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SCENE I. Venice. A Street.


Rod. TUSH! never tell me; I take it much unkindly,

That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse

As if the strings were thine, should'st know of this.'
Iago. 'Sblood! but you will not hear me:
If ever I did dream of such a matter,

Abhor me.

Rod. Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.

Iago. Despise me, if I do not.2 Three great ones of the city,

That is, the intended elopement. Roderigo has been suing for Desdemona's hand, employing Iago to aid him in his suit, and paying his service in advance. Of course the play opens pat upon her elopement with the Moor, and Roderigo presumes Iago to have been in the secret of their intention. The words, Tush in this speech, and 'Sblood in the next, are not in the folio.



2 Admirable is the preparation, so truly and peculiarly Shakespearian, in the introduction of Roderigo, as the dupe on whom Iago shall first exercise his art, and in so doing display his own character. Roderigo, without any fixed principle, but not without the moral notions and sympathies with honour which his rank and connections had hung upon him, is already well fitted and predisposed for the purpose; for very want of character, and strength of passion, like wind loudest in an empty house, constitute his character. The first three lines happily state the nature and VOL. X.



In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capp'd 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 circumlocution

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;
And, in conclusion,*


foundation of the friendship between him and Iago, -the purse,
-as also the contrast of Roderigo's intemperance of mind with
Iago's coolness, the coolness of a preconceiving experimenter.
The mere language of protestation,- -"If ever I did dream of
such a matter, abhor me," which, falling in with the associative
link, determines Roderigo's continuation of complaint, -"Thou
told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate," - elicits at length a
true feeling of Iago's mind, the dread of contempt habitual to those
who encourage in themselves, and have their keenest pleasure in,
the expression of contempt for others. Observe Iago's high self-
opinion, and the moral, that a wicked man will employ real feel-
ings, as well as assume those most alien from his own, as instru-
ments of his purposes.
3 So the folio; the quartos, Oft capp'd." To cap was often
used for a salutation of respect, made by taking off the cap. Mod-
ern editors generally prefer the quarto reading here. Knight, who
adopts that of the folio, supports it with an argument that seems
pretty conclusive: "As we read the passage, three great ones of
the city wait upon Othello; they off-capp'd· they took cap in
hand-in personal suit that he should make Iago his lieutenant :
but he evades them, &c.; he has already chosen his officer. Here
is a scene befitting both the dignity of the great ones of the city
and of Othello. The audience was given, the solicitation humbly
made, the reasons for refusing it courteously assigned. But take
the reading, oft capp'd, and we have Othello perpetually haunted
by the three great ones, capping to him and repeating the same
prayer, and he perpetually denying them with the same bombast
circumstance." The only reply to this is, that Iago is so nimble
and so fertile a liar, that we can scarce take his words in any case
as a just account of what the Moor has done. For the only ques-
tion with him is, not what is true, but what will be believed. But
the sense of the folio reading seems more in proportion to the gul-
lability of the gull. Circumstance is circumlocution; often so
used. Thus in The Merchant of Venice, Act i. sc. 1: "You
know me well, and herein spend but time, to wind about my love
with circumstance.


4 The words, " And, in conclusion," are not in the folio.


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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 damn'd in a fair wife; ro'a
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 toged 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 other grounds
Christian and heathen must be
be-lee'd and


5 So the old copies, wife being spelt with a capital letter. The passage has caused a great deal of controversy. Tyrwhitt would read " fair life," and Coleridge thinks this reading "the true one, as fitting to Iago's contempt for whatever did not display power, and that, intellectual power." The change, however, seems inadmissible. The reference probably is to Bianca, to whom, if Iago's word may be trusted, report said that Cassio was almost married; as he says to Cassio, in Act iv. sc. 1,- -The cry goes, that you shall marry her." But perhaps it is meant as characteristic of Iago to regard a wife and a mistress as all one. — Cassio is sneeringly called "a great arithmetician" and a "countercaster," in allusion to the pursuits for which the Florentines were distinguished. The point is thus stated by Charles Armitage Browne: "A soldier from Florence, famous for its bankers throughout Europe, and for its invention of bills of exchange, book-keeping, and every thing connected with a counting-house, might well be ridiculed for his promotion by an Iago in this manner." H.

6 Instead of toged the folio has tongued, which is preferred by some editors as agreeing better with the words, "mere prattle without practice." In Coriolanus, Act ii. sc. 3, note 6, we have found toge misprinted tongue. Of course, "the toged consuls" are the civil governors; so called by Iago in opposition to the warlike qualifications of which he has been speaking. There may be an allusion to the adage, "Cedant arma toga." Theoric was often used for theory. See King Henry V., Act i. sc. 1, note 3.



By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,
He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,
And I (God bless the mark!) his Moorship's ancient.
Rod. By Heaven, I rather would have been his

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Iago. But there's no remedy; 'tis the curse of service:

Preferment goes by letter and affection, Treementation
Not by the old gradation, where each second
Stood heir to th' first. Now, sir, be judge yourself,
Whether I in any just term am affin'd
To love the Moor.


I would not follow him, then.
Iago. O, sir! content you; STUB
I follow him to serve my turn upon him:
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters
Cannot be truly follow'd. You shall mark
Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave Str
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,
cashier'd: Turned out

Whip me such honest knaves." Others there are
Who, trimm'd in forms and visages of duty,
Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves;

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7 That is, by a mere accountant, a keeper of debt and credit. Iago means that Cassio, though knowing no more of war than men of the gown, as distinguished from men of the sword, has yet outsailed him in military advancement. Again, he calls Cassio "this counter-caster," in allusion to the counters formerly used in reckoning up accounts. The folio has Christen'd instead of Christian; and also "bless the mark," for "God bless the mark," in the last line of this speech.


8 Whether I stand within any such terms of affinity to the Moor, as that I am bound to love him. In the second line above, the folio reads, "And not by old gradation."


9 Knave is here used for servant, but with a sly mixture of contempt. The usage was very common.


And, throwing but shows of service on their lords, Les Puna Slurred Do well thrive by them, and, when they have lin'd Their coats, do themselves homage:

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These fellows have some soul; and such a one
Do I profess myself. For, sir,
It is as sure as you are Rodérigo,

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 complement extern,10 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

Rod. What a full. fortune does the thick-lips

If he can carry't thus!


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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,

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10 That is, when his outward carriage answers to what is within, or when the thoughts of his heart are shown in external completeness. Complement is usually printed compliment, and the phrase explained, "outward show of civility." This does not accord with the sense of the passage; which is, that he scorns to have the inward and the outward keep touch or hold any acquaintance with each other, as being the next thing to wearing himself wrong side out.


11 So both the quartos: the folio has fall instead of full. The meaning is, how fortunate he is, or how strong in fortune, if he can hold out against such practice. Similar language occurs in Cymbeline : Our pleasure his full fortune doth confine." And in Antony and Cleopatra: "The imperious show of the full-fortun'd Cæsar."- Of course owe is used in the old sense of own, or pos



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