Othello

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 1

page Act 2 Scene 1 Page 8

Original Text

Modern Text

DESDEMONA

Oh, heavy ignorance! Thou praisest the worst best. But what praise couldst thou bestow on a deserving woman indeed, one that in the authority of her merit did justly put on the vouch of very malice itself?

DESDEMONA

You don’t know a thing! You give your best praise to the worst women. But how would you praise a truly good woman, someone who had no reason to worry about what anyone said about her?

IAGO

She that was ever fair and never proud,
Had tongue at will and yet was never loud,
150Never lacked gold and yet went never gay,
Fled from her wish and yet said “Now I may,”
She that being angered, her revenge being nigh,
Bade her wrong stay and her displeasure fly,
She that in wisdom never was so frail
155To change the cod’s head for the salmon’s tail,
She that could think and ne'er disclose her mind,
See suitors following and not look behind,
She was a wight, if ever such wights were—

IAGO

A woman who was beautiful but never proud, who could speak well but knew when to be quiet, who dressed well but was never overdressed, who had self-restraint even when she could get what she wanted, a woman who never took revenge, who overlooked it when people hurt her, who was too wise to do anything stupid, who could think without revealing her thoughts, and who could refrain from flirting with men in love with her, that kind of woman, if she ever existed, would—

DESDEMONA

To do what?

DESDEMONA

Would do what?

IAGO

160To suckle fools and chronicle small beer.

IAGO

Would raise babies and clip coupons.

DESDEMONA

Oh, most lame and impotent conclusion! Do not learn of him, Emilia, though he be thy husband. How say you, Cassio? Is he not a most profane and liberal counselor?

DESDEMONA

Oh, that’s pathetic! Don’t listen to him, Emilia, even though he’s your husband. What do you think about him, Cassio? Isn’t he a horrible man?

CASSIO

He speaks home, madam. You may relish him more in the soldier than in the scholar.

CASSIO

He speaks bluntly, madam. He’s more of a soldier than a wise man.
CASSIO takes DESDEMONA'S hand
CASSIO takes DESDEMONA'S hand.

IAGO

(aside) 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. Ay, smile upon her, do, I will gyve thee in thine own courtship. You say true, 'Tis so, indeed.

IAGO

(to himself) He’s taking her hand. That’s right, go ahead and whisper together. This is all I need to get Cassio. Yes, keep smiling at her, Cassio. Your fine manners around women will be your downfall. Oh, I’m sure you’re saying something very clever.