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ACT V SCENE II A bedchamber in the castle: DESDEMONA in bed asleep. 
OTHELLOIt is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,--
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!--
It is the cause. Yet I'll not shed her blood;
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster.
Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me: but once put out thy light,10
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck'd the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again.
It must needs wither: I'll smell it on the tree.
[Kissing her]
Ah balmy breath, that dost almost persuade
Justice to break her sword! One more, one more.
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee,
And love thee after. One more, and this the last:
So sweet was ne'er so fatal. I must weep,20
But they are cruel tears: this sorrow's heavenly;
It strikes where it doth love. She wakes.
DESDEMONAWho's there? Othello?
OTHELLOAy. Desdemona.
DESDEMONAWill you come to bed, my lord?
OTHELLOHave you pray'd to-night, Desdemona?
DESDEMONAAy, my lord.
OTHELLOIf you bethink yourself of any crime
Unreconciled as yet to heaven and grace,
Solicit for it straight.30
DESDEMONAAlas, my lord, what do you mean by that?
OTHELLOWell, do it, and be brief; I will walk by:
I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No; heaven forfend! I would not kill thy soul.
DESDEMONATalk you of killing?
DESDEMONAThen heaven
Have mercy on me!
OTHELLOAmen, with all my heart!
DESDEMONAIf you say so, I hope you will not kill me.40
DESDEMONAAnd yet I fear you; for you are fatal then
When your eyes roll so: why I should fear I know not,
Since guiltiness I know not; but yet I feel I fear.
OTHELLOThink on thy sins.
DESDEMONAThey are loves I bear to you.
OTHELLOAy, and for that thou diest.
DESDEMONAThat death's unnatural that kills for loving.
Alas, why gnaw you so your nether lip?
Some bloody passion shakes your very frame:50
These are portents; but yet I hope, I hope,
They do not point on me.
OTHELLOPeace, and be still!
DESDEMONAI will so. What's the matter?
OTHELLOThat handkerchief which I so loved and gave thee
Thou gavest to Cassio.
DESDEMONANo, by my life and soul!
Send for the man, and ask him.
OTHELLOSweet soul, take heed,
Take heed of perjury; thou art on thy deathbed.60
DESDEMONAAy, but not yet to die.
OTHELLOYes, presently:
Therefore confess thee freely of thy sin;

