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Othello | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Othello | Quotes


I am not what I am.

Iago, Act 1, Scene 1

Early in the play, Iago admits his deceptive nature. He will deceive and manipulate. He is a performer of considerable skill—one who can convince others of his absolute earnestness and trustworthiness. Yet he is neither trustworthy nor earnest.


I saw Othello's visage in his mind,/And to his honors and his valiant parts/Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate.

Desdemona, Act 1, Scene 3

Desdemona says this to explain why she wants to go with Othello to Cyprus. She is referring to the fact that through Othello's stories she has seen his adventures, picturing them in her own imagination. This is what won her love.


He takes her by the palm. Ay, well said, whisper. With as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio.

Iago, Act 2, Scene 1

As Iago looks on, Cassio greets Desdemona, taking her hand. This moment gives Iago the idea to use Cassio to get to Othello, through Desdemona. In this aside, Iago tells the audience what he is going to do.


So will I turn her virtue into pitch,/And out of her own goodness make the net/That shall enmesh them all.

Iago, Act 2, Scene 3

Iago lays out his plan. Desdemona's goodness will lead her to be kind to Cassio, and it is this attention to Cassio that will cause Othello to believe Iago's story that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.


Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving.

Iago, Act 2, Scene 3

Iago reassures Cassio after Cassio has lost his rank due to his drunken actions, saying a man's reputation is not really that important. Of note, other men in the play find reputation to be very important, including Othello. But Iago will say anything to get Cassio to do as he wants. Here, he wants him to feel that there is hope of regaining his status with Othello by appealing to Desdemona.


Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul/But I do love thee! And when I love thee not,/Chaos is come again.

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3

Othello says this about Desdemona just before Iago "tempts" him in the garden. It is an expression of Othello's love for her, but also foreshadows the "perdition" or damnation to which Othello falls when he gives in to Iago's temptation.


O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!/It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock/The meat it feeds on.

Iago, Act 3, Scene 3

Iago says this as part of his temptation of Othello in the garden. He is warning Othello of being jealous at the same time he, Iago, is planting the seed of jealousy in Othello's mind. He's warning Othello of jealousy, but he is also pointing out how Cassio and Desdemona are so friendly.


She did deceive her father, marrying you.

Iago, Act 3, Scene 3

Iago manipulates Othello by pointing out that Desdemona disobeyed her own father to marry the Moor. In this way, he uses reason to convince Othello that Desdemona is the kind of woman who might be unfaithful.


Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? I should venture purgatory for 't.

Emilia, Act 4, Scene 3

While Desdemona cannot see any motivation that would cause her to have an extramarital affair, Emilia is more practical. She suggests there are reasons—and some of them might be good ones—for being unfaithful. It also suggests that Emilia's ethical standards are less pure than Desdemona's, which could explain why she is willing to go along with Iago's plotting for such a long time.


Look on the tragic loading of this bed./This is thy work.

Lodovico, Act 5, Scene 2

Lodovico observes Iago's "work" has resulted in dead bodies covering the bed. Each of the deaths in the final scene adds to the tragic pile. This final image shows the net that Iago set has tightened to one very small point in space: a bed.

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