Greetings! Your homework this week is to read Acts II and III of Othello, watch my videotaped lectures below, and then post a comment about the assigned reading at the bottom of this page. The speeches that I refer to in my lectures are printed below each video. At the bottom of this page, below all of the videos, I give you some simple study questions to help you formulate a post. The study questions follow up on things I say in my lectures, so you may want to watch the videos first. Leave your post in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Notable speeches from Othello Act II: Iago's soliloquy at 2.1.283: That Cassio loves her, I do well believe't; That she loves him, 'tis apt and of great credit. The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not, Is of a constant, loving, noble nature, And I dare think he'll prove to Desdemona A most dear husband. Now I do love her too; Not out of absolute lust, though peradventure I stand accountant for as great a sin, But partly led to diet my revenge, For that I do suspect the lusty Moor Hath leaped into my seat, the thought whereof Doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards, And nothing can or shall content my soul Till I am evened with him, wife for wife; Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor At least into a jealousy so strong That judgment cannot cure. Which thing to do, If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trace For his quick hunting, stand the putting on, I'll have our Michael Cassio on the hip, Abuse him to the Moor in the rank garb (For I fear Cassio with my nightcap too), Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me For making him egregiously an ass And practicing upon his peace and quiet Even to madness. 'Tis here, but yet confused: Knavery's plain face is never seen till used. Othello points out that they still haven't consummated their marriage, 2.3.8: Come, my dear love. The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue; That profit's yet to come 'tween me and you. -- Good night. Another soliloquy from Iago, 2.3.324: And what's he then that says I play the villain, When this advice is free I give and honest, Probal to thinking, and indeed the course To win the Moor again? For 'tis most easy Th'inclining Desdemona to subdue In any honest suit; she's framed as friutful As the free elements. And then for her To win the Moor -- were't to renounce his baptism, All seals and symbols of redeemed sin -- His soul is so enfettered to her love That she may make, unmake, do what she list, Even as her appetite shall play the god With his weak function. How am I then a villain To counsel Cassio to this parallel course, Directly to his good? Divinity of hell! When devils will the blackest sins put on, They do suggest at first with heavenly shows, As I do now. For whiles this honest fool Plies Desdemona to repair his fortune, And she for him pleads strongly to the Moor, I'll pour this pestilence into his ear, That she repeals him for her body's lust; And by how much she strives to do him good, She shall undo her credit with the Moor. So will I turn her virtue into pitch, And out of her own goodness make the net That shall enmesh them all.
Notable speeches from Othello Act III: Desdemona tells Cassio and Emilia how she'll advocate for Cassio, 2.3.19: Do not doubt that. Before Emilia here I give thee warrant of thy place. Assure thee, If I do vow a friendship, I'll perform it To the last article. My lord shall never rest; I'll watch him tame and talk him out of patience; His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift; I'll intermingle everything he does With Cassio's suit. Therefore be merry, Cassio, For thy solicitor shall rather die Than give thy cause away. Othello conflates his personal fate with the state of the universe, 3.3.90: Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul But I do love thee! and when I love thee not, Chaos is come again. Othello finally speaks a monologue, 3.3.258: This fellow's of exceeding honesty, And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit Of human dealings. If I do prove her haggard, Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings, I'd whistle her off and let her down the wind To prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black And have not those soft parts of conversation That chamberers have, or for I am declined Into the vale of years -- yet that's not much -- She's gone. I am abused, and my relief Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage, That we can call these delicate creatures ours, And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad And live upon the vapor of a dungeon Than keep a corner in the thing I love For others' uses. Yet 'tis the plague of great ones; Prerogatived are they less than the base. 'Tis destiny unshunnable, like death. Even then this forked plague is fated to us When we do quicken. Look where she comes. [Enter Desdemona and Emilia] If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself! I'll not believe it.
Write a comment on Othello Acts 2-3 and post it in the comments section below. Be sure to quote the text of the play at least once in your post. Consider answering any of the following study questions:
1.) Iago is both very racist and very sexist. How do racism and sexism overlap, compete, reinforce each other, or otherwise interact in Othello?
2.) Does Iago’s character seem to change at all in Acts II-III, as he cedes his place as the de facto main character of Othello to Othello?
3.) Do you have an interpretation of Michael Cassio? We know a handful of things about him, yet those things do not add up in any obvious way to a consistent character type: Cassio is foreign (from Florence, not Venice); he’s handsome and flirtatious with women; he is (according to Iago) highly educated but not particularly experienced in war; he can’t hold his liquor and is a violent drunk; he’s very close to Othello, who employed him as go-between during Othello’s courtship of Desdemona. Is there a common thread here?
4.) I speak in my video of how Othello’s language changes over the course of Act 3, scene 3, as Iago persuades him that Desdemona must be having an affiar with Cassio. Do you notice any further ways in which Othello’s language evolves in this scene? Remember, Shakespeare *always* uses language to reflect character, so when a character changes, his language changes with him and vice versa.