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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 #1

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 particular end.
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement 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. (1.1.61-71)

Iago is all about not revealing his true identity or intentions to anyone. Here, he tells Roderigo that he'll never allow his "outward action[s]" to show what's really going on inside of him because that would leave him vulnerable, kind of like allowing birds ("daws") to peck at his "heart." When Iago says "I am not what I am," he cryptically suggests that he's not what he appears to be. This phrase, we should point out, is an inversion of God's line, "I am what I am" (Exodus 3.14), which is in keeping with the play's alignment of Iago with the devil.

Quote #2

It is too true an evil. Gone she is,
And what's to come of my despisèd time
Is nought but bitterness.—Now, Roderigo,
Where didst thou see her?—O, unhappy girl!—
With the Moor, say'st thou?—Who would be a
How didst thou know 'twas she?—O she deceives
Past thought!—What said she to you?—Get more
Raise all my kindred.—Are they married, think
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. (1.1.178-189; 191-193)

When Brabantio learns that Desdemona has run off with Othello, he cries out, "Who would be a father!" and wonders "what's to come" of himself. Clearly, Brabantio feels as though his identity as a father and an authority figure have been compromised by Desdemona's elopement, which he interprets as "treason of the blood."

Quote #3

Let him do his spite.
My services which I have done the signiory
Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know
(Which, when I know that boasting is an honor,
I shall promulgate) I fetch my life and being
From men of royal siege, and my demerits
May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune
As this that I have reached. For know, Iago,
But that I love the gentle Desdemona,
I would not my unhousèd free condition
Put into circumscription and confine
For the sea's worth. (1.2.20-31)

At this point in the play, Othello is so secure in his value to the state of Venice that he says he does not care if Brabantio slanders him. Othello knows he's done nothing wrong in marrying Desdemona and that the Duke will support him, especially since Othello's a decorated war hero. What's interesting about this passage is how it reveals Othello's sense of himself as a military leader – his valuable "services" to the state of Venice have made him an "insider." At the same time, however, we know that Othello is also an "outsider" – he's a foreigner and his skin is black, which leaves him vulnerable to racist attitudes (like Brabantio's) in Venice.

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