Shakespeare, Othello


  • Intro

    Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story 'Un Capitano Moro' ('A Moorish Captain') by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565. The work revolves around four central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army; his wife Desdemona; his lieutenant, Cassio; and his trusted ensign Iago. Because of its varied themes - racism, love, jealousy, and betrayal - Othello is widely felt to remain relevant to the present day and is often performed in professional and community theatres alike. The play has also been the basis for numerous operatic, film, and literary adaptations.


    The audio clip available here is a 1959 Royal Shakespeare Company performance with African-American actor Paul Robeson (1898-1976) playing Othello. Robeson was the first black actor since 1860 to perform the role in a major production. As the son of an escaped slave, he knew racism and prejudice, and his outspoken left-wing politics saw him victimised by the US's anti-Communist authorities and media of the 1950s.

  • Audio

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  • Transcript

    Shakespeare, Othello

    Original text:


    [Iago] Out of my scattering, and unsure observance;

    It were not for your quiet, nor your good,

    Nor for my manhood, honesty, or wisedome,

    To let you know my thoughts.


    Oth. What dost thou meane?


    Iag. Good name in man and woman (deere my Lord)

    Is the immediate Jewell of our soules:

    Who steales my purse, stealses trash, tis something, nothing,

    Twas mine, tis his, and has bin slave to thousands:

    But he that filches from me my good name,

    Robs me of that, which not inriches him,

    And makes me poore indeed.


    Oth. Ile know thy thoughts.


    Iag. You cannot, if my heart were in your heart,

    Nor shall not, whilst tis in my custody.


    Oth. Ha?


    Iag. O beware (my Lord) of jealousie;

    It is a green ey'd monster, which doth mocke

    The meat it feeds on. That Cuckold lives in blis,

    Who certaine of his fate, loves not his wronger:

    But oh, what damned minutes tell he ore,

    Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves.


    Oth. O misery.


    Iag. Poore and content, is rich, and rich enough,

    But riches finelesse, is as poore as winter,

    To him that ever feares he shall be poore:

    Good heaven, the soules of all my tribe defend

    From jealousie.


    Oth. Why, why is this?

    Thinkst thou I'de make a life of jealousie?

    To follow still the changes of the Moone

    With fresh suspitions? No, to be once in doubt,

    Is once to be resolu'd: exchange me for a Goate,

    When I shall turne the businesse of my soule

    To such exufflicate, and blowne surmises,

    Matching thy inference: tis not to make me jealous,

    To say my wife is faire, feedes well, loves company,

    Is free of speech, sings, playes, and dances well;

    Where vertue is, these are more vertuous:

    Nor from mine owne weake merits will I draw

    The smallest feare, or doubt of her revolt,

    For she had eies, and chosen me: no Iago,

    Ile see before I doubt, when I doubt, prove,

    And on the proofe, there is no more but this;

    Away at once with love or jealousie.


    Iag. I am glad of it, for now I shall have reason,

    To shew the love and duty that I beare you,

    With franker spirit: therefore as I am bound

    Receive it from me: I speake not yet of proofe,

    Looke to your wife, observe her well with Cassio;

    Weare your eie thus, not jealous, nor secure,

    I would not have your free and noble nature,

    Out of selfe-bounty be abus'd, looke too't:

    I know our Country disposition well,

    In Venice they doe let Heaven see the pranke

    They dare not shew their husbands: their best conscience

    Is not to leave't undone, but keepe't unknowne.


    Oth. Doest thou say so?


    Iag. She did deceive her father marrying you:

    And when she seem'd to shake and feare your lookes,

    She lov'd them most.


    Oth. And so she did.


    Iag. Why do too then,

    She that so young, could give out such a seeming,

    To seale her fathers eyes up, close as Oake,

    He thought twas witchcraft: but I am much too blame;

    I humbly doe beseech you of your pardon,

    For too much loving you.


    Oth. I am bound to thee for ever.


    Iag. I see this hath a little dasht your spirits.


    Oth. Not a jot, not a jot.


    Iag. Trust me, I feare it has.

    I hope you will consider, what is spoke,

    Comes from my love: but I doe see you are moov'd,

    I am to pray you, not to straine my speach,

    To grosser issues, nor to larger reach,

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