The two men, friends, walked down the moonlit streets side-by-side.
"Oh, be quiet," sighed one in exasperation, hand in his pocket. "I think it’s very unkind that you, Iago, should know about this. You, who have had complete access to my money." He reached up and scratched his dark, neatly-trimmed beard.
"Agh, but you won’t listen to me!" Iago complained, shaking his head. "If I made it up, then you can hate me."
"You told me that you hate him," replied Roderigo, stepping over a crack. A slight wind whistled through the houses on either side of them, bringing with it the smell of the sea.
"I do." Iago glanced at his friend’s stony face, cast in shadows. "The three great ones of the city, the Venetian nobles, all petitioned to make me his lieutenant, but then took off their caps to him; and, by the faith of man, I know my price, I am worth no less a place than lieutenant.
"But he, loving his own pride and purposes, evades them with a pompous, ceremonious talk, horribly filled with epithets of war, and ignored the request of my petitioners.
"For, "Certainly," he says, "I have already chosen my officer," Iago snarled in a mocking tone. "And who was he?
"In truth, a great arithmetician, one Michael Cassio, a Florentine, a fellow cursed by being married to his wife, that never stationed even a small detachment of men in the battlefield, who knows not a division of a battle any more than a spinster—except for a book’s theory, but even then the consuls can talk as masterly as he can. Mere idle talk without practice is all his soldiership. But he, sir, was the one chosen, and I, whom he saw the proof of at Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds both Christened and heathen, must be stopped in my progress by a mere bookkeeper." He spat at that last word furiously, and then continued:
"This one who counts with tokens will be his lieutenant, and I will be his Moorship’s ancient, his standard-bearer, the lowest-ranking commissioned officer in the infantry." With that, he fell into a short-lived, sullen silence.
Roderigo scoffed. "I’d rather be his executioner and hang him, for that matter."
Encouraged, Iago said, "Why, there’s no cure! This is the curse of military service.
"Preferment goes by letter and personal preferment, and not by old graduation, where each second officer automatically succeeded each first officer. Now, sir, be judge yourself, tell whether I am, in any just term, obliged to love the Moor," Iago prompted his friend, stopping in his tracks to look Roderigo in the eye.
"I would not follow him, then," Roderigo said lightly, turning to continue their walk.
"Oh, sir, calm down," Iago chided. "I follow him for my own plans.
"We cannot all be masters, nor can all masters be truly followed. You will see many a duteous and bowing menial that, indulging on his own servile bondage, does his time, like his master’s donkey, for nothing but a supply of food, and when he’s old, to be paid.
"I’d have them whip such honest knaves! There are others who, appearing dutiful in manners and looks, are selfish, and, putting on shows of service for their lords, make them happy; and when they have lined their pockets richly, show respect to themselves alone, rather to their masters.
"These fellows have some soul, and such a soul I do have myself. For, sir, as surely as you are Roderigo, were I the Moor, I would not be Iago," he said wisely, then continued:
"In following him, I serve my own interest.
"Heaven is my judge; I do not follow him out of love or duty, though I seem to. While my actions demonstrate what I really feel in external form, soon I will wear my heart on my sleeve for stupid birds to peck at. I am not what I seem to be."
"He must be loaded if he can pull it off this way," snorted Roderigo, shaking his head.
Iago chewed his cheek thoughtfully, looking ahead of them. "Wake up her father," he said suddenly, obliging Roderigo to give him his attention. "Rouse him. Go after Othello, poison his happiness, proclaim him a rebel in the streets; make her family angry, and, even though he is now fortunate, torment him with minor vexations. Even though he is now happy, throw such possibilities of provokings on his joy so that it will diminish," he said excitedly.
Roderigo blinked, then looked around. "Here is her dad’s house…I’ll call aloud."
"Do it, with such a dreadful sound and dire yell that the fire is spied in populous cities at night, due to someone’s negligence," Iago nodded.
"Hey, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, hey!" Roderigo called loudly, cupping his hands over his mouth.
"Wake up! Hey, Brabantio! Thieves, thieves! Check your house, your daughter, and your money bags! Thieves, thieves!" shouted Iago, following suit.
The window above them swung open, and an aging man appeared, looking largely perplexed. "What is the reason of this rude awakening? What is the matter down there?" he growled gruffly down at the dark figures.
"Signior, is all your family in the house?" Roderigo asked breathlessly, as if he had been running.
Iago chimed in, "Are your doors locked?"
"Why are you asking me this?" Brabantio asked suspiciously, squinting an eye and raising his right eyebrow.
"My God, sir, you’re robbed," exclaimed Iago. "Quickly, put on your gown!
"Your heart is broken. You have lost half of your soul.
"Even now, now, at this very moment, an old black ram is copulating with your white ewe. Get up, get up!
"Awake the snoring citizens with the bell, or else the devil will make a grandfather of you. Get up, I say!" Iago urged.
"What the hell are you saying?" grunted Brabantio, glaring angrily at the disturbance.
"Most respected signior, do you recognize my voice?" Roderigo questioned politely.
"No. Who are you?"
"My name is Roderigo."
A look of realization came across the old man’s face, then anger. "The unwelcomed," he muttered under his breath. "I have ordered you not to haunt around my doors.
"You have heard me say plain as day that my daughter is not for you. And now you come, impelled by malicious impertinence to startle me from my peace," accused Brabantio, wagging a finger at him.
"Sir, sir, sir—" Roderigo pleaded, but was cut off.
"But you’d better realize that my spirit and my social position have the power to turn this against you," said Brabantio. He gripped the frame of the window and moved to slam them shut and to go back to his sleep.
"Patience, good sir," cried Roderigo desperately.
Brabantio paused. "What did you say about a robbing? This is Venice, the city. My house is not isolated in the country."
"Most serious Brabantio," Roderigo said quickly. "I come to you in sincere and pure soul—" he was once more cut off, this time by Iago.
"Dear Lord, sir, you are one of those that will not serve God if the devil told you to. We come to you to help you out, and you think we are ruffians; because of that, you’ll allow your daughter to couple with an animal; your grandchildren will neigh to you," Iago spat indignantly.
