Otello Libretto
English Translation

Roles

Otello, a Moorish general - tenor
Desdemona, his wife - soprano
Iago, Otello's ensign - baritone
Emilia, wife of Iago and maid of Desdemona - mezzo-soprano
Cassio, Otello's captain - tenor
Roderigo, a gentleman of Venice - tenor
Lodovico, ambassador of the Venetian Republic - bass
Montano, former Governor of Cyprus - bass
A herald - bass
Chorus: Venetian soldiers and sailors; and Cypriot townsfolk and children

Time: The late 1400s.
Place: A coastal city on the island of Cyprus.
ACT ONE

The action takes place in Cyprus, at the end of the
fifteenth century. Outside the castle, with the sea-walls
and sea in the background. An inn with a pergola. It is
evening. A thunderstorm is raging.

CYPRIOTS
A sail! A sail!
A standard! A standard!

MONTANO
’Tis the winged Lion of St. Mark!

CASSIO
Now the lightning flash reveals it.

CYPRIOTS
A fanfare! A fanfare!
The cannon has roared.

CASSIO
It is the General’s ship.

MONTANO
Now she is engulfed, anon is tossed skywards.

CASSIO
Her prow rises from the waves.

SOME CYPRIOTS
Veiled by mist and water,
the lightning flash reveals her.

ALL
Flashes! Crashes! Whirlpools! Howling
winds and thunder’s mighty roar!
Air and water shake together,
shaken is the ocean-floor!
(A large group of Cypriot women enters from the back.)
Black-browed and blind, a spirit wild
of chaos cleaves the air.

WOMEN (shrieking)
Ah!

ALL
God shakes the sullen sky about
like sable drapery.
WOMEN
Ah!

ALL
All is smoke! All is fire!
The dense and dreadful fog
bursts into flame, and then subsides
in greater gloom. Convulsed
the cosmos, glacial surges
the spectre-like north-wind,
and titanic trumpet-calls
sound fanfares in the sky!
(turning towards the quay with gestures of fear
and supplication)
God, the splendour of the tempest!
God, the sandbank’s luring smile!
Save the treasure and the standard
of the Venetian enterprise!
Thou, who guidest stars and fortunes,
Thou, who rulest earth and sky,
grant that in a tranquil ocean
may the trusty anchor lie.

IAGO
The mainmast’s broken off!

RODERIGO
Her prow is dashing on that rock!

ONLOOKERS
O help! O help!

IAGO (to Roderigo)
May the ocean’s seething belly be his tomb!

ONLOOKERS
Safe! He’s safe!

SAILORS (from on board the ship)
Lower the tenders!
All hands to the ropes! Steady!
Pull on the oars! To shore!
(distant thunder)
To the quayside! To the landing!

ONLOOKERS
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
(Othello enters, ascending the steps from theshore to
the ramparts followed by a number of soldiers and sailors.)

OTHELLO
Rejoice! The Muslim pride
is buried in the deep.
Ours and heaven’s is the glory.
After our arms the storm has conquered it.

ONLOOKERS
Hurrah for Othello! Hurrah!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Victory! Victory!
(Othello enters the castle followed by Cassio,
Montano and the soldiers.)
Victory! Victory!
Destruction! Destruction!
Dispersed, destroyed, engulfed they
plummetted into the raging deep!
Victory! Victory!
Victory! Victory!
Destruction! Destruction! etc.
Their requiem shall be the sharp scourge of
the spray, the swirl of the whirlwind,
the scend of the sea.
Victory! Victory!
Dispersed, destroyed, etc.
Hurrah!
(Distant thunder. The storm is passing away.)
Spent is the tempest’s fury.

IAGO (aside to Roderigo)
Well, Roderigo, what think you?

RODERIGO
Of drowning myself.

IAGO
Only an idiot drowns himself for love of a woman.
(While the ship is being unloaded and weapons and
baggage are being carried from her into the castle,
some citizens emerge from behind the fortress carrying
branches to make a bonfire which, by the light of
torches held by the soldiers, they construct to one side
of the ramparts. The crowd gathers around, excited and curious.)

RODERIGO
How to win I know not.

IAGO
Come, keep your wits about you,
await the ministry of time;

the beautiful Desdemona,
who in your secret dreams you so adore,
will soon begin to abhor the murky kisses
of that thick-lipped savage.
Good Roderigo, your friend sincere
I have professed myself, and I could never
do more for you than in your present need.
If the frail vow of a woman
be not too hard a knot for my wits
and all the tribe of hell to untie,
I promise that the woman shall be yours.
Listen, though I make show of loving him,
I hate the Moor.
(Cassio enters and joins a group of soldiers.)
Here comes one reason for my hatred, look.
(pointing to Cassio)
That curled captain
usurps my place, the place that I
by a hundred well-fought battles
have richly earned;
such was Othello’s will,
and I remain his Moorish Lordship’s
ancient!
(Puffs of smoke begin to rise from the wood with
increasing density.)
But just as sure as you are Roderigo,
so sure it is, that if I were the Moor
I should not want an Iago about me.
If you heed my counsel...
(Still talking, Iago leads Roderigo further away. Flames
begin to leap up from the fire, and the Cypriots gather
round it, singing. Meanwhile, the tavern servants
decorate the pergola with lanterns. Soldiers gather
round the tables, drinking and talking.)

CYPRIOTS
Fire of rejoicing! The jovial flame
by its glow compels night to depart.
It leaps and sparkles, crackles and flares,
bright radiance invading the heart!
Drawn by the firelight, shadowy faces
flit in ever-mutating rings,
now like maidens singing sweetly,
now like moths with flamy wings.
Palm and sycamore burn together,
the bride sings with her own true love,

on golden flame and happy chorus
blow ardent zephyrs from above, etc.
The fire of rejoicing flames but a moment!
Gone in a moment are passion’s fires!
Glowing, fading, throbbing, wavering,
the last flicker leaps and expires.
The fire of rejoicing flames but a moment!
Glowing, fading, throbbing, wavering,
the last flicker leaps and expires.
Fire of rejoicing, etc.
(The fire dies down gradually: the storm has ceased
completely.)
... leaps and expires!
(Iago, Roderigo, Cassio and a group of soldiers are
gathered around a table on which wine has been
placed.)

IAGO
Roderigo, let’s drink !
(to Cassio)
Give me your cup, Captain!

CASSIO
I’ll drink no more.

IAGO (raising the jug towards Cassio’s cup)
Swallow this mouthful.

CASSIO (removing his cup)
No.

IAGO
But look! All Cyprus has gone mad today!
This is a night of rejoicing, so...

CASSIO
Enough. My head’s on fire already
after drinking one cup.

IAGO
Come, you must drink again.
To the marriage of Othello and Desdemona!

CYPRIOTS
Hurrah!

CASSIO (raising his glass and sipping the wine)
She makes this isle the fairer!

IAGO (aside to Roderigo)
Listen to him.

CASSIO
With her charm and radiance
she conquers every heart.

RODERIGO
Yet she is so modest.

CASSIO
You, Iago, will sing her praises,...

IAGO (aside to Roderigo)
Listen to him.
(aloud to Cassio)
I am but a critic.

CASSIO
... yet she paragons description.

IAGO (aside to Roderigo)
Beware of this Cassio.

RODERIGO
What do you fear?

IAGO (to Roderigo)
He prattles with too much enthusiasm,
spurred on by vigorous youth,
and is a subtle knave who’ll prove
a hindrance to you. Take care...

RODERIGO
And so?

IAGO
If he should get drunk he is lost!
Make him drink.
(to the tavern servants)
Some wine here, lads!
(Iago fills three glasses: one for himself, one
for Roderigo, one for Cassio. The servants
circulate among the guests with jugs of wine;
the crowd draws closer and looks on with curiosity.)
(with glass in hand, to Cassio)
Come wet your whistle! Drink deep, gulp it down
before song and glass both disappear!

CASSIO (with glass in hand, to Iago)
This true manna of the vine
with charming visions clouds the mind.

IAGO (to everyone)
Who has ever succumbed to the Bacchic ode
strange and fantastic,
come, drink with me, drink with me,
drink, drink, etc.
... come, drink with me!

RODERIGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS
Who has ever succumbed, etc.
he drinks with you,...

IAGO
Drink, drink...

RODERIGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS
... drinks with you...

IAGO
... drink, drink...

RODERIGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS
... drinks with you...
... drinks...

IAGO
... drink!

RODERIGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS
... drinks, drinks, drinks with you!

IAGO (to Roderigo, indicating Cassio)
One more sip and he’s tight as a drum.

RODERIGO (to Iago)
One more sip and he’s tight as a drum.

IAGO (to all)
When I get drunk the world vibrates!
I challenge the ironic Deity and fate!

CASSIO (drinking some more wine)
Like a melodious lute I quiver;
pleasure cavorts around my path!

IAGO
Who has ever succumbed, etc.


RODERIGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS, THEN IAGO
Who has ever succumbed, etc.

IAGO (to Roderigo)
One more sip and he’s tight as a drum.

RODERIGO (to Iago)
One more sip and he’s tight as a drum.

IAGO (out loud, to all)
From the potent flagon cowards fly...

CASSIO (interrupting)
I’m not afraid to bare my soul! ...
(drinks)

IAGO (interrupting)
... who have evil thoughts to hide.

CASSIO
I fear not, I fear not the truth ...
(staggering)

IAGO
Who has ever suc...
... to the Bacchic...
Drink with me, drink with me.

CASSIO
... I fear not the truth, etc.
... I fear not the truth, and I drink,
and I drink and I drink, and...

IAGO
Ah! Drink with me!

SOME BYSTANDERS (laughing)
Aha, aha, etc.
... aha, aha, etc.

CASSIO
The cup...

IAGO (to Roderigo)
He’s drunk as a lord...
... Away, provoke him
to an argument; he’s full of quarrel,
will strike you, general uproar will ensue!
Think, that by doing thus you can disturb
the happy Othello’s first night of love.


CASSIO
The brim... of the cup...
(his voice thickening even more)
The brim... of the cup... the brim...
(The others are laughing at him.)

RODERIGO (aside, replying to Iago)
And ’tis that that spurs me on.

CASSIO
... is pur... pur...
purple-stained ...

RODERIGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS
Ah, aha, aha, aha!
Drink, drink with me, etc.

IAGO
Drink, drink!

RODERIGO, IAGO, CYPRIOTS, SOLDIERS
Drink, drink, drink with me!

CASSIO
I drink drink, drink with you!
(They all drink.)

MONTANO (coming from the castle, to Cassio)
Captain, the watch awaits you on the platform.

CASSIO (staggering)
Let’s go then!

MONTANO
What’s this I see?

IAGO (to Montano, approaching him closely)
Every night in like manner
does Cassio prelude sleep.

MONTANO
Othello shall know about it!

CASSIO
Let’s go the the platform.

RODERIGO (laughing)
Ah! ah!...
... Ah! ah!

MEN
Ah! ah!

CASSIO
Who laughs?

RODERIGO (provoking him)
I laugh at a drunkard!

CASSIO
Defend yourself!
(flinging himself at Roderigo)
Scoundrel!

RODERIGO (defending himself)
Drunken rogue!

CASSIO
Knave! No one can save you now!

MONTANO
(separating them by force and turning to Cassio)
Hold your hand, sir, I pray you.

CASSIO (to Montano)
I’ll crack your head in two
if you seek to interfere!

MONTANO
Words of a drunkard...

CASSIO
A drunkard?
(He draws his sword. Montano draws his too.
A furious fight ensues. The crowd draws back.)

IAGO (aside to Roderigo)
Go to the port; with all the strength you have
cry out: Revolt! Revolt!
Go! Spread tumult, horror through the town,
let the bell sound the alarm!
(Roderigo runs off. Iago quickly turns to the
two combatants.)
Gentlemen, cease this barbarous brawl!

WOMEN (fleeing)
Let’s away!

IAGO
Heavens! Montano’s bleeding fast!
What a furious fight!

WOMEN
Let’s away! Let’s away!

IAGO
Hold!...

MEN
Hold!...

IAGO
Hold!

MEN
Hold!

WOMEN
They’re killing each other!

MEN
Peace!

IAGO
No one can stop this brawling now!
(to the bystanders)
Cry the alarm!
They are possessed by Satan!

MEN
To arms! To arms!

WOMEN, then ALL
Help! Help! etc.

MEN
To arms! To arms!

WOMEN, THEN ALL
Help! etc.
(Meanwhile the tocsin is pealing; the fight continues
and the women flee. Othello enters followed by
torchbearers. The bell falls silent.)

OTHELLO
Down with your weapons!
(The combatants stop fighting.)
How now! What is the matter here?
Am I among Saracens?
Or has the Ottomites’ rage infected you
with homicidal fury towards each other?

Honest Iago, for that love
you bear me, speak.

IAGO
I do not know...
Here all were courteous friends but now,
and cheerful too ... and then quite suddenly,
as if an evil planet had appeared
and cast a spell of witchcraft on men’s minds,
swords out and tilting furiously at each other.
Would I had severed these feet
before they brought me here!

OTHELLO
How comes it, Cassio, you are thus forgot?

CASSIO
Your mercy... pardon me...
I cannot speak...

OTHELLO
Montano...

MONTANO (supported by a soldier)
I am wounded...

OTHELLO
Wounded! Now by heaven
my blood begins to boil! Ah! Anger
puts to flight our guardian angel!
(Desdemona enters. Othello quickly goes to her.)
What? My gentle Desdemona too
has had her dreams disturbed on your
account? Cassio, you have lost your captaincy.
(Cassio lets his sword fall and Iago picks it up.)

IAGO
(handing the sword to one of the soldiers and speaking
aside)
Oh! What a triumph for me!

OTHELLO
Iago, go about the frightened town
with this patrol, restore the shattered peace.
(Iago leaves.)
Someone help Montano.
(Montano is helped into the castle.)
Let every one return to his own house.
(with an imperious gesture)

I shall not leave this place
until I see the battlements deserted.
(All depart. Othello makes a sign to the
torchbearers who accompanied him to return to
the castle. He and Desdemona remain alone.)

Now as the darkness deepens
all harsh sounds die away,
and now my turbulent heart
finds peace in this embrace
and calm refreshment.
Let cannons roar and all the world collapse
if after the immeasurable wrath
comes this immeasurable love!

DESDEMONA
My splendid warrior! What anguish,
what deep sighs and high hopes
have strewn the path to our glad union!
Oh, how sweet to murmur thus together!
Do you remember?
You used to tell me of your life in exile,
of violent deeds and suffering long endured,
and I would listen, transported by the tales
that terrified, but thrilled my heart as well.

OTHELLO
I would describe the clash of arms, the fight
and violent thrust toward the fatal breach,
the assault, when hands, like grisly tendrils,
clung to bastions amid the hissing darts.

DESDEMONA
Then you would lead me to the glaring desert,
to scorching sands, the country of your birth;
and then you would relate your sufferings,
tell me of chains and slavery’s agony.

OTHELLO
Softened was your lovely face by tears,
your lips by sighs, when I my story told;
upon my darkness shone a radiance,
heaven and all the stars in benediction!

DESDEMONA
And I descried upon your dusky temples
genius’ ethereal beauty shining there.

OTHELLO
You loved me for the dangers I had passed,
and I loved you that you did pity them.

DESDEMONA
I loved you for the dangers you had passed,
and you loved me that I did pity them.

OTHELLO
And you loved me...

DESDEMONA
And you loved me...

OTHELLO
... and I loved you...
... that you did pity them.

DESDEMONA
... that I did pity them.

OTHELLO
Let death come now, that in the ecstasy
of this embrace I meet my hour of hours!
(The storm clouds have now completely
(disappeared. There are stars in the sky and on
the rim of the horizon can be seen the azure
disc of the rising moon.)
Such is the rapture of my soul, I fear
that never more to me may be vouchsafed
to know such bliss in all the hidden future of my fate.

DESDEMONA
May heaven dispel all cares
and love change not throughout the changing years.

OTHELLO
To that prayer of yours
may all the heavenly host reply ‘‘amen’’!

DESDEMONA
‘‘Amen’’ be the reply!

OTHELLO
(leaning against the parapet)
Ah! Joy floods my breast so piercingly
that I must lay me down and pant for breath...
A kiss...

DESDEMONA
Othello!