For to deny each article with oath
Cannot remove nor choke the strong conception
That I do groan withal. Thou art to die.
DESDEMONAThen Lord have mercy on me!
OTHELLOI say, amen.
DESDEMONAAnd have you mercy too! I never did
Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio70
But with such general warranty of heaven
As I might love: I never gave him token.
OTHELLOBy heaven, I saw my handkerchief in's hand.
O perjured woman! thou dost stone my heart,
And makest me call what I intend to do
A murder, which I thought a sacrifice:
I saw the handkerchief.
DESDEMONAHe found it then;
I never gave it him: send for him hither;
Let him confess a truth.80
OTHELLOHe hath confess'd.
DESDEMONAWhat, my lord?
OTHELLOThat he hath used thee.
DESDEMONAHow? unlawfully?
DESDEMONAHe will not say so.
OTHELLONo, his mouth is stopp'd;
Honest Iago hath ta'en order for't.
DESDEMONAO! my fear interprets: what, is he dead?
OTHELLOHad all his hairs been lives, my great revenge90
Had stomach for them all.
DESDEMONAAlas! he is betray'd and I undone.
OTHELLOOut, strumpet! weep'st thou for him to my face?
DESDEMONAO, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
OTHELLODown, strumpet!
DESDEMONAKill me to-morrow: let me live to-night!
OTHELLONay, if you strive--
DESDEMONABut half an hour!
OTHELLOBeing done, there is no pause.
DESDEMONABut while I say one prayer!100
OTHELLOIt is too late.
[He stifles her]
EMILIA[Within] My lord, my lord! what, ho! my lord, my lord!
OTHELLOWhat noise is this? Not dead? not yet quite dead?
I that am cruel am yet merciful;
I would not have thee linger in thy pain: So, so.
EMILIA[Within] What, ho! my lord, my lord!
OTHELLOWho's there?
EMILIA[Within] O, good my lord, I would speak a word with you!
OTHELLOYes: 'tis Emilia. By and by. She's dead.
'Tis like she comes to speak of Cassio's death.--110
The noise was here. Ha! no more moving?
Still as the grave. Shall she come in? were't good?--
I think she stirs again:--no. What's best to do?
If she come in, she'll sure speak to my wife:
My wife! my wife! what wife? I have no wife.
O insupportable! O heavy hour!
Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe
Should yawn at alteration.
EMILIA[Within] I do beseech you 120
That I may speak with you, O, good my lord!
OTHELLOI had forgot thee: O, come in, Emilia;
Soft; by and by. Let me the curtains draw.
Where art thou?
[Unlocks the door]
[Enter EMILIA]
What's the matter with thee now?
EMILIAO, my good lord, yonder's foul murders done!
OTHELLOWhat, now?
EMILIABut now, my lord.
OTHELLOIt is the very error of the moon;
She comes more nearer earth than she was wont,130
And makes men mad.
EMILIACassio, my lord, hath kill'd a young Venetian
Call'd Roderigo.
OTHELLORoderigo kill'd!
And Cassio kill'd!
EMILIANo, Cassio is not kill'd.
OTHELLONot Cassio kill'd! then murder's out of tune,
And sweet revenge grows harsh.
DESDEMONAO, falsely, falsely murder'd!
EMILIAAlas, what cry is that?140
OTHELLOThat! what?
EMILIAOut, and alas! that was my lady's voice.
Help! help, ho! help! O lady, speak again!
Sweet Desdemona! O sweet mistress, speak!
DESDEMONAA guiltless death I die.
EMILIAO, who hath done this deed?
DESDEMONANobody; I myself. Farewell
Commend me to my kind lord: O, farewell!
OTHELLOWhy, how should she be murder'd?
EMILIAAlas, who knows?150
OTHELLOYou heard her say herself, it was not I.
EMILIAShe said so: I must needs report the truth.
OTHELLOShe's, like a liar, gone to burning hell:
'Twas I that kill'd her.
EMILIAO, the more angel she,
And you the blacker devil!
OTHELLOShe turn'd to folly, and she was a whore.
EMILIAThou dost belie her, and thou art a devil.
OTHELLOShe was false as water.
EMILIAThou art rash as fire, to say160
That she was false: O, she was heavenly true!
OTHELLOCassio did top her; ask thy husband else.
O, I were damn'd beneath all depth in hell,
But that I did proceed upon just grounds
To this extremity. Thy husband knew it all.
EMILIAMy husband!
OTHELLOThy husband.
EMILIAThat she was false to wedlock?
OTHELLOAy, with Cassio. Nay, had she been true,
If heaven would make me such another world170
Of one entire and Perfect chrysolite,
I'ld not have sold her for it.
EMILIAMy husband!
OTHELLOAy, 'twas he that told me first:
An honest man he is, and hates the slime
That sticks on filthy deeds.
EMILIAMy husband!
OTHELLOWhat needs this iteration, woman? I say thy husband.
EMILIAO mistress, villany hath made mocks with love,
My husband say that she was false!180
OTHELLOHe, woman;
I say thy husband: dost understand the word?
My friend, thy husband, honest, honest Iago.
EMILIAIf he say so, may his pernicious soul
Rot half a grain a day! he lies to the heart:
She was too fond of her most filthy bargain.
EMILIADo thy worst:
This deed of thine is no more worthy heaven