"Who are you, you foul-mouthed wretch?" called Brabantio, back at his window sill. He peered angrily into the darkness, trying to make out just who the insulting man below him was.
Iago replied roughly, "I am one, sir, which comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs."
"You are a liar," Brabantio said lowly and menacingly.
"You are a senator," Iago replied calmly.
"You will answer for this," Brabantio muttered. Then, louder, "I know you, Roderigo!"
Roderigo winced. "Sir, I will answer anything. But I beg you, please know, if it would be your pleasure and most wise consent, that your fair daughter, at this ungodly hour, is with but a knave of common hire, a gondolier, in the gross arms of the Moor. But if you already knew this, and if you allowed this, then we have done you bold and insolent wrongs. But if you didn’t know this, my manners tell me that we have rebuked your wrong. Don’t believe that I would play and trifle with your reverence.
"Your daughter, if you have not given her leave, I repeat, has made a great revolt against you, tying her duty, beauty, wit, and fortunes to a wandering and rootless stranger of here and everywhere. Inform yourself immediately of the truth.
"If she is in her room or your house, let loose the justice of the state upon me for deluding you," he finished, bowing his head to him.
Brabantio stopped for a long moment. Then he turned back inside. "Light the tinder, now! Give me a torch. Call up all my people.
"This unexpected happening is just like my dream. Already I am starting to believe it, and it worries me.
"Light, I said, light!" Brabantio yelled into the confines of his home.
Roderigo and Iago cast each other a small, triumphant smile.
Then, to Roderigo, Iago said: "Farewell, for I must leave you.
"It’s neither proper nor healthy for someone in my position to be brought forward against the Moor, because if I stay, I will be. I know for a fact that the state cannot safely dismiss him, because he’s involved with such urgent reason to the Cyprus wars, which even now is about to happen, and even if they offer their souls as payment there is no one else with his capacity as a military leader to lead their business.
"In this regard, though I hate him with all my heart, for the necessity of present livelihood, I must hold out a flag and sign of love—which is indeed just a sign. In order to find him, lead the search to the Sagittary (the inn, remember) and I will be there with him. Anyway, see you." Iago spun on his heels and stalked back the way he and Roderigo had come, towards the Sagittary.
As he rounded the corner, Brabantio slammed the front door open, startling Roderigo. The old man was in his nightgown, holding a torch in one hand, and followed by several servants.
Brabantio seemed shaken and worried. "It is too true an evil. She is gone, and the rest of my now-hated life is nothing but bitterness. –Now, Roderigo, where did you see her?—Oh, unhappy girl!—With the Moor, you said?—Who would be such a father?—How did you know it was her?—Oh, she deceives me past comprehension!—What did she say to you?—Get more tapers. Raise all of my family.—Are they married, do you think?" he asked, looking at Roderigo with sickeningly upset eyes.
"Honestly," Roderigo said, trying not to cringe, "I think they are."
Brabantio reeled backwards into a servant’s arms, and clutched at his shirt. "Oh, heaven! How did she get out? Oh, betrayal of her father and family, rebellion of the passions!
"Fathers, from now on do not trust your daughters’ minds by the way they act.—Are there not charms by which the character of youth and maid hood may be violated? Have you read, Roderigo, of some such thing?" Brabantio asked hoarsely, pushing the servant away.
"Yes, sir, I have."
"Wake up my brother," snapped Brabantio to a servant, who promptly hurried off.
"Oh, would you had had her!—Some one way, some another.—Do you know where we could apprehend her and the Moor?" Brabantio asked Roderigo anxiously.
Roderigo hesitated thoughtfully. "I think I can find him, if you would get a good guard and go along with me," he replied slowly.
Brabantio replied immediately: "Lead on. At every house, I’ll call. I am enough well-respected that I can get help by asking.—Get weapons, now! And wake up some night officers.—Go, good Roderigo. I will reward your pains." They headed off down the street, following back in Iago’s footsteps.
Further off, Iago and Othello walked together, trading words. A few servants bearing torches followed them, lighting their way.
Iago was just finishing a heated story he was sharing with Othello: "I have slain men in the trade of war, but I hold it in my conscience to never commit murder. I lack wickedness sometimes when I need it. Nine or ten times I had the thought to have jabbed him here under the ribs." He gestured to his side to demonstrate where his blade would have penetrated the disrespectful man.
Othello nodded. "It’s better as it is."
Iago scoffed, shaking his head. "No, but he rambled and spoke such insulting and provoking terms against your honor, that with the little godliness I have I did with great difficulty keep myself from injuring him. But I ask you, sir, are you securely married? Be assured that Brabantio is loved much, and has power and influence twice that of any citizen and equal to the Duke’s. He will divorce you or put on you whatever restraint or oppression the law will let him enforce," he advised.
Othello chuckled nonchalantly. "Let him do whatever he wants.
"My services to the signiory will shut him up. I have my own strength—and, of course, my love for the beautiful and sweet Desdemona, who I would never suppress for the sea’s worth," he said, looking out over their surroundings.
Spotting something in the distance, he asked, "Wait, what are those lights over there?"
The men stopped and peered at the bobbing torch lights.
Iago said, "Those are her father and his friends…You’d best go inside. Who woke him up, I wonder?"
Othello shook his head. "No, I won’t go inside like a coward. I must not hide.
"My qualities, my title, and perfect soul will do right by me…Are you sure that’s them?" he frowned as they came nearer.
Iago also frowned, slightly confused. "By Janus, I don’t think it is," he replied wondrously.
Michael Cassio, the man who had stolen Iago’s lieutenancy, appeared along with a few officers and torch-bearers.
Othello’s face lit up in surprised pleasure. "It’s the Duke’s servants, and my lieutenant! Good evening, friends. What’s going on?"
Cassio’s features remained serious. "The Duke says ‘good evening’ also, general, and he requires your immediate appearance…As in: right now."
Othello’s smile faded, his forehead creasing. "What do you think is the matter?"
Cassio shrugged. "Something from Cyprus, I guess. It’s very urgent business.