OTHELLO
... a kiss...
another kiss!
(rising and looking at the sky)
The blazing Pleiades sinks beneath the waves.

DESDEMONA
The night is far advanced.

OTHELLO
Come... Venus is radiant!

DESDEMONA
Othello!
(Clasped in each other’s arms they go towards the castle.)
ACT TWO

A large chamber on the ground floor of the
castle. Glazed arches and a terrace divide the
chamber from the gardens beyond.

IAGO
(on the near side of the terrace, to Cassio,
on the far side)
Don’t torment yourself.
Heed what I say, and soon you’ll be restored
to the frolicsome embrace of mistress Bianca,
proud captain with your golden hilt
and decorated sword-belt.

CASSIO
Don’t flatter me.

IAGO
Listen carefully to me.
You must be aware that Desdemona
is now our general’s general;
he lives for her alone.
Do you beseech her that her gentle spirit
may intercede for you,
and your pardon is assured.

CASSIO
But how shall I speak to her?

IAGO
It is her custom in the afternoon to stroll
in the shade of those trees with my wife.
Wait for her there.
The way to your salvation now lies open;
go to it!
(Cassio walks away. Iago watches him.)
Go to it! Your end I see already.
You are driven by your daemon
and I am that daemon,
and I am dragged along by mine,
the inexorable God
in whom I believe.
(walking away from the terrace without another glance
at Cassio, who has now vanished among the trees)
I believe in a cruel God
who created me in his image
and who in fury I name.
From the very vileness of a germ
or an atom, vile was I born.
I am a wretch because I am a man,
and I feel within me the primeval slime.
Yes! This is my creed!
I believe with a heart as steadfast
as that of the widow in church,
that the evil I think
and that which I perform
I think and do by destiny’s decree.
I believe the just man to be a mocking actor
in face and heart;
that all his being is a lie,
tear, kiss, glance,
sacrifice and honour.
And I believe man the sport of evil fate
from the germ of the cradle
to the worm of the grave.
After all this mockery then comes Death.
And then?... And then?
Death is nothingness,
heaven an old wives’ tale.
(Desdemona appears, walking in the garden with Emilia.
Iago darts to the terrace, on the other side of which
Cassio is standing.)
(to Cassio)
There she is!... Cassio... it’s up to you!
Now’s the moment.

Rouse yourself... Here comes Desdemona.
(Cassio goes towards Desdemona, bows to her and steps closer.)
He’s made a move; he bows and approaches her.
Now let Othello be brought hither!...
Satan, assist my enterprise!
Now they speak together...
and, smiling, she turns her lovely face to him.
(Cassio and Desdemona are seen walking up and down
in the garden.)
I need but a single ray of such a smile
to drag Othello to his doom.
Away...
(starting to walk quickly away, then stopping suddenly)
But fate plays into my hands.
Here he comes... to my post, to work!
(He takes up a position by the terrace and stands there
motionless, his eyes fixed upon Cassio and Desdemona.
Othello enters; Iago pretends not to have seen him and
speaks as if to himself.)
I like not that...

OTHELLO (approaching Iago)
What are you saying?

IAGO
Nothing... You here?
An idle word escaped my lips.

OTHELLO
The man now leaving my wife, is that Cassio?
(They both turn away from the terrace.)

IAGO
Cassio? No... that man gave
a guilty start on seeing you.

OTHELLO
I believe it was Cassio.

IAGO
My lord...

OTHELLO
What is it?

IAGO
Did Cassio, in the early days of your courtship,
not know Desdemona?

OTHELLO
He did. Why do you ask?

IAGO
A thought crossed my mind,
whimsical, but without malice.

OTHELLO
Tell me your thought, Iago.

IAGO
Did you confide in Cassio?

OTHELLO
He would often carry
a gift or note to my bride.

IAGO
Indeed?

OTHELLO
Ay, indeed. Do you not think him honest?

IAGO (imitating Othello)
Honest?

OTHELLO
What are you hiding from me?

IAGO
What am I hiding, my lord?

OTHELLO
‘‘What am I hiding, my lord?’’
By heaven, you echo me!...
The inner chamber of your brain
harbours some terrible monster.
Indeed, I heard you saying even now,
‘‘ I like not that!’’
What did you not like? You mentioned Cassio
then did contract and purse your brow together.
Come, speak if you love me!

IAGO
You know that I love you.

OTHELLO
Speak then without concealment
or ambiguity.
Speak as you think,


and give your worst of thoughts
the worst of words!

IAGO
Even if my heart were in your hand
that thought you would not know.

OTHELLO
Ah!...

IAGO
(coming very close to Othello and speaking in an undertone)
Beware, my lord, of jealousy!
’Tis a spiteful monster, livid,
blind, with her own venom
self-poisoned, with a vivid
wound upon her bosom.

OTHELLO
O misery!
No! I have no use for baseless doubts.
Before doubt comes enquiry,
after doubt comes proof,
after the proof –
Othello has his supreme laws –
away with love and jealousy together.

IAGO (with greater urgency)
A statement such as that
breaks the seal upon my lips.
I speak not yet of proof,
but, bounteous Othello, look to it,
for often natures that are free and noble
do not suspect deception: look to it.
Observe well Desdemona’s speech;
a word could restore trust
or reaffirm suspicion.

DISTANT VOICES
Whereso’er you turn your gaze
light shines, hearts are afire,
whereso’er you walk cascades
of blossoms fill the air.
Here among lilies and roses,
as if to an altar chaste,
fathers, children and matrons,
come with serenades.

IAGO (in an undertone as before)
Here she comes... Observe her well!


(Desdemona reappears in the garden, on the
far side of the great central arch; she is
surrounded by women of the island, children
and Cypriot and Albanian sailors, who approach to offer
flowers, branches of blossom and other gifts. Some
accompany their own singing on the ‘‘guzla’’, a kind of
mandolin, others play on small harps which hang
around their necks.)

GROUP AROUND DESDEMONA
Whereso’er you turn your gaze
light shines, hearts are afire,
whereso’er you walk, cascades
of blossoms fill the air.
Here among lilies and roses,
as if to an altar chaste,
fathers, children and matrons
come with serenades.

CHILDREN
We proffer lilies, tender flowers,
by angels borne to heavenly bowers,
which ornament the gleaming mantle
and gown of the Madonna gentle
and her holy veil.

MEN AND WOMEN
While on the breezes wing
aloft the accents gay,
the nimble mandolin
accompanies the lay.

SAILORS
(offering trinkets of coral and pearl to Desdemona)
For you these shells and pearls and dyes
we culled from caves beneath the brine.
Desdemona with our gifts would we
bedeck like an image in a shrine.

CHILDREN AND WOMEN
While on the breezes, etc.

WOMEN (scattering leaves and flowers)
Take this flowery harvest we strew
from our kirtles upon the ground for you,
in showers upon the ground.
The April air the bride’s golden hair
doth in a shimmering aura of dew,
sunlit, surround.

CHILDREN, MEN
While on the breezes wing, etc.

ALL
Whereso’er you turn your gaze,
light shines, hearts are afire;
whereso’er you walk, cascades
of blossoms fill the air.
To this bower of lilies and roses,
as if to an altar chaste,
fathers, children and matrons
come with serenades.

DESDEMONA
The sky is shining, breezes
dance, flowers scent the air...

OTHELLO (gently moved)
That song subdues my heart!

DESDEMONA
... In my heart the songs
of joy, love, hope I hear.

IAGO (aside)
Beauty and love are in sweet harmony.

CHILDREN, MEN AND WOMEN
May you be happy!...

OTHELLO
If she be false to me...

DESDEMONA
Joy and love sing in my breast!

OTHELLO
...then Heaven mocks itself!

IAGO
...But I’ll untune the strings that make this music!

CHILDREN, MEN AND WOMEN
... May you be happy! Farewell!
Here Love is lord!

OTHELLO
That song subdues my heart.

IAGO (under his breath)
I’ll untune the strings that make this music!

(Desdemona kisses the heads of some of the children,
several women kiss the hem of her gown and she
presents a purse to the sailors. The group disperses.
Desdemona, followed by Emilia, enters the chamber and
approaches Othello.)

DESDEMONA (to Othello)
A man that languishes in your displeasure
has sent me with a suit.

OTHELLO
Who is’t you mean?

DESDEMONA
Cassio.

