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Annotation: Shakespeare readers will further be able to understand and appreciate the text of this play with the help of explanatory footnotes on the language and expressions used and a history of Shakespearean theater and writing.
Catalog Number: #225802
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Teaching Materials: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Teaching Materials
Copyright Date: 1988
Edition Date: 1988
Pages: xvi, 160 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-553-21302-4 Perma-Bound: 0-8000-5674-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-553-21302-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-8000-5674-2
Dewey: 822.3
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Subject Heading:
Language: English
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 3,273
Reading Level: 3.8
Interest Level: 9+
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.8 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 125514 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:11.0 / points:20.0 / quiz:Q08750
Lexile: NP

The Names of the Actors

Othello,  the Moor

Brabantio, [a senator,] father to Desdemona

Cassio, an honorable lieutenant [to Othello]

Iago, [Othello's ancient,] a villain

Roderigo, a gulled gentleman

Duke of Venice

Senators [of Venice]

Montano, Governor of Cyprus

Gentlemen of Cyprus

Lodovico and Gratiano, [kinsmen to Brabantio,] two

Noble Venetians



Desdemona, [daughter to Brabantio and] wife to


Emilia, wife to Iago

Bianca, a courtesan [and mistress to Cassio]

[a messenger

a herald

a musician

Servants, Attendants, Officers, Senators,

Musicians, Gentlemen

scene: Venice; a seaport in Cyprus]

1.1 Location: Venice. A street.

1 never tell me (An expression of incredulity, like "tell me another one.")

3 this i.e., Desdemona's elopement.

4 'Blood By His (Christ's) blood

7 him Othello

14 Bombast circumstance wordy evasion. (Bombast is cotton padding.)

15 epithets of war military expressions

17 Nonsuits rejects the petition of.   Certes Certainly

20 arithmetician i.e., a man whose military knowledge is merely theoretical, based on books of tactics

22 A . . . wife (Cassio does not seem to be married, but his counterpart in Shakespeare's source does have a woman in his house. See also 4.1.131.)

24 division of a battle disposition of a military unit

25 a spinster i.e., a housewife, one whose regular occupation is spinning.   Theoric theory

26 Togaed consuls toga-wearing counselors or senators.   propose discuss

1.1  A  Enter Roderigo and Iago.


Tush, never tell me! I take it much unkindly 1

That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse

As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this. 3

Iago  'Sblood, but you'll not hear me. 4

If ever I did dream of such a matter,

Abhor me.


Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate. 7

Iago  Despise me

If I do not. Three great ones of the city,

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Off-capped to him; and by the faith of man,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place.

But he, as loving his own pride and purposes,

Evades them with a bombast circumstance 14

Horribly stuffed with epithets of war, 15

And, in conclusion,

Nonsuits my mediators. For, "Certes," says he, 17

"I have already chose my officer."

And what was he?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician, 20

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

A fellow almost damned in a fair wife, 22

That never set a squadron in the field

Nor the division of a battle knows 24

More than a spinster--unless the bookish theoric, 25

Wherein the Togaed consuls can propose 26

As masterly as he. Mere prattle without practice

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had th'election;

29 his Othello's

31 Beleed and calmed left to leeward without wind, becalmed. (A sailing metaphor.)

32 Debitor and Creditor (A name for a system of bookkeeping, here used as a contemptuous nickname for Cassio.)   countercaster i.e., bookkeeper, one who tallies with counters, or "metal disks." (Said contemptuously.)

33 in good time opportunely, i.e., forsooth

34 God bless the mark (Perhaps originally a formula to ward off evil; here an expression of impatience.)   ancient standard-bearer, ensign.

35 his hangman the executioner of him.

37 Preferment promotion.   letter and affection personal influence and favoritism

38 old gradation step-by-step seniority, the traditional way

40 term respect.   affined bound

43 content you don't you worry about that.

46 truly faithfully

50 cashiered dismissed from service.

51 Whip me Whip, as far as I'm concerned

52 trimmed . . . duty dressed up in the mere form and show of dutifulness

55 lined their coats i.e., stuffed their purses

56 Do themselves homage i.e., attend to self-interest solely.

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof 29

At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds

Christened and heathen, must be beleed and calmed 31

By debitor and creditor. This countercaster, 32

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be, 33

And I--God bless the mark!--His Moorship's ancient. 34


By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman. 35


Why, there's no remedy. 'Tis the curse of service;

Preferment goes by letter and affection, 37

And not by old gradation, where each second 38

Stood heir to th' first. Now, sir, be judge yourself

Whether I in any just term am affined 40

To love the Moor.

Roderigo  I would not follow him then.

Iago  Oh, sir, content you. 43

I follow him to serve my turn upon him.