"The galleys have sent a dozen messengers in a row tonight, right after one another; Most of the Consuls are already at the Duke’s. You’ve been called for," Cassio continued. Othello seemed mildly surprised.
"When you weren’t found at your house, the Senate sent about three separate search groups to look for you," Cassio added.
Othello frowned. "Well, you’ve found me now. Give me a minute to my house, then I’ll go with you." He turned and, followed by a torch-bearer, stepped into a house, most likely to dress in more formal apparel.
Cassio turned to Iago. "Ancient, what is he doing here?"
A small smirk played on Iago’s lips. "Tonight, he has gone aboard and captured a great ship full of treasure. If it proves to be lawful and just for him to keep, he’s made forever."
"I can’t understand you when you talk like that," Cassio said, rolling his eyes slightly at Iago’s use of terminology.
Iago scoffed. "He’s married."
Cassio was surprised. "To whom?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Iago rolled his eyes. "Ugh, to—" He was interrupted by Othello’s sudden reappearance. "Hey, captain," Iago greeted. "Ready to go?"
"Ready as I’ll ever be," Othello grunted, fidgeting with his shirt.
"Oh, look," said Cassio, looking at the approaching torches. "It’s another one of the search groups."
Iago winced outwardly with an inward sigh of relief. "This time it’s Brabantio. General, be careful. He doesn’t look very happy."
Othello, seeing the look of rage on Brabantio’s face, called, "Stop! Halt right where you are!"
"Signior," Roderigo pointed a finger at Othello, "there he is—the Moor."
"Take that thief down!" snarled Brabantio.
The men on both sides drew their swords from their belts, eyes intently on Othello.
Iago stepped forward. "You, Roderigo! I challenge you!"
Othello sighed. "Sheathe your swords, men, or the dew will rust them. Good signior, please use your learned years to command, rather than with your weapons," Othello chastised Brabantio, who turned a deeper shade of purple.
"Oh, you foul thief, you’ve cast a spell on her!" growled Brabantio, shaking a finger at Othello, who seemed surprised.
Othello opened his mouth as if to reply to the accusation, but Brabantio didn’t give him the chance. He continued: "I’ll trust my own eyes to see whether there is any evidence of your trickery played on her—my dear daughter, a maid so young, fair, and happy, so opposed to marriage that she shunned the wealthy darlings of our nation. There’s no way she would run away from my guardianship to marry someone like you—not unless she was driven by fear!
"Let the world be my judge, if it’s not evident that you have practiced your black magic on her, abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals that weakens motion—I’ll have this subject disputed. I charge you as an abuser of the world, a practitioner of the dark arts and black magic," Brabantio finished.
Othello stared at the old man, dumbfounded.
"Take him in. If he resists, kill him," Brabantio ordered his officers. They stepped forward, and Othello, as if by the sight of his own arrest roused him, took a step back and raised his head high.
"But the Duke has summoned me. How can I obey his orders if I’ve been arrested?" Othello asked with dignity. The officers paused, and waited for Brabantio’s answer.
Brabantio paused himself, and an officer who had come with Cassio to retrieve Othello spoke. "It’s true, most worthy signior. The Duke’s in council, and you have also been sent for, I’m sure," he said.
Brabantio frowned. "What? The Duke is in council? At this time of night? Take him away, my cause cannot wait.
"The Duke himself, or any of my brothers of the state, won’t help but to feel this wrong as if it were their own. If they excuse this crime, then our statesmen are nothing more than bondsmen and pagans," Brabantio declared boldly.
The Duke sat, with his senators and a few officers that stood guard, in the ornate room, frowning with furrowed brows at the compilations of papers that they read.
With a tired sigh, the Duke set down his paper, and with his elbow on the mahogany desk before him, rubbed his temple. "There’s no consistency in these reports at all that makes them credible in the least," he muttered irritably.
The senator to the Duke’s right agreed, but didn’t take his eyes away from the scribbled words. "Yes, they are inconsistent. My letter says a hundred and seven galleys."
The Duke picked up his paper once more and skimmed through the words. "Mine says a hundred forty."
To his left, the second senator frowned. "This report states two hundred. But just because the do not completely agree on an exact number, they all do confirm a Turkish fleet heading toward Cyprus," he noted, resting his chin on his fist thoughtfully.
The Duke shook his head of white hair. "No, it’s possible that they’re just guessing. But the inconsistency bothers me, though the main article I do believe—and fear." A servant moved in to replace a candle that had died out, then silently left again.
A voice cried outside the door, muffled footfalls running down the hallway. "Sir, sir, sir!" it called.
A sailor burst into the room, breathless. He gripped his knees and swallowed hard to compose himself before standing up straight and saluting the signiors.
The officer at the door introduced the man. "A messenger from the galleys."
"Now what?" the Duke sighed, laying down his papers. His senators also placed theirs onto the desk.
The sailor relayed the news: "The Turkish fleets are heading to Rhodes. So I was told to report here to the state by Signior Angelo."
The men behind the desk paused, soaking in the news.
The Duke turned to the man on his right. "What do you say about this change?" he asked.
His eyebrows knitted together in confusion. "This can’t be right no matter how you look at it. It’s just a ruse to keep us distracted. When we consider how important Cyprus is to the Turks, it makes sense that they’d try to deceive us in order to get it." Then he nodded, as if to assure himself of his own words.
The Duke looked down at his wrinkled hands thoughtfully. Then he spoke slowly, "No, I agree. The Turks aren’t going for Rhodes."
The officer spoke for the second messenger that had just appeared. "There are more news."
This messenger, who was older than the first, was calm and collected, his voice smooth and unwavering as he spoke. "The Turks, your honor, are steering with due course toward the isle of Rhodes; they have a second fleet joining them."
The first senator let out a whoosh of air that he had been holding in his lungs, relieved. "Yeah, I thought so. How many to do you guess?" he asked the man, lacing his fingers together.
Immediately, the messenger replied, "About thirty; and now they’re retracing their course back to Cyprus. Signior Montano, your trusty and most valiant servant informs you of this and prays that you believe him."
The Duke slapped the table top with his palm. "Then it’s certain that they’re headed to Cyprus. Is Marcus Luccicos in town?"