OTHELLO
Was it he who spoke with you just now
under those trees?

DESDEMONA
It was he, and his grief
so moved me by its sincerity
that he deserves forgiveness.
For him I intercede, for him I plead.
Forgive him.

OTHELLO
Not now.

DESDEMONA
Do not deny me.
Forgive him.

OTHELLO
Not now!

DESDEMONA
Why does your voice sound harsh?
Are you not well?

OTHELLO
My temples throb.

DESDEMONA (taking out her handkerchief and
making as if to bind Othello’s temples)
The troublesome fever will away
if with this soft linen
I bind your head.

OTHELLO (throwing the handkerchief to the ground)
I have no need of that.

DESDEMONA
You’re vexed, my lord.

OTHELLO
Leave me alone!
(Emilia picks up the handkerchief.)

DESDEMONA
If I in ignorance, my lord, have you offended,
O say the sweet and happy word of pardon.

OTHELLO (aside)
Haply because I am not practised
in the deceitful arts of love...

DESDEMONA
Your loving bride am I,
humble and submissive;
but sighs fall from your lips,
your eyes are fixed on the ground.
Look in my face and see
how love is there expressed!
Come, let me lighten your heart...

OTHELLO
... or for I am declined
into the vale of years,
or that my complexion
is of this dusky hue,
and that I am not practised
in love’s deceitful arts,
or that I am declined
into the vale of years,
or that my complexion
is of this dusky hue...

IAGO (aside, to Emilia)
Give me that handkerchief
you picked up just now!

EMILIA (to Iago)
What mischief’s in your mind?
I can read your face.

IAGO
You resist in vain
when I command!

EMILIA
Your wicked envy
well I know.

IAGO
Foolish suspicion!

EMILIA
A faithful guardian
is my hand...

IAGO
Give me that handkerchief!

EMILIA
... a faithful guardian
is my hand!

IAGO (siezing Emilia’s arm savagely)
My hand is poised
o’er you in anger!

EMILIA
Your wife am I,
not your slave!

IAGO
The unchaste slave
of Iago are you!

EMILIA
My heart forewarns me
of some calamity.

IAGO
Do you not fear me?

EMILIA
Cruel man!

IAGO
Give me...

EMILIA
What would you?

IAGO
Give me that handkerchief!

EMILIA
Cruel man!
(Iago snatches the handkerchief from Emilia.)

DESDEMONA
... let me soothe your pain!

EMILIA
Cruelty and cowardice
have clawed a victory.

OTHELLO
... she is lost
and I am mocked...

DESDEMONA
Look in my face and see
how love is there expressed!

OTHELLO
... and my heart is broken
and trampled in the mire
I see my dream of bliss!

EMILIA
May God ever keep us
safe from all danger!

IAGO
My hands already
grasp the threads;
now, Iago,
to weave the web!

EMILIA
Cruelty and cowardice
have clawed a victory!

OTHELLO
She is lost
and I am mocked...

DESDEMONA
Look in my face and see
how love is there expressed, etc.

OTHELLO
... and my heart is broken, etc.

EMILIA
May God ever keep us, etc.

IAGO
My hands already, etc.

DESDEMONA
Say the sweet and happy word of pardon!

OTHELLO
Hence! I would be alone.

IAGO (covertly, to Emilia who is about to leave)
Say nothing of this. You understand?
(Desdemona and Emilia leave. Iago makes a pretence of
leaving through the door at the back, but when he
reaches it he stops.)

OTHELLO (sinking exhausted upon a stool)
Desdemona false!...

IAGO
(at the back, looking surreptitiously at the handkerchief,
then replacing it carefully in his doublet)
With these threads shall I weave
the proof of the sin of love.
It shall be hidden in Cassio’s lodging.

OTHELLO
... Monstrous thought!

IAGO (looking fixedly at Othello)
My poison does its work.

OTHELLO
... False toward me! Toward me!!!

IAGO
Suffer and roar!

OTHELLO
Monstrous! Monstrous!

IAGO
(having approached Othello, good-naturedly)
Think no more of it.

OTHELLO (taken by surprise)
You! Hence! Avaunt!
You have lashed me to the cross! Alas!...
More monstrous than the most monstrous abuse
of abuse itself is suspicion.
Of her stolen hours of lust
(and stolen from me!)
had I no presentiment in my breast?
I was contented, merry...
Nothing knew I as yet;
I found not on her sweet body
which I so love
or on her lying lips
Cassio’s ardent kisses!
And now!... And now...
Now, and forever farewell, sacred memories,
farewell, sublime enchantments of the mind!
Farewell, shining battalions and victories,
the flying arrow and the flying steed!
Farewell to the standard triumphant and holy
and the shrill fife that sounded to reveille!
Pride, pomp and circumstance of war,
farewell! Farewell, Othello’s glory’s at an end!

IAGO
Be calm, my lord.

OTHELLO
Villain! Be sure to find a proof secure
that Desdemona’s unchaste...
Stay! Do not flee!
It would avail you nought!
Bring me the sure, the ocular proof!
Or on your head accumulate
and fall the bolts
of my terrible
wakened wrath!
(He seizes Iago by the throat and hurls him to the floor.)

IAGO
0 heavenly grace defend me!
(rising)
May heaven protect you!
1 am no longer your ensign.
The world may be my witness
that honesty is dangerous.
(He turns as if to leave.)

OTHELLO
No... stay.
You may be honest.

IAGO (by the door, making a pretence of leaving)
’Twere better had I been a charlatan.

OTHELLO
By the world!
I believe Desdemona to be loyal
and believe her not to be so;
I think that you are honest
and think you disloyal...
I’ll have some proof!
I must have certainty!

IAGO (moving towards Othello)
My lord, curb your anxieties.
What proof would satisfy you?
To see them clasped together?

OTHELLO
Oh! Death and damnation!

IAGO
That would be a difficult undertaking;
but of what assurance are you dreaming
if the filthy deed itself
forever must escape you?
But yet if reason be the guide to truth
I may propose a circumstance so strong
that it will lead you near to certainty.
Listen.
(approaching close to Othello)
It was night, Cassio lay sleeping,
I was close by him.
In broken phrases he was revealing
an inward enchantment.
Slowly, slowly his lips were moving
in the abandon of passionate dreams;
then he did speak with faint murmuring voice:
“Sweet Desdemona!
Let us hide our loves.
Let us be wary!
I am quite bathed in heavenly ecstasy!”
The pleasure of his dream intensified;
softly enraptured,
he seemed to almost kiss the inner vision,
then did he say:
“I curse the cruel fate


that gave thee to the Moor.”
And then the dream was changed
into blind lethargy.

OTHELLO
0 monstrous guilt!

IAGO
1 told you but a dream.

OTHELLO
A dream that reveals a fact.

IAGO
A dream that may
give substance to another circumstance.

OTHELLO
And which is that?

IAGO
Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief
embroidered with flowers in Desdemona’s hand,
of finer stuff than lawn?

OTHELLO
That is the handkerchief I gave her,
first token of my love.

IAGO
That handkerchief I saw – I am sure of it –
yesterday in the hand of Cassio!

OTHELLO
O, that God had given him a thousand lives!
One is too poor a prey for my revenge!
Iago, my heart is ice.
Banished be the spirits of mercy.
All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven.
Watch me...’tis gone!
In its snaky coils
the hydra has entwined me!
O, blood, blood, blood!
(He kneels.)
Now, by yond marble heaven!
By the jagged lightning-flash!
By Death, and by the dark
death-dealing ocean flood!
In fury and dire compulsion
shall thunder-bolts soon rain


(raising his hands to the sky)
from this hand that I raise outstretched!
(He starts to rise; Iago prevents him.)

IAGO (kneeling also)
Do not rise yet!
Witness, you sun that I gaze on,
which lights me and which animates
the broad earth and the spiritual expanse
of the whole universe,
that to Othello I do consecrate
ardently heart, hands and soul
even though on bloody business
his will be bent!

OTHELLO, IAGO
(raising their hands to heaven in an oath-taking gesture)
Now, by yond marble heaven!
By the jagged lightning-flash, etc.
God of vengeance!
ACT THREE

The great hall of the castle.
On the right a broad colonnade. This colonnade
is adjacent to a hall of smaller proportions.
A terrace at the far end.