Than thou wast worthy her.190
OTHELLOPeace, you were best.
EMILIAThou hast not half that power to do me harm
As I have to be hurt. O gull! O dolt!
As ignorant as dirt! thou hast done a deed--
I care not for thy sword; I'll make thee known,
Though I lost twenty lives.--Help! help, ho! help!
The Moor hath kill'd my mistress! Murder! murder!
[Enter MONTANO, GRATIANO, IAGO, and others]
MONTANOWhat is the matter? How now, general!
EMILIAO, are you come, Iago? you have done well,
That men must lay their murders on your neck.200
GRATIANOWhat is the matter?
EMILIADisprove this villain, if thou be'st a man:
He says thou told'st him that his wife was false:
I know thou didst not, thou'rt not such a villain:
Speak, for my heart is full.
IAGOI told him what I thought, and told no more
Than what he found himself was apt and true.
EMILIABut did you ever tell him she was false?
IAGOI did.
EMILIAYou told a lie, an odious, damned lie;210
Upon my soul, a lie, a wicked lie.
She false with Cassio!--did you say with Cassio?
IAGOWith Cassio, mistress. Go to, charm your tongue.
EMILIAI will not charm my tongue; I am bound to speak:
My mistress here lies murder'd in her bed,--
AllO heavens forfend!
EMILIAAnd your reports have set the murder on.
OTHELLONay, stare not, masters: it is true, indeed.
GRATIANO'Tis a strange truth.
MONTANOO monstrous act!220
EMILIAVillany, villany, villany!
I think upon't, I think: I smell't: O villany!--
I thought so then:--I'll kill myself for grief:--
O villany, villany!
IAGOWhat, are you mad? I charge you, get you home.
EMILIAGood gentlemen, let me have leave to speak:
'Tis proper I obey him, but not now.
Perchance, Iago, I will ne'er go home.
[He falls on the bed]
EMILIANay, lay thee down and roar;230
For thou hast kill'd the sweetest innocent
That e'er did lift up eye.
OTHELLO[Rising] O, she was foul!
I scarce did know you, uncle: there lies your niece,
Whose breath, indeed, these hands have newly stopp'd:
I know this act shows horrible and grim.
GRATIANOPoor Desdemona! I am glad thy father's dead:
Thy match was mortal to him, and pure grief
Shore his old thread in twain: did he live now,
This sight would make him do a desperate turn,240
Yea, curse his better angel from his side,
And fall to reprobation.
OTHELLO'Tis pitiful; but yet Iago knows
That she with Cassio hath the act of shame
A thousand times committed; Cassio confess'd it:
And she did gratify his amorous works
With that recognizance and pledge of love
Which I first gave her; I saw it in his hand:
It was a handkerchief, an antique token
My father gave my mother.250
EMILIAO heaven! O heavenly powers!
IAGOCome, hold your peace.
EMILIA'Twill out, 'twill out: I peace!
No, I will speak as liberal as the north:
Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,
All, all, cry shame against me, yet I'll speak.
IAGOBe wise, and get you home.
EMILIAI will not.
[IAGO offers to stab EMILIA]
Your sword upon a woman?260
EMILIAO thou dull Moor! that handkerchief thou speak'st of
I found by fortune and did give my husband;
For often, with a solemn earnestness,
More than indeed belong'd to such a trifle,
He begg'd of me to steal it.
IAGOVillanous whore!
EMILIAShe give it Cassio! no, alas! I found it,
And I did give't my husband.
IAGOFilth, thou liest!
EMILIABy heaven, I do not, I do not, gentlemen.270
O murderous coxcomb! what should such a fool
Do with so good a woman?
OTHELLOAre there no stones in heaven
But what serve for the thunder?--Precious villain!
[He runs at IAGO IAGO, from behind, stabs EMILIA, and exit]
GRATIANOThe woman falls; sure, he hath kill'd his wife.
EMILIAAy, ay: O, lay me by my mistress' side.
GRATIANOHe's gone, but his wife's kill'd.
MONTANO'Tis a notorious villain. Take you this weapon,
Which I have here recover'd from the Moor:
Come, guard the door without; let him not pass,280
But kill him rather. I'll after that same villain,
For 'tis a damned slave.
OTHELLOI am not valiant neither,
But ever puny whipster gets my sword:
But why should honour outlive honesty?
Let it go all.
EMILIAWhat did thy song bode, lady?
Hark, canst thou hear me? I will play the swan.
And die in music.
Willow, willow, willow,--290
Moor, she was chaste; she loved thee, cruel Moor;
So come my soul to bliss, as I speak true;
So speaking as I think, I die, I die.
OTHELLOI have another weapon in this chamber;
It is a sword of Spain, the ice-brook's temper:--
O, here it is. Uncle, I must come forth.
GRATIANO[Within] If thou attempt it, it will cost thee dear:
Thou hast no weapon, and perforce must suffer.
OTHELLOLook in upon me then and speak with me,
Or, naked as I am, I will assault thee.300
[Re-enter GRATIANO]
GRATIANOWhat is the matter?
OTHELLOBehold, I have a weapon;
A better never did itself sustain