"He’s in Florence," answered his right-hand senator.
"Write a letter to him from us immediately. Hurry," added the Duke. He was back in control of the situation, to his content.
The first senator looked up to the door, where Brabantio, Othello flanked with officers, Iago, and Roderigo were just entering. "Here comes Brabantio and the valiant Moor," he said with a welcoming smile.
The Duke stood. "Othello, we must immediately send to war against the Turks," he said immediately. Then to Brabantio, he addressed, "I did not see you. Welcome, noble signior. We missed your counsel and your help tonight."
Brabantio remained stern in his expression, jaw line tight. "I missed yours too. Your Honor, pardon me. Your calling did not wake me from sleep, nor does this subject hold my attention, because my particular complaint is so torrent like and of overbearing nature that it engulfs other sorrows, and it is still what it is," he grumbled loudly.
The Duke and his senators’ smiles faltered. He stuttered, "Why, what’s the matter?"
Then Brabantio broke down. "My daughter! Oh, my daughter!"
The first senator, eyes wide, asked, "Dead?"
"To me, yes," Brabantio declared. "She’s been deceived, stolen from me, and corrupted by spells and medicines bought of wandering quacks. Desdemona’s nature would not be to err so preposterously, were it not for witchcraft!"
The Duke slammed his open hands down before him on the table, feeling his friend’s rage as his own. "Whoever he is that did this to your daughter will be punished to the greatest extent of the law!"
Inclining his head to him, Brabantio replied: "Humbly, I thank your Grace. Here is the man—this Moor, whom now it seems that you have called for." He threw a finger at Othello, who seemed unaffected by it.
Upon hearing the shocking news, everyone cried out but for the new arrivals, "What?!"
Then the Duke turned to Othello doubtfully. "What can you say to these charges, on your own behalf?" he demanded.
Brabantio cut in: "Nothing, because it’s true," but was stopped from speaking further by a dismissive hand from the Duke.
Othello spoke in a dignified manner. "I did not use any witchcraft, most reverend signiors. I will tell you how I won Brabantio’s daughter’s heart—without the use of drugs, or charms, or conjurations, or with mighty magic."
Brabantio could not hold his tongue once more and interrupted angrily. "There’s no way! Desdemona was afraid of her own shadow—so modest that she blushed at herself! For to fall in love with someone like the Moor, it’s—it’s, it’s unheard of! He had to have used some sort of potion—something to control her!" he insisted, pointing desperately at the accused man.
The Duke sighed. "I hear you, but the fact is that there is no proof without further and clearer evidence than these thin accusations and hypotheses," he told Brabantio. Iago stole a glance at Brabantio, who practically shook with contempt.
The senator to the Duke’s right stepped in. "All right, Othello. Tell us the truth: Did you or did you not by indirect or direct and forced courses subdue and poison this young maid’s affections? Or did you take her affection by request as soul to soul naturally does?" he asked quietly.
Othello stepped forward, but instead of answering, replied with a plea. "I beg of you: bring the lady to the Sagittary and let her tell her father about it. If you do find me guilty of my charges, let me have the death sentence."
The men looked at one another, then with a sigh, the Duke relented. "Bring Desdemona here," he said.
Othello, relieved, turned to Iago. "Ancient, show them the way. You know where it is better than they do."
Iago nodded, then left, flanked by a few attendants.
"And until she comes," Othello continued, "I will tell you in my own view how Desdemona came to love me, as truthfully as truth can be."
"Go ahead, Othello," the Duke nodded.
"Her father loved me," he began, "and often invited me over, continually questioned me about the story of my life from year to year—the battles, sieges, fortunes that I have experienced.
"I ran it through, from my boy’s days to the very moment that he asked me to tell it, and I talked of disastrous chances, of stirring events by flood and field, of hairbreadth escapes in the face of death, of being taken by the insolent foe and sold to slavery, of being ransomed, and my conduct during my traveler’s history, of the vast caves and idle deserts, rough quarries, rocks, and mountains, it was my opportunity to speak of the cannibals that ate each other, and men whose heads grew beneath their shoulders. Desdemona would love to hear of such things.
"She would rush through her household duties and come again to listen with a greedy ear. I would tell her whatever she wanted to hear, in great detail, and often she did cry for my hardships in my youth. When I finished my story, she gave me a world of sighs. She wished that she had not heard it, but she wished that heaven had made her a man like me.
"She thanked me, and said that if I had a friend that loved her, I should teach him to tell my story, and that would woo her. I took the hint, and I spoke. She loved me for the dangers I had endured, and I loved her because she pitied them. This is the only witchcraft that I have used.
"Here comes the lady. Let her tell her side of the story," Othello finished, stepping back.
Desdemona, looking a bit shy, stepped into the center of attention, and Iago and the attendants took their places where they had been before they had left.
The Duke chuckled at her gentle smile directed at Othello. "I think this story would win my daughter, too…Good Brabantio, try to make the best of this situation. Men would rather use their broken weapons than their bare hands, eh?" he asked.
Brabantio flushed crimson. "Please hear her speak. If she confesses that she was half the wooer, let destruction fall on my head. Come here, my daughter. Do you understand in all this noble company where you owe your obedience?" he asked, and she looked down at her feet.
"Father," she said, "here I see a divided duty.
"I am obliged to you by life and upbringing. My life and education both teach me how to respect you. You are the one to whom I owe obedience, because I am your daughter," Desdemona paused and Brabantio beamed proudly. Then she continued:
"But here is my husband. And as my mother chose you over her father, so must I. I’m sorry, Father, but I know that my obedience is now to the Moor." Desdemona left her father and stood determinedly beside Othello.
Brabantio gaped. Then he seemed to come to his senses, and rage filled his being. He spluttered, "God be with you! I am finished.
"If it pleases your Grace, move on to the state affairs. I would rather adopt a child than to father this girl.—Come here, Moor." Othello stepped over to Brabantio.
"I now give you with all my heart—if you did not already have it—that otherwise I would keep from you. For your sake, Desdemona, I am glad that you are my only child, for because of your escape, it would make me lock my other children in chains to keep them under my eye…I am finished, my lord," Brabantio said, his eyes never leaving Othello’s.
