About the Book

Shakespeare shines a fierce spotlight on the jealous heart and on our attitudes toward the outsider. A story of its time and for our time, full of terror and beauty, Othello is urgent, gripping, radical, and beautiful.

Under the editorial supervision of Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, two of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, this Modern Library series incorporates definitive texts and authoritative notes from William Shakespeare: Complete Works. Each play includes an Introduction as well as an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career; commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers; scene-by-scene analysis; key facts about the work; a chronology of Shakespeare’s life and times; and black-and-white illustrations.

Ideal for students, theater professionals, and general readers, these modern and accessible editions from the Royal Shakespeare Company set a new standard in Shakespearean literature for the twenty-first century.
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Chapter 1

Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1

Enter Rodorigo and Iago

RODORIGO 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 But you'll not hear me: if ever I did dream

Of such a matter, abhor me.

RODORIGO 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,

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 toga'd 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 others' grounds,

Christened and heathen - must be beleed and calmed

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He - in good time - must his lieutenant be,

And I - bless the mark! - his Moorship's ancient.

RODORIGO 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.

RODORIGO 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 Rodorigo,

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.

RODORIGO 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 chances of vexation on't

As it may lose some colour.

RODORIGO 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.

RODORIGO What, ho, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, ho!

IAGO Awake! What, ho! Brabantio, thieves, thieves!

Look to your house, your daughter and your bags!

Thieves, thieves!

BRABANTIO What is the reason of this Above At a window

terrible summons?

What is the matter there?

RODORIGO Signior, is all your family within?

IAGO Are your doors locked?

BRABANTIO Why? Wherefore ask you this?

IAGO 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?

RODORIGO Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?

BRABANTIO Not I: what are you?

RODORIGO My name is Rodorigo.

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 distemp'ring draughts -

Upon malicious knavery dost thou come

To start my quiet.

RODORIGO Sir, sir, sir-

BRABANTIO But thou must needs be sure

My spirits and my place have in their power

To make this bitter to thee.

RODORIGO Patience, good sir.

BRABANTIO What tell'st thou me of robbing?

This is Venice: my house is not a grange.

RODORIGO Most grave Brabantio,

In simple and pure soul I come to you.

IAGO 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 making the beast with two backs.

BRABANTIO Thou art a villain.

IAGO You are a senator.

BRABANTIO This thou shalt answer. I know thee, Rodorigo.

RODORIGO 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 producted - 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 stands 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 raisèd search,

And there will I be with him. So farewell. Exit

Enter Brabantio with Servants and torches

BRABANTIO It is too true an evil: gone she is,

And what's to come of my despisèd time

Is nought but bitterness. Now, Rodorigo,

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?

RODORIGO 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, Rodorigo,

Of some such thing?

RODORIGO Yes, sir, I have indeed.

BRABANTIO Call up my brother.- O, would you had had her!-

Some one way, some another.- Do you know To Rodorigo

Where we may apprehend her and the Moor?

RODORIGO 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 might.-

On, good Rodorigo: I will deserve your pains. Exeunt

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About the Author

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. More by William Shakespeare
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About the Author

Jonathan Bate
SIR JONATHAN BATE is an academic, broadcaster, critic, novelist, and prize-winning author of biographies of Wordsworth, Keats, and John Clare. He is the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education. More by Jonathan Bate
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About the Author

Eric Rasmussen
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare. More by Eric Rasmussen
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