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Long time ago in Venice there was a rich Senator who was known as Brabantio. He had a beautiful daughter, the gentle Desdemona. She was sought by various suitors, both of her clime and complexion, but she found none of her choice. The noble lady, who regarded the heart more than the appearance and complexion of man, had chosen the person of her affections-a Moor, a dark complexioned nobleman, whom her father loved deeply and often invited him to their mansion. The noble Moor, Othello, was a valiant soldier and by his heroics in bloody wars against the Turks, he had been raised to the rank of the General and was highly esteemed and revered thoroughout the state.

Othello had been a great traveller and Desdemona was all the more keen to listen to the stories of adventure that Othello recollected from his experiences in the battles, sieges and encounters, the perils he had been exposed to, his hair-breadth escapes when he entered a breach, or marched up to the mouth of a cannon and how he had been captivated by the insolent enemy and sold as a slave, how he demeaned himself in that state, and escaped. Desdemona listened with rapt attention of all these accounts, added to the narration of the strange things Othello had seen in foreign countries: the vast wilderness and romantic caverns, the quarries, the rocks and lofty mountains that touched the clouds, the savage nations, the cannibals who are man-eaters, and of the Anthropophagie in Africa whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders. These stories enticed Desdemona so much that even if she was called for any household affairs, she would finish off the work with all haste and return to Othello with greedy ear to devour his discourse. At the end of his stories Desdemona would always sigh and then thank him and wished that if he had a friend who loved her, he had only to teach him, how to tell his story, and that would woo her. Upon this hint, delivered not with more frankness than modesty, and blushes, which Othello could not but understand and he spoke more openly of his love ind thus gained the consent of the generous and gorgeous lady Desdemona to marry him.

Their marriage, which though was privately solemnized, could not be kept a secret for long. When the news reached Brabantio, he appealed to the Duke of Venice and prayed for justice against Othello accusing him of casting spell and witchcraft to seduce the gentle Desdemona, winning her heart and marrying her without taking the consent of her father.

Meanwhile, the state of Venice was in urgent need of Othello. The Senate received a news that the Turks had set sail a fleet with mighty preparation for hostility and they were moving towards the island of Cyprus with the intent to regain it from the Venetians. In this state of emergency, Othello was deemed as the most competent General to defend Cyprus against the invasion of the Turks. Hence, Othello was summoned before the Senate. He was therefore called to the Senate both as a candidate for a noble employment and esteem as well as a culprit, charged with offences by Senator Brabantio.

The old Senator was heard with utmost patience in the assembly of the Senators and the infuriated father accused Othello in outrageous manner. Hence, when Othello was called upon for his defence, he had only to narrate a simple story of his love, which he did so in such artless eloquence that even the Duke had to confess that a tale so told would have won his daughter too. And the spells and conjurations which Othello had used in his courtship plainly appeared to have been no more than the honest arts of wooing and the only witchcraft which he had used is the skill of telling a soft tale to win a lady’s heart.

The statement of Othello was confirmed by Desdemona who appeared in court and acknowledged that she was bound by duty to Brabantio for her life and education. But now she has a higher duty to perform for her lover and husband Othello, quite like her 34 mother had done years ago in preferring Brabantio above her father. Unable to maintain his plea, Brabantio accepted the Moor as his son-in-law and told him that with all his heart he would keep her away from him. He was also glad that he had no other children, for this behaviour of Desdemona would have made him a tyrant and hang clogs on them for desertion. He even warned Othello about Desdemona who had deceived her father and might also deceive him.

After the trial, Othello readily went to the war in Cyprus along with Desdemona as she refused to stay with her father any more. She boldly declared, “I loved the Moor to live with him”. So the newly married couple set sail for Cyprus. But, as soon they landed in Cyprus, the news arrived that a violent tempest had dispersed the Turkish fleet and the island was, thus, secure. But the war, which Othello was to suffer, was now beginning and the enemies which malice stirred up against Desdemona proved in their nature more deadly than strangers or infidels.