We cannot all be masters, nor all masters

Cannot be truly followed. You shall mark 46

Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave

That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,

Wears out his time, much like his master's ass,

For naught but provender, and when he's old,

  cashiered. 50

Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are 51

Who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, 52

Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,

And, throwing but shows of service on their lords,

Do well thrive by them, and when they have lined

  their coats, 55

Do themselves homage. These fellows have some

  soul, 56

59 Were . . . Iago i.e., if I were able to assume command, I certainly would not choose to remain a subordinate, or, I would keep a suspicious eye on a flattering subordinate.

62 peculiar particular, personal

64 native innate.   figure shape, intent

65 compliment extern outward show (conforming in this case to the inner workings and intention of the heart)

67 Daws small crowlike birds, proverbially stupid and avaricious.   I am not what I am i.e., I am not one who wears his heart on his sleeve.

68 full swelling.   thick-lips (Elizabethans often applied the term "Moor" to Negroes.)   owe own

69 Carry't thus carry this off.

72-3 though . . . flies though he seems prosperous and happy now, vex him with misery.

73 Though . . . be joy Although he seems fortunate and happy. (Repeats the idea of line 72.)

74 changes of vexation vexing changes

75 As . . . color that may cause it to lose some of its first gloss.

77 timorous frightening

78 As . . . fire as when a fire, having gained hold by negligence at night

83.1 at a window (This stage direction, from the quarto, probably calls for an appearance on the gallery above and rearstage.)

And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir,

It is as sure as you are Roderigo,

Were I the Moor I would not be Iago. 59

In following him, I follow but myself--

Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,

But seeming so for my peculiar end. 62

For when my outward action doth demonstrate

The native act and figure of my heart 64

In compliment extern, 'tis not long after 65

But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve

For daws to peck at. I am not what I am. 67


What a full fortune does the thick-lips owe 68

If he can carry't thus!

Iago Call up her father. 69

Rouse him, make after him, poison his delight,

Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen,

And, though he in a fertile climate dwell, 72

Plague him with flies. Though that his joy be joy, 73

Yet throw such changes of vexation on't 74

As it may lose some color. 75


Here is her father's house. I'll call aloud.


Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell 77

As when, by night and negligence, the fire 78

Is spied in populous cities.


What ho, Brabantio! Signor Brabantio, ho!


Awake! What ho, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves, thieves!

Look to your house, your daughter, and your bags!

Thieves, thieves! 83

Brabantio [enters] above [at a window].

88 Zounds By His (Christ's) wounds

91 Tupping covering, copulating with. (Said of sheep.)

92 snorting snoring

93 the devil (The devil was conventionally pictured as black.)

102 distemp'ring intoxicating

103 Upon malicious bravery with hostile intent to defy me

104 start startle, disrupt


What is the reason of this terrible summons?

What is the matter there?


Signor, is all your family within?


Are your doors locked?

Brabantio Why, wherefore ask you this?


Zounds, sir, you're robbed. For shame, put on your

  gown! 88

Your heart is burst; you have lost half your soul.

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram

Is Tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise! 91

Awake the snorting citizens with the bell, 92

Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you. 93

Arise, I say!

Brabantio  What, have you lost your wits?


Most reverend signor, do you know my voice?

Brabantio  Not I. What are you?

Roderigo  My name is Roderigo.

Brabantio  The worser welcome.

I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors.

In honest plainness thou hast heard me say

My daughter is not for thee; and now, in madness,

Being full of supper and distemp'ring drafts, 102

Upon malicious bravery dost thou come 103

To start my quiet. 104


Sir, sir, sir--

Brabantio  But thou must needs be sure

106 My . . . power my temperament and my authority of office have it in their power

109 grange isolated country house.

110 simple sincere

114 Barbary from northern Africa (and hence associated with Othello)

115 nephews i.e., grandsons

115-16 you'll . . . Germans you'll consent to have powerful horses for kinfolks and small Spanish horses for near relatives.

121 a senator (Said with mock politeness, as though the word itself were an insult.)

122 Answer be held accountable for.

124 wise well-informed

126 At . . . night at this hour that is between day and night, neither the one nor the other

127 with by

128 But with a knave than by a low fellow, a servant

130 and your allowance and has your permission

131 saucy insolent

My spirits and my place have in their power 106

To make this bitter to thee.

Roderigo Patience, good sir.


What tell'st thou me of robbing? This is Venice;

My house is not a grange.

Roderigo Most grave Brabantio, 109

In simple and pure soul I come to you. 110

Iago  Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not

serve God if the devil bid you. Because we come to do

you service and you think we are ruffians, you'll have

your daughter covered with a Barbary horse; you'll  114

have your nephews neigh to you; you'll have coursers  115

for cousins and jennets for germans. 116

Brabantio  What profane wretch art thou?

Iago  I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter

and the Moor are now making the beast with two



Thou art a villain.