The Duke lifted his chin off of his fist and leaned forward in his seat. "Let me speak like you for a moment and offer my word of advice:
"What is past help should be past tears," he said wisely, then leaned back.
Irritated, Brabantio scoffed. "All right, that’s enough of this subject. My patience wears thin. Let us talk about us winning against the Turks at Cyprus."
The Duke cleared his throat loudly before speaking. "The Turks head to Cyprus with a very large fleet. Othello, you know the strength of it best. Although we have a deputy of the most acknowledged sufficiency, your opinion is deemed safer."
Othello once more stepped forward in front of everyone’s eyes. "The habit of war has made the hard beds of war seem soft to me. I acknowledge that I have an eagerness to undergo hardships for some reason, so I will take care of the present war against the Turks.
"Therefore, I humbly ask that you make appropriate arrangements for my wife, amongst suitable company and at her proper residence," announced Othello calmly.
The Duke frowned. "Why, at her father’s," he said simply.
Brabantio answered immediately and gruffly. "No. I won’t let her live with me any longer."
"Nor will I," agreed Othello. Brabantio cast him an ugly look.
Desdemona also spoke, "Nor would I live there and put my father into a bad mood. Most gracious Duke, please listen to my plan and help me."
"What are you planning, Desdemona?" asked the Duke, narrowing his eyes as if to portray an air that said he could see through lies.
Desdemona took a deep breath, gathering her courage to speak out for herself. "If I am left behind, I would just be so empty—I love him too much to stay behind. Let me go with him."
Even Othello seemed mildly surprised, but then composed himself. "Please support her. I swear to God that it’s not because I want to satisfy my sexual needs, but so that I will have her near me. I need her as she needs me. Our love is too great," Othello added quickly.
The Duke tapped his lips thoughtfully with a wrinkled finger. Then he sighed. "I think you’re moving too fast, but that is between you two to decide in private, whether she goes or not."
Desdemona broke out in a grin, and Othello looked pleased himself.
The Duke continued absently, "Why, I remember back when I was a lad—"
The first senator cut him short before his story could begin. "You must leave tonight."
"With all my heart," Othello replied dutifully.
The Duke cleared his throat. "We’ll meet here again at nine in the morning. Othello, leave an officer behind and he’ll take our commission to you, with such things that you’d be concerned with."
Othello nodded. "If it pleases you, your Grace," he replied respectively, "I’ll leave my ancient. He is a man of honesty and trust. I assign my wife to his escort, along with whatever else your Grace sends after me."
"Very well, then," the Duke consented. "Good night, everyone." Then, to Brabantio, he said, "And, noble signior, your son-in-law is not that bad."
The first senator couldn’t help but to suppress a smile. "Adieu, brave Moor, take care of Desdemona."
Brabantio frowned and added with a slightly menacing tone, "Watch her, Moor, if you have the eyes to see. She has deceived her father, and she may deceive you, too." With that, he stomped out of the room.
Once he was gone, Othello put an arm over Desdemona’s shoulders. "I would stake my life on her faithfulness to me!"
The Duke, senators, Cassio, and the officers nodded to Othello as they filed past through the door, leaving Iago and Roderigo with Desdemona and Othello.
"Honest Iago," Othello addressed him, "I must leave my Desdemona to you. Let your wife be her attendant, and bring them after me as soon as possible." Then, to Desdemona: "Come, Desdemona, I only have an hour left to spend with you. We must keep an eye on the time."
Iago and Roderigo were the last men remaining.
"Iago—" Roderigo started.
"What?" Iago asked.
"What do you think I should do?"
Iago replied immediately: "Go to bed and sleep."
Roderigo sighed glumly. "I will go and drown myself."
Iago chuckled. "If you do, I will stop loving you, you silly man!"
Roderigo wasn’t amused. "It is silliness to live, when to live is torture, and then we have a prescription to die anyway, because our physician is death."
Iago rolled his eyes at his friend. "Oh, shut up!" he said exasperatedly, smacking Roderigo upon the shoulder. "If I loved a guinea pig like her, I would exchange my humanity with a baboon."
"What should I do?" Roderigo asked again. "I know it’s not healthy to love her so much, but I can’t help it."
"Help it?" Iago repeated incredulously. "Stupid. It’s in ourselves that we are the way we are. Our bodies are our gardens, and our wills are our gardeners. If we plant thorns or lettuce is our choice. We can plant many things to distract and take away the nutrients so that they may not survive, but they will still be there. Therefore, we must turn up the soil and replant better things," he said.
Roderigo frowned. "That doesn’t sound right."
Iago put his hand on Roderigo’s shoulder. "Your plight is merely a lust of the blood and permission of the will. Come on, be a man! Drown yourself? You drown cats and blind puppies, not yourself!"
"As I am your friend," Iago continued, "I’m telling you to forget her. Put money in your wallet. Desdemona will not love the Moor for long—her tastes will change. Instead of drowning yourself, put money in your wallet."
"Will you stay by me if I depend on you?" Roderigo asked.
Iago gave him a friendly smile. "You can trust me. Go, make money. I’ve told you before: I hate the Moor. My heart is fixed on revenge; I will get it. Let’s work together. We’ll talk more of this tomorrow. Adieu." Iago began his exit.
"Where will we meet in the morning?" Roderigo asked.
"At my house," Iago answered, turning.
"I’ll be there early."
Iago laughed. "Okay, already, bye. Do you hear me, Roderigo?"
Roderigo frowned. "What?"
"No more about drowning, you hear?"
Roderigo broke out into a smile. "I changed my mind."
"All right, all right, bye. Put enough money in your wallet," Iago said, pushing Roderigo out of the door.
"I’ll sell all of my land," Roderigo promised, waving to Iago as he left.
Iago waved back with a smile until he was out of sight, then lowered his hand to his side. His expression darkened as he glared down the hallway in the direction of his departed friend.