Among the friends of Othello, no one possessed his confidence more than Cassio. He was a young Florentine soldier, amorous, and of pleasing nature which attracted the women. He was handsome and eloquent. Any married man of advanced years having a young, beautiful wife would be much alarmed of such a person except Othello who was free from jealousy, as he was noble and incapable of suspecting him to be infidel. He had used Cassio in his love affair with Desdemona for Othello feared that he lacked the amorous qualities of Cassio that would please ladies, and so would often depute Cassio to court for him; such innocent simplicity being rather an honour than a blemish to the character of the valiant Moor. It was therefore no wonder if, next to Othello, the gentle Desdemona loved and trusted Cassio. Hence, the marriage of this couple made little difference to their relationship with Cassio. He frequented their house, and his free and rattling talk was endearing to Othello for he himself was of a serious temper.

Othello had of late promoted Cassio to the rank of Lieutenant, a place of trust and nearest to the General. The promotion gave great offence to lago, an elder nobleman, who thought he had a better claim than Cassio and would often scorn at Cassio to be a person befitting for the company of ladies, and knew little of the art of warfare. lago hated Cassio. He also hated Othello for favouring Cassio and also for an unjust suspicion that the Moor was too fond of Emilia, lago’s wife. From these imaginary provocations, lago conceived a scheme of revenge that would involve Cassio, Othello and Desdemona in one common ruin.

lago was crafty. He studied human mind deeply. He knew that of all the kinds of afflictions that torment man, the pains of jealousy were the most unbearable and had the sorest sting. He thought if he could succeed in making Othello envious of Cassio, then it would be an excellent plot of revenge which might culminate in the death of Cassio or Othello or both, he cared little.

The arrival of the General and his lady in Cyprus, and receiving the news of the dispersion of enemy’s fleet, created a sort of holiday mood in the island. Everybody was involved in feasting and merry making. Cassio had the direction of the guard that night with a charge from Othello to restrain the soldiers from drinking excessively. On that night lago began his deep laid plans of mischief. Under the guise of loyalty and love to the General, he lured Cassio to have a drink, which was a great fault for an officer on guard. Although Cassio resisted initially, yet he soon fell into the guile of lago. He swallowed wine glass after glass andbecame drunk. Provoked by lago, he praised the gentle lady Desdemona. He even told lago, “She is a most exquisite lady.” At the end he got involved in a scuffle. Montano, a worthy officer, who interfered to pacify the dispute, was wounded in the scuffle. Taking advantage of the situation lago spread the alarm causing the castle bell to be rung as if a dangerous mutiny had set in. The bell awakened Othello who dressed in haste came down to the scene of action and asked Cassio of the cause. By now, Cassio had regained some rationality, but was too ashamed to reply. Iago pretended to be reluctant to tell the truth, and, as if compelled by Othello, gave an account of the whole matter in such a manner that it seemed to make Cassio’s offence less, but actually made it appear greater than it was. Consequently, Othello who was a strict observer of discipline was forced to take away the rank of lieutenant from Cassio. Thus, lago’s first artifice succeeded. He had now undermined his hated adversary Cassio and was successful to thrust him out of his place.

Cassio, whom this misfortune had entirely sobered, now lamented to his seeming friend lago :

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal partof myself,andwhatremains is bestial. My reputation, lago, my reputation!” He despised himself. He thought how he could ask the General for his place again. Iago advised him to apply to the lady to mediate for him with her lord.

Cassio did as lago advised him. Desdemona promised him that she would be his solicitor with her lord. She immediately set about for this cause in so earnest and pretty manner that Othello, who was mortally offended with Cassio, could not put her off. When he pleaded delay because it was too soon to pardon such an offender, she insisted that it should be the next night, or the next morning to that at farthest. Then she showed how penitent and humbled poor Cassio was and that his offence did not deserve punishment of such magnitude. But Othello still hung back. So she said, “What my lord, that I should have so much to do to plead for Cassio, Michael Cassio, that came a-courting for you, and often times when I have spoken in dispraise of you, has taken your part. I count this but a little thing to ask of you. When I mean to try your love indeed, I shall ask a weighty matter.” Othello could deny nothing to such a pleader. He promised to receive Michael Cassio again in his favour, but only requested Desdemona to leave the time to him.