Iago You are--a senator. 121


This thou shalt answer. I know thee, Roderigo. 122


Sir, I will answer anything. But I beseech you,

If't be your pleasure and most wise consent-- 124

As partly I find it is--that your fair daughter,

At this odd-even and dull watch o'th' night, 126

Transported with no worse nor better guard 127

But with a knave of common hire, a gondolier, 128

To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor--

If this be known to you and your allowance 130

We then have done you bold and saucy wrongs. 131

But if you know not this, my manners tell me

134 from contrary to.   civility good manners, decency

135 your reverence (1) the respect due to you (2) Your Reverence.

138 wit intelligence

139-40 In . . . everywhere to a wandering and vagabond foreigner of uncertain origins.

140 Straight Straightaway

144 tinder charred linen ignited by a spark from flint and steel, used to light torches or tapers (lines 145, 170)

146 accident occurrence, event

149 meet fitting.   place position (as ensign)

150 producted produced (as a witness)

152 gall rub; oppress.   check rebuke

153 cast dismiss.   embarked engaged

154 loud urgent

155 stands in act have started.   for their souls to save their souls

156 fathom i.e., ability, depth of experience

157 in which regard out of regard for which

159 life livelihood

162 Sagittary (An inn or house where Othello and Desdemona are staying, named for its sign of Sagittarius, or Centaur.)   raised search search party roused out of sleep

163.1 nightgown dressing gown. (This costuming is specified in the quarto text.)

We have your wrong rebuke. Do not believe

That, from the sense of all civility, 134

I thus would play and trifle with your reverence. 135

Your daughter, if you have not given her leave,

I say again, hath made a gross revolt,

Tying her duty, beauty, wit, and fortunes 138

In an extravagant and wheeling stranger 139

Of here and everywhere. Straight satisfy yourself. 140

If she be in her chamber or your house,

Let loose on me the justice of the state

For thus deluding you.

Brabantio [calling] Strike on the tinder, ho! 144

Give me a taper! Call up all my people!

This accident is not unlike my dream. 146

Belief of it oppresses me already.

Light, I say, light! Exit [above].

Iago Farewell, for I must leave you.

It seems not meet nor wholesome to my place 149

To be producted--as, if I stay, I shall-- 150

Against the Moor. For I do know the state,

However this may gall him with some check, 152

Cannot with safety cast him, for he's embarked 153

With such loud reason to the Cyprus wars, 154

Which even now stands in act, that, for their souls, 155

Another of his fathom they have none 156

To lead their business; in which regard, 157

Though I do hate him as I do hell pains,

Yet for necessity of present life 159

I must show out a flag and sign of love,

Which is indeed but sign. That you shall surely find


Lead to the Sagittary the raised search, 162

And there will I be with him. So farewell. Exit. 163

Enter [below] Brabantio [in his nightgown] with servants and torches.

165 time i.e., remainder of life

175 charms spells

176 property special quality, nature

177 abused deceived.

182 discover reveal, uncover

185 command demand assistance

187 deserve show gratitude for


It is too true an evil. Gone she is;

And what's to come of my despised time 165

Is naught but bitterness. Now, Roderigo,

Where didst thou see her?--Oh, unhappy girl!--

With the Moor, say'st thou?--Who would be a father!--

How didst thou know 'twas she?--Oh, she deceives


Past thought!--What said she to you?--Get more


Raise all my kindred.--Are they married, think you?

Roderigo  Truly, I think they are.


Oh, heaven! How got she out? Oh, treason of the


Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds

By what you see them act. Is there not charms 175

By which the property of youth and maidhood 176

May be abused? Have you not read, Roderigo, 177

Of some such thing?

Roderigo Yes, sir, I have indeed.


Call up my brother.--Oh, would you had had her!--

Some one way, some another.--Do you know

Where we may apprehend her and the Moor?


I think I can discover him, if you please 182

To get good guard and go along with me.


Pray you, lead on. At every house I'll call;

I may command at most.--Get weapons, ho! 185

And raise some special officers of night.--

On, good Roderigo. I will deserve your pains. 187


Excerpted from Othello by William Shakespeare, David Scott Kastan
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Teacher's Guide: Othello Teacher's Guide

Though this great tragedy of unsurpassed intensity and emotion is played out against Renaissance splendor, its story of the doomed marriage of a Venetian senator’s daughter, Desdemona, to a Moorish general, Othello, is especially relevant to modern audiences. The differences in race and background create an initial tension that allows the horrifyingly envious villain Iago methodically to promote the “green-eyed monster” jealousy, until, in one of the most deeply moving scenes in theatrical history, the noble Moor destroys the woman he loves–only to discover too late that she was innocent.

Each Edition Includes:
• Comprehensive explanatory notes
• Vivid introductions and the most up-to-date scholarship
• Clear, modernized spelling and punctuation, enabling contemporary readers to understand the Elizabethan English
• Completely updated, detailed bibliographies and performance histories
• An interpretive essay on film adaptations of the play, along with an extensive filmography

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