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by William Shakespeare

Othello Identity Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #4

Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
My very noble and approved good masters:
That I have ta'en away this old man's daughter,
It is most true; true, I have married her.
The very head and front of my offending
Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,
And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace;
For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,
Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
Their dearest action in the tented field,
And little of this great world can I speak
More than pertains to feats of broil and battle.
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious
I will a round unvarnished tale deliver
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what
What conjuration, and what mighty magic
(For such proceeding I am charged withal)
I won his daughter. (1.3.91-111)

Othello identifies himself with the roughness of the battlefield, in contrast to the gentleness or sophistication of civilized Venice, when he says his "speech" is "rude" and he's not been "bless'd with the soft phrase of peace." Yet Othello knows darn well that he is quite eloquent, as he demonstrates here in an incredibly well-wrought speech that he delivers as a defense of his marriage to Desdemona.

Quote #5

A maiden never bold,
Of spirit so still and quiet that her motion
Blushed at herself. And she, in spite of nature,
Of years, of country, credit, everything,
To fall in love with what she feared to look on!
It is a judgment maimed and most imperfect
That will confess perfection so could err
Against all rules of nature, and must be driven
To find out practices of cunning hell
Why this should be. I therefore vouch again
That with some mixtures powerful o'er the blood,
Or with some dram conjured to this effect,
He wrought upon her. (1.3.112-124)

Brabantio doesn't seem to know his daughter at all, especially when he claims she is "never bold" and that she "fear'd to look on" Othello. As we know, Desdemona is bold – she runs off with a man her father doesn't approve of and defends her actions when confronted by Brabantio and the Venetian court.

Quote #6

Her father loved me, oft invited me,
Still questioned me the story of my life
From year to year—the battles, sieges, fortunes
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days
To the very moment that he bade me tell it,
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances:
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hairbreadth scapes i' th' imminent deadly
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence,
And portance in my travels' history,
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads
   touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak—such was the process—
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. These things to
Would Desdemona seriously incline.
But still the house-affairs would draw her thence,
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch
She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse. (1.3.149-174)

Othello presents himself as an exotic, exciting person who has travelled the world and seen "Cannibals," "Anthropophagi" (man eaters), and "men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." In his stories, Othello fashions himself into an adventurous and worldly man and it's this person that Desdemona fell in love with as she "devour[ed] up" Othello's stories with a "greedy ear."

We're also interested in what Othello's speech reveals about his new father-in-law, Brabantio. According to Othello, Brabantio "loved" him and "oft invited" Othello to tell stories about himself. It wasn't until Othello married Brabantio's daughter that the old man's xenophobia came to light.

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