Then he chuckled slyly. "And so I make a fool of my wallet. I am only expending my time with the fool for my own entertainment and profit. I hate the Moor, and it is thought by many that he has done my husbandly duties ‘tween my sheets. I do not know if this is true, but I will act as if it were a sure thing. He thinks highly of me. That will make it easier for me to manipulate him."
Iago began to walk down the hallway slowly, gathering his thoughts. "Cassio’s a classy guy. Let me see now…To get his place and to turn everyone against one another—how? How?—Let’s see." He frowned and bit his cheek, then his eyes lit up with an idea.
"After some time," he though aloud, "I’ll tell Othello that Cassio is too familiar with his wife. Cassio has a personality and a smooth manner to be suspected on his own, framed to make women untrue.
"The Moor is has a free and open mind that likes to think that men who seem to be are indeed honest, and is easily led by the nose as donkeys are…" He stopped in his tracks with a gleeful smile. "I have it! My plan is formed. Hell and night must bring this birth to the world’s light…"
A raging storm brewed over the sea, lighting the landscape with bright flashes of lightning. The howling wind slammed heavy waves down on the coast, breaking them up into millions of frothy white droplets to shower down on the sand.
Montano shielded his eyes with a hand as he stared out over the sea, searching for any arrivals. He shouted over the gusting wind to the man beside him, "What can you see out at the sea from here?"
The man squinted his eyes, then clapped a hand down on his cap as the gales tried to steal it. "Nothing at all," he shouted back. "It’s an agitated sea. I can’t tell between the sky and the ocean!"
Montano looked over his shoulder as a wall to a house suddenly collapsed. "I think the wind has spoken at land. There’s never been a stronger blast that shook the walls like this. If it’s like this on the sea, what ship could withstand its wrath?" He shuddered at the thought, then turned his attention back to the chaotic waves.
A second man ran up beside Montano, struggling to catch his breath. "The Turkish fleet has scattered," he panted, wringing his cap in his meaty hands. "I’ve never seen a storm like this…"
Montano frowned. "If the Turkish fleet hasn’t found shelter, surely they must have drowned by now. This storm is impossible to wait out."
A third man jogged over to them, he more excited than the second. "News, lads!" he shouted, holding his hat down firmly upon his head, beaming proudly. "Our wars are over. The desperate tempest is on our side. The Turks are so banged up that they can’t do anything. But our side is damaged, too."
"What?" asked Montano incredulously, raising his eyebrows. "Is this true?"
The third man nodded. "The ship that is in the harbor is a Veronesa. Michael Cassio, lieutenant to the warlike Moor Othello, is coming ashore. The Moor himself is still at sea, and is coming here to Cyprus at full speed," he confirmed.
Montano sighed with relief. "Good."
"But this Cassio," the man continued, "although he speaks in relief regarding the Turks loss, looks worried and prays that the Moor is safe, for they were parted by the violent storm."
Montano nodded in understanding. "I pray to heaven that he is, for I have served him, and the man commands like a complete soldier. Let’s go to the seaside and watch for him!"
"Yes, let’s do that," agreed the third man. "There could be more arrivals at any moment."
The four men met up with Cassio on the shore, and Cassio gave them a tight smile. "Thanks for wishing for the Moor’s safety!" he said. Then his face fell in worry. "Oh, let the heavens protect him against the elements for I have lost him on a dangerous sea…"
"Does he have a good ship?" Montano asked, holding up a hand to shield his eyes from a salty spray of ocean water.
Cassio nodded. "His ship is strong, and his pilot has the reputation of one of the most experienced experts out there. I’m sure he’ll be okay," he said as if to reassure himself.
They turned in the direction of the townspeople as they cried, "A sail, a sail, a sail!"
"What’s the noise for?" Cassio asked the messenger who just came.
The messenger looked over his shoulder at the throng of people. "The town is empty; all of its people stand on the beach, crying ‘A sail!’" he answered.
"I hope it’s the governor," Cassio murmured.
A shot rang out, heard over even the thunder of the black clouds.
The second man, huffing a little less, said, "They give us a shot of courtesy. At least we know that they’re our friends."
"Go see who it is that just came," Cassio commanded.
"Yes, sir," replied the second man a little reluctantly, then ambled quickly over the shoe-gripping sand.
"Hey, good lieutenant," Montano spoke, "does your general have a wife?"
Cassio broke out into a grin. "Fortunately, yes. He has won a maid that is beyond belief." As the second man returned, he asked anxiously, "What now? Who was it that came into the harbor?"
The second man replied, "It is Iago, the general’s ancient."
Cassio smiled once more, relief evident on his face. "He came so quickly! Even the storms themselves, the high seas, and howling winds, the jagged rocks and thick sand wouldn’t harm the goddess Desdemona!"
"Who’s Desdemona?" Montano frowned.
Cassio turned to him, still smiling, and stuck a hand in his pocket. "The maid I told you about, whom Iago is escorting for the Moor. If only he would come quickly—his exhibition of love towards Desdemona will surely lift everyone’s spirits!" he sighed, eyes growing distant.
"Here they are," Cassio greeted heartily, holding out both hands to gesture to them. "The passengers of the ship!"
"Thank you, brave Cassio," smiled Desdemona, splaying one hand down the front of her skirt to keep it down in the wind, and the other trying to control her billowing dark hair. "Are there any news of my husband?"
Cassio shook his head, smile gone. "Unfortunately, no. He hasn’t arrived yet, nor do I know when he will, but I’m certain it will be soon," he assured her.
Iago and Emilia, who protected herself from the gales of wind in the same manner as her lady, stopped behind Desdemona as she fretted. "Oh, but I’m still afraid for him.—How were you two separated?" she asked Cassio anxiously, worried green eyes searching his face.
"It was the storm, my lady," Cassio replied, "that parted us."
Another shot rang out, taking the people’s attention once more to the horizon. "A sail, a sail!" cried the townsfolk, pointing out over the water.
"They gave a shot," noted the second man. "This is also a friend."
"Go see who it is," Cassio commanded him, and this time he went immediately. Then Cassio greeted Desdemona’s companions. "Welcome, good ancient. Welcome, mistress," he said, taking Emilia’s hand. He kissed it, and Iago rolled his eyes. "Don’t get undignified, good Iago, that I greet your wife with a kiss. It’s my upbringing that gives me this bold show of courtesy," Cassio chuckled.