Upon a soldier's thigh: I have seen the day,
That, with this little arm and this good sword,
I have made my way through more impediments
Than twenty times your stop: but, O vain boast!
Who can control his fate? 'tis not so now.
Be not afraid, though you do see me weapon'd;
Here is my journey's end, here is my butt,310
And very sea-mark of my utmost sail.
Do you go back dismay'd? 'tis a lost fear;
Man but a rush against Othello's breast,
And he retires. Where should Othello go?
Now, how dost thou look now? O ill-starr'd wench!
Pale as thy smock! when we shall meet at compt,
This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven,
And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl!
Even like thy chastity. O cursed slave!
Whip me, ye devils,320
From the possession of this heavenly sight!
Blow me about in winds! roast me in sulphur!
Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!
O Desdemona! Desdemona! dead!
Oh! Oh! Oh!
[ Enter LODOVICO. MONTANO, CASSIO carried in a chair, and Officers with IAGO, prisoner ]
LODOVICOWhere is this rash and most unfortunate man?
OTHELLOThat's he that was Othello: here I am.
LODOVICOWhere is that viper? bring the villain forth.
OTHELLOI look down towards his feet; but that's a fable.
If that thou best a devil, I cannot kill thee.330
[Wounds IAGO]
LODOVICOWrench his sword from him.
IAGOI bleed, sir; but not kill'd.
OTHELLOI am not sorry neither: I'ld have thee live;
For, in my sense, 'tis happiness to die.
LODOVICOO thou Othello, thou wert once so good,
Fall'n in the practise of a damned slave,
What shall be said to thee?
OTHELLOWhy, any thing:
An honourable murderer, if you will;
For nought I did in hate, but all in honour.340
LODOVICOThis wretch hath part confess'd his villany:
Did you and he consent in Cassio's death?
CASSIODear general, I never gave you cause.
OTHELLOI do believe it, and I ask your pardon.
Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body?
IAGODemand me nothing: what you know, you know:
From this time forth I never will speak word.
LODOVICOWhat, not to pray?350
GRATIANOTorments will ope your lips.
OTHELLOWell, thou dost best.
LODOVICOSir, you shall understand what hath befall'n,
Which, as I think, you know not. Here is a letter
Found in the pocket of the slain Roderigo;
And here another: the one of them imports
The death of Cassio to be undertook
By Roderigo.
OTHELLOO villain!
CASSIOMost heathenish and most gross!360
LODOVICONow here's another discontented paper,
Found in his pocket too; and this, it seems,
Roderigo meant to have sent this damned villain;
But that belike Iago in the interim
Came in and satisfied him.
OTHELLOO the pernicious caitiff!
How came you, Cassio, by that handkerchief
That was my wife's?
CASSIOI found it in my chamber:
And he himself confess'd but even now370
That there he dropp'd it for a special purpose
Which wrought to his desire.
OTHELLOO fool! fool! fool!
CASSIOThere is besides in Roderigo's letter,
How he upbraids Iago, that he made him
Brave me upon the watch; whereon it came
That I was cast: and even but now he spake,
After long seeming dead, Iago hurt him,
Iago set him on.
LODOVICOYou must forsake this room, and go with us:380
Your power and your command is taken off,
And Cassio rules in Cyprus. For this slave,
If there be any cunning cruelty
That can torment him much and hold him long,
It shall be his. You shall close prisoner rest,
Till that the nature of your fault be known
To the Venetian state. Come, bring him away.
OTHELLOSoft 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,390
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
Perplex'd in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes,
Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees400
Their medicinal gum. Set you down this;
And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog,
And smote him, thus.
[Stabs himself]
LODOVICOO bloody period!
GRATIANOAll that's spoke is marr'd.
OTHELLOI kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee: no way but this;
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.410
[Falls on the bed, and dies]
CASSIOThis did I fear, but thought he had no weapon;
For he was great of heart.
LODOVICO[To IAGO] O Spartan dog,
More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea!
Look on the tragic loading of this bed;
This is thy work: the object poisons sight;
Let it be hid. Gratiano, keep the house,
And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor,
For they succeed on you. To you, lord governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain;420
The time, the place, the torture: O, enforce it!
Myself will straight aboard: and to the state
This heavy act with heavy heart relate.
Return to Othello, Scenes


