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innocent tool in the foolish young Roderigo. The ensign himself murders Disdemona and does his best to murder the lieutenant; Iago suggests and retires, while Othello and Roderigo execute his will. In spite of his open participation, the ensign succeeds (quite incredibly) in transferring the whole blame to the Moor, and escapes scot free; while Iago, with all his crafty dissimulation, falls a victim to his own cynical disbelief in honesty. Preoccupied with Desdemona's imaginary love-affairs, he overlooks Emilia's devotion. to her new mistress, and the heroic daring which indignation will inspire in his despised and compliant wife. Thus Iago, the most clear-sighted person of the play, shares the tragic blindness which befalls his victims, and becomes in his degree a tragic figure too. But Shakespeare is not yet, as in Macbeth, deeply engaged with the psychology of crime; and he has long ceased to be allured by the mere terror and amazement of a criminal career, as in Richard III.

Othello occupies, with Lear, a transitional place between Julius Cæsar and Hamlet, where crime is either absent altogether, or is merely a condition of the action, and Macbeth, where it is the very stuff of the tragic plot. Everywhere until we reach Macbeth, the focus of overpowering interest is not crime, but the ruinous perplexity engendered in a great and noble but ill-poised nature by agencies of which crime is only one, and not the most formidable. Not the king's crime but the paralysing fumes that rise from Denmark's unweeded garden beget the fatal perplexity of Hamlet. In Othello the unweeded garden has become fragrant and wholesome; but its diffused rankness and malignity are concentrated in the tongue of a single venomous serpent.




SCENE I. Venice. A street.


Rod. 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.

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

Iago. Despise me, if I do not.

ones of the city,

Three great

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capp'd 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

13. bombast circumstance, bombastic circumlocution.


Horribly stuff'd 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 damn'd 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 the 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-lee'd and calm'd 30
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.

Rod. 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 the first. Now, sir, be judge yourself,

21. almost damn'd in a fair wife. The most plausible interpretation is almost married' to Bianca; the epithet indicating either the disreputableness of this match or Iago's scorn for marriage in general.

24. theoric, theory. 25. toged, wearing the toga of civil (as distinct from military)


25. consuls, councillors.


31. counter-caster, ' arithmetician'; he has been in the accounts branch'; a 'pen-and-ink soldier.' L.

32. in good time, 'forsooth'; here ironical, like à la bonne heure.'

Whether I in any just term am affined

To love the Moor.


I would not follow him then. 40

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 follow'd. 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,

Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are
Who, trimm'd 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 compliment 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.

Rod. What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe,

If he can carry 't thus!

39. in any just term affined,

related to him in such a way as to be bound.



50. visages, outward semblances.

66. owe, own.

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