Iago gave him a tight-lipped smile. "Sir," he said, "if she gave you as much of her lips as she gives me tongue, you would have enough."
Emilia flushed red as Cassio and Desdemona laughed.
"Alas," Desdemona giggled, "she doesn’t deny it!"
"Actually," Iago replied, "she talks too much. I always have to listen to it when I want to sleep. Ha, right now, I can tell you that she’s putting her words into her heart to chide silently, and save it for when we’re in bed tonight." Everyone but Emilia laughed.
"That was uncalled for," Emilia sniffed haughtily, cheeks red from embarrassment.
"Oh, come on," Iago chuckled, putting an arm over his wife’s shoulder and giving her a little shake. "Women are to look at in public—housewives, really. Although you never really do the work."
Emilia’s jaw fell open at this, and Iago released her and stepped back.
Desdemona stood up for her attendant. "Those are lies, you slanderer. Where did you hear them—surely not from anyone who has a soul," she sneered, pointing a finger at Iago.
Iago grinned. "No, it’s true, or else I am a Turk. You wake up to play, and go to bed to work."
Now Desdemona turned slightly pink, and Emilia muttered, "You don’t get to write my eulogy anymore."
"Yeah, I’d better not," Iago agreed.
Desdemona pursed her lips and straightened herself to her full height. "What would you write about me if you should praise me?" she asked.
Iago chuckled dryly and shook his head. "Oh, young lady, don’t tempt me. I’m nothing if not critical," he said.
"Oh, come on, I dare you.—Has someone gone to see who is at the harbor?" Desdemona thought suddenly.
"Yes," Iago replied.
Within herself, Desdemona sighed. I am not happy, but I will distract myself and others from my anxiety by acting happily, she thought to herself. "Come on, how would you write about me?" she challenged Iago, who shook his head once more, but relented.
Iago furrowed his brow. "It’s hard to think of something good. Hold on…Okay, I’ve got it," he grinned, then cleared his throat.
"If she be fair and wise, fairness and wit,
"The one’s for use, the other useth it," he recited expertly.
"Well done!" Desdemona laughed. "What if she was evil and witty?"
Iago thought once more, then popped his lips as he began:
"If she be black, and thereto have a wit,
"She’ll find a white that shall her blackness hit."
"Worse and worse," Desdemona shook her head slowly, a slight, cunning smile upon her full lips.
Emilia jumped in with a suggestion. "What if she was pretty and stupid?"
This time Iago did not need to think:
"She never yet was foolish that was fair,
"For even her folly helped her to an heir."
Desdemona frowned. "These are just old paradoxes that men tell one another in the bar to laugh. Let’s see what you have for a girl that ugly and stupid." She folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow at him.
Iago laughed and searched his mind. He had to admit that this was rather fun.
"There’s none so foul and foolish thereunto,
"But does foul pranks which fair and wise ones do."
Desdemona’s jaw fell in indignity. "Oh, you’re so mean!" she exclaimed, stamping a foot. "You gave the worst one the best praise. But what could you say for a deserving woman, one that had a supreme morality?" she demanded.
Iago’s grin widened. "All right, then. Here:
"She that was ever fair and never proud,
"Had tongue at will and yet was never loud,
"Never 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
"To 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 a wight were…"
He cut himself off and looked out over the sea, suppressing an uproarious laugh.
"To do what?" Desdemona asked suspiciously, narrowing her eyes.
Reluctantly, Iago finished, all the while suppressing his laughter:
"…To suckle fools and chronicle small beer."
Desdemona and Emilia scoffed as he chuckled. "Oh, whatever!" retorted Desdemona, taking Emilia by the arm. "Don’t listen to him, Emilia, even though he’s your husband. What do you think, Cassio? Isn’t he mean?" she asked, turning to him.
He quickly composed himself from his laughter and wiped his eye. "He speaks bluntly, madam. He’s a better soldier than a scholar, that’s for sure," he said. Then he took Desdemona’s hand.
Inwardly, Iago celebrated. He takes her hand. Yes, whisper to her. With this little web here I will catch as great a fly as Cassio. Yes, smile at her. I will trap you in your own manners. If the way you act now can strip you of your lieutenancy, it’d be best if you don’t kiss your fingers so often, which you’ll most likely do again. I knew it; well kissed; an excellent gesture! It’s so. Your fingers to your lips again? Ha!
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud trumpet fanfare.
"The Moor," Iago said aloud. "I know his trumpet."
"It is," confirmed Cassio.
"Let’s meet him down at the shore," Desdemona suggested, starting off as she said it. She picked up her skirt as she made her way across the wet sand.
"Look, here he comes," cried Cassio.
Desdemona ran the rest of the way into Othello’s arms, squealing happily.
"Oh, my beautiful bride," sighed Othello happily, squeezing her.
"My dear Othello!" cried Desdemona.
Othello’s attendants shifted uncomfortably behind him, as they received most of the spray from the waves crashing down.
"I’m so happy to see you—So unbelievably happy!" cried Othello, spinning round with her in his clutches. "If there is a calm like this after every storm, then let the winds blow till they wake death, let the ships climb hills of sea as tall as mountains, and duck again so low as if falling from heaven to hell! If I were to die this minute, it would be best, for I can’t imagine being happier than this ever again!"
Desdemona laughed. "Our love and happiness will grow greater every day that we are together!" she assured him, face lit up in joy.
"Amen to that!" agreed Othello. He and Desdemona pressed their lips together in a passionate kiss. Iago immediately felt ill, but contained himself. "And this," Othello continued after they pulled apart, "this is the greatest music that our hearts will ever make!"
Iago smiled inwardly. Oh, you are well tuned now, but I’ll destroy your harmony, in all my reputed "honesty."
Othello and Desdemona released one another, and he spoke to her: "Come, let’s go to the castle." Then to everyone else, "News, friends! Our wars are over. The Turks have drowned. How do my old friends here?" He laughed, then turned back to his wife. "Honey, everyone on this isle Cyprus will love you. They all love me, too. Oh, my dear, I talk too much," he reprimanded himself.