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 2

From Othello. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard.

Abbreviations. — A.-S. = Anglo-Saxon: M.E. = Middle English (from the 13th to the 15th century) ; Fr. = French ; Ger. = German ; Gr. = Greek ; Cf. = compare (Lat. confer) ; Abbott refers to the excellent Shakespearean Grammar of Dr. Abbott; Schmidt, to Dr. Schmidt's invaluable Shakespeare Lexicon.


11. Pattern, example, masterpiece.

12. Prometheus stole fire from heaven and gave it to man.

19. Kissing her again.

20. I cannot help weeping, but I am pitiless ; my sorrow is like the love of the gods, who take those they love.

29. Grace, pardon, mercy.

48. My only sin consists in loving you with all my heart and against my father's wishes.

62. Presently = immediately — in Shakespeare's day.

77. If I hate you (for your denials) it ceases to be a sacrifice.

129. Error, movement, wandering.

159. False as water. The comparison is as old as Jacob's farewell to his sons: "Reuben, unstable as water." — Gen. xlix. 4. The poet Keats chose for his epitaph, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

171. Chrysolite, from two Greek words signifying gold and stone.

179. His villany has deceived your love.

187. Othello threatens Emilia.

198. Must say that you have instigated them to murder.

214. Charm, restrain, hold. Cf. "To tame a shrew, and charm her chattering-tongue." — Taming of the Shrew, iv. 2. 58.

222. When she gave the handkerchief to lago.

247. Recognizance, badge, token.

254. As liberal as the north, as free in my speech as the north wind in its blasts.

262. By fortune, by chance.

271. Coxcomb, a fool. From the crest in the fool's cap.

284. Puny is for puisne, a law term implying inferior in rank. Latin post natus, born after. Whipster. Originally -ster was the feminine suffix of agency — e.g. brewster, tappestre (Chaucer, a barmaid — but the distinction was soon lost, and maltster, huckster, baxter (baker) were masculine.

287. I will play the swan. Cf. Tennyson —

"The wild swan's death-hymn took the soul
Of that waste place with joy
Hidden in sorrow."
292. May my soul not reach heaven, if I lie.

295. Tempered in a brook as cold as ice. The Toledo swords were noted. The test of excellence was that the points could be driven with a man's full strength against a stone wall without breaking.

310. Butt, goal, end.

316. Smock, a woman's under-garment. From an A.S. word, meaning to creep into; anything put on over the head. Compt, reckoning — at the Day of Judgment.

329. To see if he has cloven feet.

334. Sense, opinion.

336. Practice, stratagem, plot.

378. Hurt him, was his ruin.

382. For, as for.

392. Extenuate, palliate, excuse.

395. Wrought, worked upon by suggestions.

397. Base, rude, untutored.

407. Period, end.

413. Hounds of Sparta are several times alluded to in Shakespeare, but what is meant here is probably the Spartan savageness of character.

414. Fell, cruel, destructive. "Othello does not kill Desdemona in jealousy, but in a conviction forced upon him by the almost superhuman art of Iago, such as any man must and would have entertained who had believed lago's honesty as Othello did."— S. T. Coleridge. But how little Othello does to investigate Iago's charges! His credulity is incredible.

How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark & Maynard, 1892. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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