Desdemona could. Desdemona answers: 'No, by this heavenly light!' Shakespeare shows, through this dialogue between Desdemona and Emilia, that no matter what Othello has done to Desdemona, she remains faithful to him." 1

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EMILIA.

How goes it now? he looks gentler than he did.

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DESDEMONA.

He says he will return incontinent:
He hath commanded me to go to bed,
And bade me to dismiss you.

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EMILIA.

Dismiss me!

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DESDEMONA.

It was his bidding; therefore, good Emilia,
Give me my nightly wearing, and adieu:
We must not now displease him.

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EMILIA.

I would you had never seen him!

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DESDEMONA.

So would not I: my love doth so approve him,
That even his stubbornness, his checks, his frowns,–
Pr'ythee, unpin me,–have grace and favour in them.

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EMILIA.

I have laid those sheets you bade me on the bed.

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DESDEMONA.

All's one.–Good faith, how foolish are our minds!–
If I do die before thee, pr'ythee, shroud me
In one of those same sheets.

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EMILIA.

Come, come, you talk.

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DESDEMONA.

My mother had a maid call'd Barbara;
She was in love; and he she lov'd prov'd mad
And did forsake her: she had a song of "willow";
An old thing 'twas, but it express'd her fortune,
And she died singing it: that song to-night
Will not go from my mind; I have much to do
But to go hang my head all at one side,
And sing it like poor Barbara. Pr'ythee, despatch.

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EMILIA.

Shall I go fetch your night-gown?

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DESDEMONA.

No, unpin me here.–
This Lodovico is a proper man.

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EMILIA.

A very handsome man.

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DESDEMONA.

He speaks well.

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EMILIA.

I know a lady in Venice would have walked barefoot to
Palestine for a touch of his nether lip.

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DESDEMONA.

[Sings.]

"The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow;
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing willow, willow, willow:
The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur'd her moans;
Sing willow, willow, willow;
Her salt tears fell from her, and soften'd the stones;–"

Lay by these:–

[Sings.]

"Sing willow, willow, willow;–"

Pr'ythee, hie thee; he'll come anon:–

[Sings.]

"Sing all a green willow must be my garland.
Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve,–"

Nay, that's not next.–Hark! who is't that knocks?

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EMILIA.

It's the wind.

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DESDEMONA.

[Sings.]

"I call'd my love false love; but what said he then?
Sing willow, willow, willow:
'If I court mo women, you'll couch with mo men.'"

So get thee gone; good night. Mine eyes do itch;
Doth that bode weeping?

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EMILIA.

'Tis neither here nor there.

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DESDEMONA.

I have heard it said so.–O, these men, these men!–
Dost thou in conscience think,–tell me, Emilia,–
That there be women do abuse their husbands
In such gross kind?

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EMILIA.

There be some such, no question.

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DESDEMONA.

Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?

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EMILIA.

Why, would not you?

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DESDEMONA.

No, by this heavenly light!

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EMILIA.

Nor I neither by this heavenly light; I might do't as well
i' the dark.

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DESDEMONA.

Wouldst thou do such a deed for all the world?

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EMILIA.

The world's a huge thing; it is a great price
For a small vice.

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DESDEMONA.

In troth, I think thou wouldst not.

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EMILIA.

In troth, I think I should; and undo't when I had done. Marry,
I would not do such a thing for a joint-ring, nor for measures
of lawn, nor for gowns, petticoats, nor caps, nor any petty
exhibition; but, for the whole world–why, who would not make
her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? I should venture
purgatory for't.

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DESDEMONA.

Beshrew me, if I would do such a wrong for the whole world.

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EMILIA.

Why, the wrong is but a wrong i' the world; and having the
world for your labour, 'tis a wrong in your own world, and you
might quickly make it right.

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DESDEMONA.

I do not think there is any such woman.

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EMILIA.

Yes, a dozen; and as many to the vantage as would store
the world they play'd for.
But I do think it is their husbands' faults
If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties
And pour our treasures into foreign laps;
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
Or scant our former having in despite;
Why, we have galls; and though we have some grace,
Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell
And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
As husbands have. What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is: and doth affection breed it?
I think it doth: is't frailty that thus errs?
It is so too. And have not we affections,
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well: else let them know
The ills we do their ills instruct us so.

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DESDEMONA.

Good-night, good-night: heaven me such usage send,
Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend!

[Exeunt.]

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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
    http://ezproxy.kanawhalibrary.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CCX2896100031&v=2.1&u=kcpl_main&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w

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