He began to lead Desdemona away, then stopped, remembering something. "Oh, Iago," he said, turning back, "go to the bay and unload my things. And bring the ship’s commander to the citadel. He’s a good man, and his worthiness deserves much respect."
Then he continued on, leaving Iago and Roderigo alone, as everyone else departed.
Iago spoke to a leaving attendant: "You. Meet me down at the harbor now."
The servant nodded and hurried away.
Then, to Roderigo, Iago said, "Come along. If you are brave, then listen to me. Tonight, the lieutenant stands watch at the guardhouse. First, let me tell you this: Desdemona is in love with him."
Roderigo stopped in his tracks, mouth agape. "With him?! That’s impossible!"
Iago shushed him harshly. "Keep quiet, man…Did you really think that Desdemona would keep loving the Moor? No, she only wants him so she can brag and tell lies! Once her sexual desires are once more set aflame, she will go after someone young, mannerful, and handsome—something the Moor is not. Who is more suitable than Cassio? He fits all of her requirements, and so she will go after him," he shrugged, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"I don’t believe that," scoffed Roderigo, resuming pace with Iago. "She’s too good a person."
"Good schmood!" spat Iago. "She’s no different than the rest of us. If she was too good, she’d never have fallen in love with the Moor in the first place. Didn’t you see her play with her fingers on Cassio’s palm? Didn’t you?" he demanded.
Roderigo hesitated. "Well, yeah… But that was just out of politeness!"
"You don’t understand!" insisted Iago. "This is only the beginning, Roderigo! You and I need to put an end to this before Othello finds out…Roderigo, stand watch tonight. Cassio doesn’t know who you are. I won’t be far away from you. When I give you a signal, you find some way to make Cassio angry, either by speaking too loud, mocking his discipline, something, whatever works fastest."
"Well…" Roderigo frowned reluctantly.
"Sir," Iago said, "he’s reckless and very short-tempered, and he might try to hit you. He may do that if you provoke him. This way you’ll get what you want faster, by the way I promote things. Our plans will not work if the impediment—Cassio, if you will—is not removed."
Roderigo sighed and scratched his beard for a moment. "I’ll do it," he relented, "if you can make an opening for me."
"Trust me," replied Iago boldly. "Meet me at the citadel. I still have to get Othello’s crap from the shore. See you."
"Adieu," Roderigo answered as he walked away towards the town.
Iago continued on his way to the shore, deep in conniving thought. He murmured quietly to himself as he walked.
"I’m pretty sure that Cassio loves her. It’s highly likely that she loves him back. The Moor, even though I hate him, is a loving, noble man, and I think he’ll be a great husband for Desdemona. Now, I love her too, but not out of lust (although I do admit to that sin) but partly as a way of revenge because I suspect that the lusty Moor has cheated with my wife—the thought gnaws at my intestines like a poisonous mineral, and nothing will appease it until we are even, wife for wife, or, failing so, to at least put the Moor into a jealousy so strong that he loses his sense of judgment. If this trash Roderigo can carry out his part, I’ll have Michael Cassio at a disadvantage, start rumors about him to the Moor in such a language that makes him look the opposite of his kind and polite self, make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me for making him look like a donkey and destroying his peace and quiet to the point of madness. I have a plan, but not all of the details."
Then he was at the ship, where the servant waited, and went to work.
In the streets of the Cyprus town, Othello’s herald walked into the middle of the busy marketplace. He yelled so that everyone could hear.
"It is Othello’s pleasure, our noble and brave general, to announce that the total destruction of the Turkish fleet is a call for every man to celebrate! Some to dance, some to make bonfires, and each man to do what sport and fun he wishes. Besides these beneficial news, it is the celebration of his marriage. All bars are open, and there is full liberty of feasting until this hour of five o’clock until the bell tolls eleven. God bless the isle of Cyprus and our noble general, Othello!"
Then he was on his way, to go to the next street and to spread the news.
Othello and his wife, and Cassio walked together down the darkening street, followed closely by attendants.
"Michael," Othello addressed Cassio, "remember that you’re on guard duty tonight. Let’s teach ourselves self-restraint and not celebrate past the point of no return."
Cassio nodded. "Iago knows what to do, but probably not all of it. I will look to it personally," he said.
Othello smiled at the mention of Iago. "Iago is an honest man. Good night, Michael. Let me talk to you tomorrow at the earliest time possible," he ordered. Then, in a soft, loving voice, he said to Desdemona: "Come, my love, now that we’re married, we can enjoy the perks that come with it." As he walked away, he bid Cassio good night, tossing a casual wave over his shoulder. The servants followed.
Just as they rounded the corner, Iago made his entrance and stepped up beside Cassio.
"Welcome, Iago," Cassio greeted. "It’s time to take watch."
"Not for another hour, we don’t," scorned Iago. "It’s not ten o’clock yet. The general only dismissed us this early for Desdemona."
Cassio smiled dreamily. "She’s such a beautiful woman."
"And," Iago said, "I’ll bet, full of playfulness."
"Yeah, she’s pretty young," Cassio agreed, pushing a hand into his pocket.
"Have you seen her eyes?" Iago asked. "I mean, they’re so beautiful!"
Cassio chuckled. "They’re so inviting, yet so modest."
"And her voice!" gushed Iago.
"She is perfection," Cassio said.
"Well, happiness to their bed!" exclaimed Iago, a skip in his step. "Come, lieutenant, I have a big barrel of wine; and here outside are a pair of Cyprus men that would gladly drink a toast to the health of Othello."
"No, not tonight, Iago," replied Cassio, holding up a hand. "I’m no good at drinking. I wish that someone would invent some other way of entertainment," he sighed wistfully.
"Oh, come on!" urged Iago, lightly nudging Cassio in the ribs. "They are our friends. Just one cup; I’ll drink with you."
"I’ve already had one cup tonight, and that was really diluted, too. Look at what that’s done to me already. I am unfortunate in my infirmity, and I dare not drink any more.