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Othello Identity Quotes

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

Quote #13

Alas, thrice-gentle Cassio,
My advocation is not now in tune.
My lord is not my lord; nor should I know him
Were he in favor as in humor altered. (3.4.141-144)

What is the matter, lady?
Alas, Iago, my lord hath so bewhored her.
Thrown such despite and heavy terms upon her
As true hearts cannot bear.
Am I that name, Iago?
                                  What name, fair
Such as she says my lord did say I was.
He call'd her "whore." A beggar in his drink
Could not have laid such terms upon his callet.
Why did he so?
I do not know. I am sure I am none such. (4.2.134-144)

At the play's beginning, Desdemona is strong, confident, and defiant but, after being victimized by Othello's physical and emotional abuse, she changes drastically. When Othello publicly abuses Desdemona, calling her a "whore" and even slapping her, Emilia is outraged. But Desdemona seems more confused and hurt than anything else. Here, Desdemona says she's "sure" that she's done absolutely nothing to warrant Othello's behavior, and yet we can detect a note of uncertainty. Soon after, Othello strangles her, and Desdemona blames herself for her husband's violence. When Emilia asks Desdemona who has harmed her, Desdemona replies "Nobody; I myself. Farewell" (5.2.125).

Quote #14

O thou Othello, thou wert once so good,
Fall'n in the practice of a damnèd slave,
What shall be said to thee?
Why, anything.
An honorable murderer, if you will,
For naught I did in hate, but all in honor. (5.2.342-347)

Yikes! Othello believes that murdering Desdemona was an "honourable" thing to do since he thought Desdemona was cheating on him. (Seems like Shakespeare is inviting us to disagree with Othello, wouldn't you say?) To the last, Othello wants to be identified as an honorable man but Lodovico asserts that Othello, the man who was "once so good" has "fall'n."

Quote #15

Soft you. A word or two before you go.
I have done the state some service, and they
   know 't.
No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely, but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
Their medicinable gum. Set you down this.
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turbanned Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcisèd dog,
And smote him, thus.                             He stabs himself.

Just before he commits suicide, Othello emphasizes his identity as a loyal soldier, which is how he wants to be remembered. At the same time, he also sees himself as a "malignant and a turban'd Turk" (a hated outsider and war opponent). By stabbing himself with the same sword he often used to kill enemy "Turks," Othello suggests that he sees himself as an enemy of the Venetian state.

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