A HERALD
(from the colonnade, to Othello who is with Iago in the hall)
The harbour watch has signalled
the arrival of the Venetian galley
which brings the ambassadors to Cyprus.

OTHELLO
Good.
(He makes a sign to dismiss the herald. The herald leaves.)
(to Iago)
Continue.

IAGO
I will bring Cassio here, and cunningly
will lure him on to gossip.
(indicating the embrasure on the terrace)
Hidden there,
you can observe his manner,
his words, his gibes, his gestures.

Have patience, or the proof will escape you.
Here comes Desdemona. ‘Twere expedient to
dissemble ...I’ll leave you.
(He starts to walk towards the door, then stops and
returns to say one last word to Othello.)
The handkerchief...

OTHELLO
Go! I would most gladly have forgot it.
(Iago goes out. Desdemona enters by the door on the left.)

DESDEMONA (still standing near the door)
God keep you happy, my husband,
sovereign of my soul!

OTHELLO
(going to meet Desdemona and taking her hand in his)
Thank you, my lady.
Give me your ivory hand.
Warm moistness bedews
its soft beauty.

DESDEMONA
It knows not yet the imprint
of sorrow or of age.

OTHELLO
And yet here lurks the plausible
devil of ill counsel,
who emblazons the ivory beauty
of this little claw-like limb.
With soft deceit he poses
as prayer and pious fervour...

DESDEMONA
And yet with this same hand
I gave my heart to you.
But I must speak again to you of Cassio.

OTHELLO
I have that pain again;
bind you my forehead.

DESDEMONA (unfolding a handkerchief)
Here, my lord.

OTHELLO
No! I would have the handkerchief
that I gave to you.

DESDEMONA
I have it not about me.

OTHELLO
Desdemona, woe if you should lose it! Woe!
A powerful sibyl devised
the magic web of it:
within it there reposes the high witchcraft
of a talisman.
Take heed! To lose it,
or give it away, were perdition!

DESDEMONA
Speak you the truth?

OTHELLO
I speak the truth.

DESDEMONA
You frighten me!...

OTHELLO
What!? Have you lost it then?

DESDEMONA
No...

OTHELLO
Fetch it.

DESDEMONA
In a little while... I shall fetch it...

OTHELLO
No, now!

DESDEMONA
You are making sport of me!
Thus you put me from my suit for Cassio;
your thought is cunning.

OTHELLO
By heaven! My soul is roused!
The handkerchief...

DESDEMONA
Cassio is your very dearest friend.

OTHELLO
The handkerchief!


DESDEMONA
To Cassio, to Cassio extend forgiveness...

OTHELLO
The handkerchief!

DESDEMONA
Great God! I hear a note
of menace in your voice!

OTHELLO
Raise your eyes!

DESDEMONA
Horrible fancy!

OTHELLO
(seizing her forcibly under the chin and by the
shoulders so that she has to look at him)
Look in my face!
Tell me who you are!

DESDEMONA
Othello’s faithful wife.

OTHELLO
Come, swear it, damn yourself...

DESDEMONA
Othello esteems me honest,

OTHELLO
Unchaste do I esteem you.

DESDEMONA
God help me!

OTHELLO
Hasten to your damnation,
swear that you are chaste.

DESDEMONA (meeting Othello’s eyes)
I am chaste.

OTHELLO
Swear it and damn yourself!

DESDEMONA
Horror-struck, I gaze into
your stern and terrifying eyes,
I hear a fury in your words

but do not comprehend them.
Look at me! My face, my soul
I show you; my stricken heart
search well... I pray to heaven
for you with these my tears;
for you these burning drops
I shed upon the ground.
Behold the first tears ever wrung
from me by suffering.
The first tears!

OTHELLO
If your daemon were to see you now
he’d take you for an angel
and not seize you.

DESDEMONA
The Eternal sees my innocence!

OTHELLO
No! Hell sees it!

DESDEMONA
Your justice, I implore, my lord!

OTHELLO
Ah! Desdemona! Away!
Away! Away!

DESDEMONA
You also weep?! and groaning
stem the anguish of your heart!
And am I then the innocent
motive of these tears!
What sin have I committed?

OTHELLO
And would you ask?
The blackest of crimes
upon the lily fairness
of your brow is written.

DESDEMONA
Alas!

OTHELLO
What? Are you not a common courtesan?

DESDEMONA
Heaven!


No ... no ... by the baptism
of the Christian faith!

OTHELLO
What?

DESDEMONA
Ah! I am not the thing expressed
by that horrendous word!
(Othello’s mood changing suddenly from the most
towering rage to an even more terrifying ironic calm, he
takes Desdemona’s hand and leads her to the door by
which she had previously entered.)

OTHELLO
Give me your ivory hand again,
I would make amends.
I took you (forgive me
if my thought displeases you)
for that common courtesan
that married with Othello.
(With a movement of his arm alone, Othello pushes
Desdemona out of the door without losing his
composure. Then, in the very depths of despair, he
returns to the middle of the hall.)
God! Thou couldst have rained upon my head
every affliction of poverty and shame,
made of my heroic battle-honours
a heap of ruination and a lie ...
and I should have borne the cruel cross
of torment and disgrace
with patience
and resigned me to the will of heaven.
But – oh tears, oh pain! –
to rob me of that vision
in which my soul was garnered joyfully!
That sun has been snuffed out,
that smile, that ray
which gives me life and happiness!
That sun has been snuffed out, etc.
Mercy, thou immortal
rose-lipped cherubin,
cover at the last thy holy face
with the horrid mask of hell!
Ah! Damnation!
Let her first confess her crime,
then die!
Confession! Confession!
(Iago enters.)

The proof!...

IAGO (pointing to the door)
Cassio is here!

OTHELLO
Here?! Heaven! Oh joy!
(recoiling)
Oh horror! Torture most foul!

IAGO
Restrain yourself!
(rapidly leading Othello to the back of the hall on the
left, where there is a recess on the terrace)
Hide.
(As soon as Iago has led Othello onto the terrace, he
runs to the end of the colonnade. There he meets
Cassio, who is hesitating to enter the hall.)
(to Cassio)
Come; the hall’s deserted.
Enter, O Captain.

CASSIO
This honourable name
still rings hollow for me.

IAGO
Take heart; your cause is in such hands
that victory is certain.

CASSIO
I had thought to have found Desdemona here.

OTHELLO (hidden)
He spoke her name!

CASSIO
I looked to speak further with her
to ask if I am pardoned.

IAGO
Wait for her;
(leading Cassio to the first pillar of the colonnade)
and meanwhile, seeing that you never tire
in the recital of mad and merry tales,
tell me a little about her whom you love.

CASSIO
Of whom?

IAGO
Of Bianca.

OTHELLO (aside)
He smiles!

CASSIO
What nonsense!

IAGO
Her charming eye has you in thrall.

CASSIO
You make me laugh.

IAGO
He laughs who wins.

CASSIO (laughing)
In such exchanges, truly,
he wins who laughs! Ah, ah!

IAGO (laughing)
Ah, ah!

OTHELLO (on the terrace)
The villain mocks me,
his scorn is mortal to me.
Oh God, restrain the torment in my heart!...

CASSIO
I am already sated with kisses and reproaches.

IAGO
You make me laugh!

CASSIO
O fleeting love!

IAGO
Another beauty beckons with her charms.
Have I hit the mark?

CASSIO
Ah, ah!

IAGO
Ah, ah!

OTHELLO (as before)
The villain mocks me,
his scorn is mortal to me.
Oh God, restrain the torment in my heart!

CASSIO
You have hit the mark.
Yes, I confess it. Listen.

IAGO
Speak softly. I’am listening.
(Iago leads Cassio to a place further away from Othello).

CASSIO
Iago, you know my lodging...
(The words are lost.)

OTHELLO
(coming cautiously a little nearer to overhear the conversation)
Now he recounts the manner,
the place and time...

CASSIO
... by an unknown hand...
(The words are lost again.)

OTHELLO
I cannot hear the words ...
alas!... and I would hear them!
To what am I come!

CASSIO
... a fine embroidered handkerchief.

IAGO
’Tis strange! ’Tis strange!

OTHELLO
Iago beckons me.
(emerging with caution and hiding behind the pillars)

IAGO
By an unknown hand? Nonsense!

