Othello

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 1

page Act 2 Scene 1 Page 7

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IAGO

O gentle lady, do not put me to ’t,
125For I am nothing, if not critical.

IAGO

Don’t make me do it, my lady. I’m critical by nature.

DESDEMONA

Come on, assay. There’s one gone to the harbor?

DESDEMONA

Come on, just try.—By the way, has someone gone down to the harbor?

IAGO

Ay, madam.

IAGO

Yes, madam.

DESDEMONA

I am not merry, but I do beguile
The thing I am by seeming otherwise.
130Come, how wouldst thou praise me?

DESDEMONA

I’m not as happy as I seem. I’m just trying not to show how worried I am about Othello’s safety. Come on, what would you say about me?

IAGO

I am about it, but indeed my invention
Comes from my pate as birdlime does from frieze,
It plucks out brains and all. But my Muse labors
And thus she is delivered:
135If she be fair and wise, fairness and wit,
The one’s for use, the other useth it.

IAGO

I’m trying to think of something, but I’m not good at inventing clever things. It takes time. Ah, I’ve got it. If a woman is pretty and smart, she uses her good looks to get what she wants.

DESDEMONA

Well praised! How if she be black and witty?

DESDEMONA

Very clever! But what if the woman is smart but ugly?

IAGO

If she be black, and thereto have a wit,
She’ll find a white that shall her blackness fit.

IAGO

Even if she’s ugly, she’ll be smart enough to find a guy to sleep with her.

DESDEMONA

140Worse and worse!

DESDEMONA

This is getting worse and worse!

EMILIA

    How if fair and foolish?

EMILIA

What if she’s pretty but stupid?

IAGO

She never yet was foolish that was fair,
For even her folly helped her to an heir.

IAGO

No pretty woman is stupid, because her stupidity will make her more attractive to men.

DESDEMONA

These are old fond paradoxes to make fools laugh i' th' alehouse. What miserable praise hast thou for her
That’s foul and foolish?

DESDEMONA

These are stupid old jokes that men tell each other in bars. What horrible thing do you have to say about a woman who’s both ugly and stupid?

IAGO

145There’s none so foul and foolish thereunto,
But does foul pranks which fair and wise ones do.

IAGO

No matter how ugly or stupid the woman is, she plays the same dirty tricks that the smart and pretty ones do.