CASSIO
Truly.
(Iago signs to him to speak softly.)

How I long to know who it might be.

IAGO
(aside, glancing quickly towards Othello)
Othello is looking.
(to Cassio)
You have it with you?

CASSIO
(taking Desdemona’s handkerchief from his doublet)
Look.

IAGO (taking the handkerchief)
What a miracle!
(aside)
Othello listens. He approaches
with wary steps.
(to Cassio, playfully)
Fine cavalier, in your abode
angels lose their haloes and their veils.
(putting his hands behind his back so that Othello can
see the handkerchief)

OTHELLO
(looking closely at the handkerchief behind Iago’s back,
remaining hidden behind the pillar)
’Tis the one! ’Tis the one!
Destruction and death!

IAGO (aside)
Othello is listening.

OTHELLO
All is gone, love and grieving both.
Nothing more can touch my heart.

IAGO (eyeing Cassio, indicating the handkerchief)
This is a spider’s web,
‘twill your heart catch,
in spite of complaining
‘twill trap and dispatch.
Too much you’re admiring,
too long you are eyeing,
beware of such transports
abortive and lying.
This is a spider’s web, etc.

CASSIO
(looking at the handkerchief which he has taken again from Iago)
Fair miracle, wrought by the needle, which caught


rays of light by transmuting the linen so fair,
whiter and lighter than snowflakes,
and brighter than clouds which are woven from
heaven’s sweet air!

IAGO
This is a spider’s web,
’twill your heart catch ...
... in spite of complaining
’twill trap and dispatch.

CASSIO
Fair miracle ...

IAGO
This is a spider’s web, etc.

OTHELLO
(hidden behind the pillar and casting glances from time
to time at the handkerchief in Cassio’s hand)
Betrayal,
betrayal, betrayal,
the proof,
the terrifying proof
thou displayest to the sun!

IAGO
Too much you’re admiring, etc.
Ah, beware,
this is a spider’s web, etc.

CASSIO
... whiter and lighter, etc.
Miracle, fair miracle ...
... fair miracle!

OTHELLO
Betrayal! ...

IAGO
Too much you admire it!

OTHELLO
... betrayal!
(returning to the terrace)

IAGO
Beware! Beware!
(Distant trumpets are heard. Others answer them from
the castle. A cannon shot.)


That is the signal to announce
the arrival of the Venetian trireme.
(Trumpets sound from different directions).
Listen.
All the castle’s trumpeters reply.
If you do not want to meet Othello here, go now.

CASSIO
Farewell.

IAGO
Go.
(Cassio leaves hurriedly through the back end.)

OTHELLO (coming up to Iago)
How shall I kill her?

IAGO
Did you perceive well how he laughed?

OTHELLO
I saw!

IAGO
And the handkerchief?

OTHELLO
I saw it all.

VOICES IN THE DISTANCE
Hurrah!
To the shore! To the landing-place!

OTHELLO
She is condemned!

DISTANT VOICES
Hurrah!

OTHELLO
Get me some poison
for tonight.

IAGO
Poison, no...

DISTANT VOICES
Long live the Lion of St. Mark!

IAGO
... rather suffocate her,
there in her bed,
even the bed where she has sinned.

OTHELLO
Your sense of justice pleases me.

IAGO
As for Cassio, I shall see to him.

OTHELLO
Iago, from this moment
I name you my captian

IAGO
My General, I give you thanks.
Here come the ambassadors.
Do you receive them.
But to avoid suspicion
Desdemona should come before these lords.

OTHELLO
Yes, bring her here.
(Iago leaves by the door on the left; Othello
goes towards the far end of the hall to receive
the ambassadors. Trumpets sound again,
Iago re-enters with Lodovico, the herald,
Desdemona with Emilia, dignitaries of the
Venetian Republic, ladies and gentlemen,
soldiers, trumpeters and then Cassio.)

MEN AND WOMEN
Hurrah! Hurrah!
Long live the Lion of St. Mark!
Hurrah! Hurrah! etc.
Long live the Lion of St. Mark!

LODOVICO
(holding a rolled-up parchment in his hand)
The Duke and senators of Venice greet
the triumphant hero of Cyprus.
I place in your hands
the ducal document.

OTHELLO
(taking the parchment and kissing the seal)
I kiss the seal of sovereign majesty.
(opens it and reads)

LODOVICO (going up to Desdemona)
My lady, may heaven
keep You in its care.

DESDEMONA
May heaven heed your prayer.

EMILIA (aside to Desdemona)
How sad you look!

DESDEMONA (aside to Emilia)
Emilia! There’s a great shadow fallen
upon Othello’s mind
and upon my destiny.

IAGO (to Lodovico)
Signor, I am very glad to see you.

LODOVICO
Iago, what’s the news?...
I do not see Cassio amongst you.

IAGO
Othello is angered with him.

DESDEMONA
I think he will be restored to favour.

OTHELLO
(continuing to read; rapidly aside to Desdemona)
Are you sure of that?

DESDEMONA
My lord?

LODOVICO
He reads, and speaks not to you.

IAGO
Perhaps he will be restored to favour.

DESDEMONA
Iago, I hope so;
you know what real affection
I have for Cassio...

OTHELLO
(still reading, but speaking feverishly under his breath to
Desdemona)
Restrain your babbling tongue...


DESDEMONA
Forgive me, my lord...

OTHELLO (flinging himself at Desdemona)
Devil, be silent!

LODOVICO
(preventing Othello from striking Desdemona)
Stop!

MEN AND WOMEN
Oh horror! Oh horror!

LODOVICO
I dare not believe
that my eyes have truly seen.

OTHELLO (to the herald)
Send Cassio to me!
(The herald leaves.)

IAGO (aside to Othello)
What would you do?

OTHELLO (aside to Iago)
Watch her as he enters.

MEN AND WOMEN
Ah! Unhappy bride!

LODOVICO
(approaching Iago and speaking to him aside)
Is this then the hero?
Is this the warrior
of such noble daring?

IAGO (to Lodovico, shrugging his shoulders)
He’s that he is.

LODOVICO
Explain what you mean.

IAGO
It is better to hold one’s tongue.

OTHELLO (who has been watching the door fixedly)
Here he is! ’Tis he!
(Cassio appears.)

(to Iago:)
Watch him well.
(aloud, to the company:)
My lords!... The Duke...
(aside to Desdemona, who is weeping:)
– oh well-painted passion –
(to the company:)
... has recalled me to Venice.

RODERIGO (aside)
Unjust fate!

OTHELLO
And as my successor in Cyprus elects
he who stood by my standard –
Cassio.

IAGO (surprised, in a fierce aside)
Death and the devil take it!

OTHELLO
(continuing his speech and showing the document)
The ducal command is our law.

CASSIO (bowing to Othello)
I will obey.

OTHELLO
(rapidly to Iago, nodding towards Cassio)
You see?...The villain does not seem well pleased.

IAGO
No.

OTHELLO (to the company)
The ship’s crew and garrison...
(aside, to Desdemona)
– Proceed you in your tears –
(aloud)
... the ships and castle,
I leave in charge of my successor.

LODOVICO
(pointing to Desdemona who approaches Othello supplicatingly)
Othello, prithee comfort her,
or you will break her heart.

OTHELLO (to Lodovico and Desdemona)
We shall embark tomorrow.
(He seizes Desdemona in fury. She falls.)
(to Desdemona)
Down!... And weep!
(Othello, in his act of violence, has thrown the document
to the ground; Iago picks it up and reads it, taking care
not to be seen. Lodovico and Emilia sympathetically
support Desdemona.)

DESDEMONA
Down!... yes... in the livid slime
stricken... I lie... I weep...
chilled by the icy touch
of death upon my soul.
And once upon a time my smile
would quicken hope and kisses,
and now... I have anguish in my face
and agony in my heart!
That sun so calm and bright
that brings joy to sky and sea,
can never dry the bitter drops
of my pain,
the bitter teardrops of my pain!

EMILIA (aside)
Innocent of heart, no word
of hate she speaks, no gesture makes,
but locks her pain within her heart
with sorrowful restraint.

CASSIO (aside)
Fate hangs upon the hour! A flash
of lightning shows it on my path;
the highest prize that fate affords
is offered to my passive hand.

RODERIGO (aside)
Darkness falls upon my world,
mist shrouds my destiny;
that angel sweet and golden-haired
vanishes from my path.

LODOVICO (aside)
His funerary fist
he shakes and pants with rage,
she her ethereal face
turns weeping to the sky.

WOMEN (to Othello)
Have pity!... Have pity!

MEN
...’Tis strange!

LODOVICO
His funerary fist...

WOMEN
Have pity! Have pity!

DESDEMONA
And once upon a time my smile
would quicken hope and kisses...

EMILIA
The tears fall silently
upon her sorrowing cheek;...

CASSIO
Reeling Fortune presses hard
upon the swift heels of time.

RODERIGO
That angel sweet
vanishes from my path.

LODOVICO
... he shakes and pants with rage,
she her ethereal face
turns weeping to the sky!

WOMEN
Have pity! Have pity! etc.

MEN
’Tis strange! ’Tis strange!
(Iago draws close to Othello who has collapsed onto a
chair.)

IAGO
A word with you.

OTHELLO
What is it?

IAGO
Make haste!

Let your vengeance be swift!
Time flies.

OTHELLO
You speak truly.

IAGO
Angry words are idle gossip. Act!
Aim at the objective, that alone!
I shall deal with Cassio.
He shall pay for his intrigues,
and hell shall swallow up his guilty soul!

OTHELLO
Who will pluck it from him?

IAGO
I myself.

OTHELLO
You?

IAGO
I have sworn.

OTHELLO
So be it.

IAGO
You shall hear more tonight.

DESDEMONA
... and now with anguish in my face
and agony in my heart...
on the ground... in the slime... stricken...
I lie...
chilled by the icy touch
of death upon my soul.

EMILIA
... no, he who weeps not for her
has no pity in his heart.
Innocent of heart, etc.

CASSIO
That which lifts me up so high
is a storm-driven tidal wave.
Reeling Fortune presses hard

upon the swift heels of time.
That which lifts me up, etc.

RODERIGO
Darkness falls upon my world, etc.

LODOVICO
She her ethereal face
turns weeping to the sky.
To see such tears as these
Pity itself might sigh,
and a stirring of compassion
melt an icy heart.

WOMEN
Mortal care weighs sullenly upon
these souls who writhe in long-drawn agony.

MEN
This black man has a graveyard air,
a sightless shadow sits within
of death and terror made!

EMILIA
The tears fall silently
upon her sorrowing cheek...

CASSIO
Reeling Fortune presses, etc.

RODERIGO
Darkness falls upon my world, etc.

LODOVICO
To see such tears as these, etc.

WOMEN
O cruel sight!
Mortal care, etc.

MEN
His nails tear at his fearsome breast!
His eyes are fixed upon the ground.
Now his dusky fist he shakes at heaven,
raising his shaggy face
towards the darts of the sun.

DESDEMONA
And once upon a time my smile...

EMILIA
... no, he who weeps not for her
has no pity.

CASSIO
That which lifts me up so high
is a storm-driven tidal wave.

RODERIGO
That angel sweet and golden-haired
vanishes from my path.

LODOVICO
... a stirring of compassion...

WOMEN
O cruel sight!

MEN
His nails tear, etc.
(Iago turns his attention to Roderigo.)

IAGO
Your dreams will be upon the seas tomorrow,
and you on the bitter shore!

RODERIGO
Ah, misery!

IAGO
Ah stupidity! Stupidity!
If you will, you may hope yet;
come, show yourself a man! Gird your loins, and listen.

RODERIGO
I hear you.

IAGO
The ship departs at first light.
Now Cassio is governor.
However, if some accident should befall him,
Othello must linger here.
Your hand on your sword!
When it is dark I’ll supervise his steps
and watch his destination and the hour,
the rest is up to you. I will be near.

A-hunting we will go!
Arm yourself for the fray!

RODERIGO
Yes! I have sold you my honour and faith.
(The voices of Iago and Roderigo become lost among
the others.)

DESDEMONA
... quickened hope and kisses, etc.

EMILIA
No, he who weeps not for her
has no pity in his heart, etc.

CASSIO
Reeling Fortune presses, etc.

LODOVICO
... melt an icy heart.
He who weeps not for her, etc.

WOMEN
O cruel sight! He struck her!
That saint-like face, so pale and gentle,
is mutely bowed, and weeps and dies.
In heaven do the angels
shed such tears as these
when before them, lost, the sinner lies.

MEN
His eyes are fixed upon the ground.
His dusky fist, etc.

WOMEN
That saint-like face...

EMILLIA
Innocent of heart, no word...

CASSIO
Reeling Fortune presses...

RODERIGO (walking away from Iago)
The die is cast!

IAGO (aside, watching Roderigo)
Go, chase the rainbow!

LODOVICO
To see such tears as these...

WOMEN
... so pale and gentle...

MEN
This black man has a graveyard air!

WOMEN
... is mutely bowed...

EMILIA
... of hate she speaks nor gesture makes,...

CASSIO
... at the swift heels of time,...

RODERIGO
The die is cast!

IAGO
Go, chase the rainbow!

LODOVICO
Pity heaves a sigh...

WOMEN
... and weeps and dies.

MEN
This black man has a graveyard air!

DESDEMONA
And once upon a time my smile...
... would quicken hope and kisses, etc.

EMILIA
... of hate she speaks, etc.

CASSIO
... Reeling Fortune presses, etc.

LODOVICO
... Pity heaves a sigh, etc.

IAGO
Go, chase the rainbow ! Your enfeebled sense
is by a web of lying dreams enmeshed, etc.

Follow the scheme my shrewd, swift wit presents,
deluded lover, I follow but myself, etc.

RODERIGO
The die is cast! Undaunted, I await
the final outcome, hidden destiny, etc.
Love spurs me on, and yet my path is plagued
by death’s dark planet, avid, menacing, etc.

WOMEN/MEN (as before)

OTHELLO
(rising and turning on the crowd
with menacing fury)
Hence, avaunt!

ALL
Heaven!

OTHELLO (hurling himself upon the crowd)
All flee Othello!

IAGO (to everyone)
He is assailed by some enchantment
that deprives him of his wits.

OTHELLO
Whoever does not remove himself
is in rebellion against me!

LODOVICO (trying to drag Desdemona away)
Come with me.

MEN (in the distance)
Hurrah!
(Fanfares are heard in the distance.)

DESDEMONA
(tearing herself away from Lodovico and running to Othello)
My lord!

OTHELLO
My soul, I curse you!

MEN AND WOMEN
Oh horror!

(Overwhelmed by horror, all leave the hall; Desdemona
leaves supported by Lodovico and Emilia. Iago and
Othello remain alone.)

OTHELLO
I alone cannot flee myself!
Blood!... O vile thought!
(becoming breathless)
I like not that!
(convulsively, raving)
To see them clasped together...
The handkerchief! The handkerchief!
O! O! O!
(faints)

IAGO (aside)
My poison’s working.

MEN (within)
Long live Othello!

IAGO (listening to the cries)
His victory is hailed...

MEN
Hurrah! Hurrah!

IAGO
... for the last time.

MEN
Hurrah!

IAGO
(eyeing Othello stretched on the ground unconscious)
Who can stop me crushing
this head beneath my heel?

MEN (nearer)
Hurrah! Long live Othello!
Hail to the Lion of Venice!

IAGO
(standing erect and, with a loathsome gesture of
triumph, pointing to the inert Othello)
Behold the Lion!
ACT FOUR

Desdemona’s bedroom. A bed, a prie-dieu, a table, a
mirror and some chairs. A lighted lamp hangs before
the image of the Madonna above the prie-dieu. On the
right is a door. It is night.
(Desdemona, with the assistance of Emilia, is preparing
for bed.)

EMILIA
Was he calmer?

DESDEMONA
He seemed so to me.
He commanded me to go to bed
and there await him.
Emilia, I pray you,
lay upon my bed
my white wedding nightgown.
(Emilia does so.)
Listen.
If I should die before you,
lay me to rest in one of those veils.

EMILIA
Put such thoughts from you.

DESDEMONA
I am so sad, so sad.
(seating herself mechanically before the mirror)
My mother had a poor maidservant,
she was in love and pretty;
her name was Barbara;
she loved a man who then abandoned her.
She used to sing a song,
the song of “The Willow”.
(to Emilia)
Unbind my hair.
This evening
my memory is haunted
by that old refrain.
“She wept as she sang on the lonely heath,
the poor girl wept,
O Willow, Willow, Willow!
She sat with her head upon her breast,
Willow, Willow, Willow!
Come sing! Come sing!
The green willow shall be my garland.”

(to Emilia)
Make haste; Othello will soon be here.
“The fresh streams ran between the flowery
banks, she moaned in her grief,
in bitter tears which through her eyelids sprang
her poor heart sought relief.
Willow! Willow! Willow!
Come sing! Come sing!
The green willow shall be my garland.
Down from dark branches flew the birds
towards the singing sweet.
Sufficient were the tears that she did weep
that stones her sorrow shared.”
(to Emilia, taking a ring from her finger)
Lay this ring by.
(rising)
Poor Barbara!
The story used to end
with this simple phrase:
“He was born for glory,
I to love...”
(to Emilia)
Hark! I heard a moan.
(Emilia takes a step or two.)
Hush... Who knocks upon that door?

EMILIA
‘Tis the wind.

DESDEMONA
“I to love him and to die.
Come sing! Come sing!
Willow! Willow! Willow!”
Emilia, farewell.
How mine eyes do itch!
That bodes weeping.
Good night.
(Emilia turns to leave.)
Ah! Emilia, Emilia, farewell!
Emilia, farewell!
(Emilia returns and Desdemona embraces
her. Emilia leaves.)
(kneeling at the prie-dieu)
Hail Mary, full of grace,
blessed amongst wives and maids art thou,
and blessed is the fruit, o blessed one,
of thy maternal womb, Jesu.
Pray for those who kneeling adore thee,

pray for the sinner, for the innocent
and for the weak oppressed; and to the powerful man,
who also grieves, thy sweet compassion show.
Pray for him who bows beneath injustice
and ‘neath the blows of cruel destiny;
for us, pray thou for us,
pray for us always,
and at the hour of our death
pray for us, pray for us,
pray!
(She remains kneeling and, with her head bowed on the
prie-dieu, repeats the prayer silently, so that only the
first words and the last are audible. )
Hail Mary ...
... and at the hour of our death.
Hail! Amen!
(She rises from her knees and goes to bed.)
(Othello appears on the threshold of a secret door ...
He comes forward ... places his scimitar on the table
... hesitates in front of the candle, wondering whether
to put it out or not ... Looks at Desdemona ... Puts out
the light ... Makes a gesture of fury ... Approaches the
bed ... Stops ... Raises the drapes and stands for a
long time contemplating the sleeping Desdemona... He
gives her a kiss... another kiss... and
another one. Desdemona awakens.)

DESDEMONA
Who’s there?
(raising herself)
Othello?

OTHELLO
Ay! ...
Have you prayed tonight?

DESDEMONA
I prayed...

OTHELLO
If you bethink yourself
of any crime
unreconciled as yet to heaven and grace,
solicit for it straight.

DESDEMONA
What mean you?

OTHELLO
Be brief!
I would not kill your spirit.

DESDEMONA
Talk you of killing?

OTHELLO
I do.

DESDEMONA
Then God have mercy on me!

OTHELLO
Amen.

DESDEMONA
And you have mercy too!

OTHELLO
Think on your sins.

DESDEMONA
My sin is love.

OTHELLO
For that you die!

DESDEMONA
Because I love you you would kill me?

OTHELLO
Cassio is your love!

DESDEMONA
No! By my life and soul!

OTHELLO
That handkerchief which I gave you
you gave to him.

DESDEMONA
It is not true!

OTHELLO
I saw it in his hand.

DESDEMONA
I am not guilty!

OTHELLO
Confess!

DESDEMONA
I swear it!

OTHELLO
Take heed of perjury...
Think that you are on your deathbed.

DESDEMONA
But not to die.

OTHELLO
To die presently.

DESDEMONA
God help me!
I do not love Cassio...
Send for him hither... let him speak.

OTHELLO
His mouth is stopped for ever.

DESDEMONA
What!... is he dead?

OTHELLO
Dead.

DESDEMONA,
I am undone, and he betrayed!

OTHELLO
And you dare to weep for him?

DESDEMONA
Othello, do not kill me...

OTHELLO
You strive in vain.

DESDEMONA
Let me live...
... longer, let me live longer,
let me live!

OTHELLO
Down, fall, down, fall,
strumpet!

DESDEMONA
Mercy!

OTHELLO
Die!!

DESDEMONA
Let me live tonight...

OTHELLO
No!

DESDEMONA
One hour...

OTHELLO
No!

DESDEMONA
An instant.

OTHELLO
No!

DESDEMONA
But while I say one prayer.

OTHELLO
It is too late!
(He smothers her.)

DESDEMONA
Ah! ...
(A knocking is heard at the door on the right.)

OTHELLO
(contemplating the inert form of Desdemona)
As quiet as the grave.
(further knocking at the door)

EMILIA (without)
Unlock the door!

OTHELLO (starting)
Who is there? Who knocks?

EMILIA (knocking again)
O, good my lord, I do beseech
that I may speak with you...
Unlock the door!

OTHELLO (opening the door)
Emilia! What’s the matter?

EMILIA (entering)
Yonder’s foul murder done!
Cassio has killed Roderigo!

OTHELLO
And Cassio?

EMILIA
Lives.

OTHELLO
Cassio lives!!

DESDEMONA (from the bed)
Falsely...
falsely killed...

EMILIA (running towards the bed)
What cry is that?...
O horror!

DESDEMONA
A guiltless death I die...

EMILIA
Great God! Who did this deed?

DESDEMONA
Nobody... I myself...
Commend me to my lord...
A guiltless death I die...
Farewell...
(dies)

OTHELLO
O liar!
’Twas I that killed her.

EMILIA
Murderer!

OTHELLO
She was Cassio’s whore.
Ask Iago else.

EMILIA
Iago?

OTHELLO
Iago.

EMILIA
O dolt! And you believed him?

OTHELLO (about to strike Emilia)
Dare you deny it?

EMILIA
I fear you not.

OTHELLO (seizing her)
Take care!

EMILIA
Ho there! Help, ho! Help!
(freeing herself she runs toward the door, crying out)
Othello has killed Desdemona!
(Lodovico, Cassio and Iago enter, followed later by
Montano and some armed men.)

CASSIO, IAGO, LODOVICO
What cries are these!
(seeing Desdemona)
O horror, horror!

EMILIA (to Iago)
Iago, disprove this vile murderer.
Did you believe Desdemona was false?
Speak!

IAGO
Such I believed her.

OTHELLO
That handkerchief that I had given her
she gave to Cassio.

EMILIA
O heavenly powers!

IAGO (to Emilia)
Hold your tongue!

EMILIA
No, I will tell all!

IAGO
Hold your tongue!

EMILIA
No!
This man from my hand
the handkerchief did wrench
by use of force.

CASSIO
And in my lodging I found the handkerchief.

MONTANO (entering and pointing to Iago)
Roderigo as he died revealed to me
the devilish machinations of this man.

OTHELLO (to Iago)
Ah! Vindicate yourself!

IAGO (fleeing)
No!

LODOVICO
Stop!

MONTANO
After him!
(Several leave to pursue Iago.)

CASSIO, LODOVICO
Seize him!

OTHELLO
(with a bound, reaching and grasping his sword)
And has the heaven no more thunder bolts?

LODOVICO
Give me the sword!

OTHELLO
Would you dare?
Let no one fear me
though he see me armed.

Here is my journey’s end ...
Oh! Glory!
Othello’s day is done.
(Letting his sword fall to the ground, he goes to the bed
and gazes at Desdemona.)
And thou... how pale thou art!
And weary, and mute, and beautiful,
pious creature, born ‘neath an evil star.
Cold, even like thy chastity,
and gathered into heaven.
Desdemona! Desdemona!
Ah!... Dead! Dead! Dead!
(furtively producing a dagger from his robe)
I have another weapon!
(stabs himself)

CASSIO
Ah, stop!

LODOVICO, MONTANO
O bloody period!

OTHELLO
Before I killed thee, wife, I kissed thee thus.
Now dying... in the shadow where I lie...
a kiss... another kiss...
ah!... another kiss...
(dies)