It happened that Othello and lago had entered into the room where Desdemona was already present with Cassio who had been imploring her intercession. He departed through the opposite door as Othello entered and lago who was full of art said in a low voice, as if to himself, “I like not that.” Othello took no notice of what he said. The interaction which immediately took place with Desdemona put it out of his head. But he recalled it later. When Desdemona departed from the scene lago asked Othello, as if mere satisfaction of his thought, whether Cassio knew of the General’s courtship with Desdemona. The General replied in affirmative and added that he had gone between them very often during the courtship. lago raised his brow, as if he had got a fresh light on some terrible matter and remarked, “Indeed!”. This brought into Othello’s mind the words of lago which he said while entering the room. Thus he began to think there was some meaning in that private meeting of Desdemona with Cassio. Othello deemed lago to be a just man, full of love and honesty. So he urged lago to speak out of what he knew. “And what,” said lago, “if some thoughts very vile should have intruded into my breast?” he went on to say that it would be a pity if any trouble would arise to Othello out of his imperfect observation. So it would not be wise for Othello’s peace to know his thoughts. By then Othello’s curiosity was raised almost to distraction and lago, as if in earnest care of Othello’s mind, sought him to be cautious of envy. By the very caution he pretended to give him against suspicion. “I know,” said Othello, “that my wife is fair, loves company and feasting, is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well: but where virtue is, these qualities are virtuous. I must have proof before I think her dishonest.” Then lago, as if glad that Othello slow to believe ill of his lady, frankly declared that he had no proof. He begged Othello to observe her behaviour well particularly when Cassio was near by. He should not be jealous or too secure. lago knew the disposition of the Italian ladies better than Othello. He knew that in Venice the wives would let the world see their pranks but they dared not show their husbands. lago craftily insinuated that Desdemona deceived her father in marrying with Othello and carried it so closely that old Brabantio thought that witchcraft had been used. Othello was much moved by this argument. He wondered if she could deceive her father, she might deceive her husband as well.

lago begged apology for having moved him. But Othello urged him to go on. lago pretended that he was reluctant to produce anything against Cassio. However, he reminded Othello how Desdemona had rejected many suitable matches of her own clime and complexion and married him, which showed unnatural in her and proved to have a strong will. So when better judgment returned, how probable it was that she would fall upon comparing Othello with the white complexioned young Italians of her nation. He therefore advised Othello to put off his reconcilement with Cassio a little longer. Meanwhile Othello should note with what earnestness Desdemona would solicit for Cassio. So mischievously the treacherous villain laid his plots to turn the gentle qualities of the innocent lady into her destruction, and make a net of her out own goodness to entrap her: first by setting on Cassio to entreat her for mediation, and then out of the mediation contriving stratagems for her ruin.

Othello’s long conversation with lago led him to restlessness. Neither poppy, nor the juice of mandragora nor all the sleeping potions of the world could once again restore to him that sweet rest which he had enjoyed only yesterday. His occupation sickened him. He could not fight delight in arms. His heart that used to be roused at the sight of troops would no longer stir at the sound of drums or the neighing of war horses. He seemed to have lost all that pride and ambition which are the virtues of a soldier. Sometimes he thought his wife to be honest. Again he wondered that she was not. At times he thought lago to be just, but at times he thought the contrary. Thus, he was pieces with these distracting thoughts. Once he laid hold on lago’s throat and demanded proof Desdemona’s guilt or threatened instant death for his having belied her. lago feigned indignation that his honesty was misinterpreted to be a vice. He pointed out if Othello had seen a handkerchief in the hand of Desdemona that was strawberry spotted and Othello acknowledged that it was his first gift to Desdemona. “That same handkerchief,” said lago, “did I see Michael Cassio this day wipe his face with.” Othello replied, “If it be as you say, I will not rest till wide revenge swallow them up: first, for a token of your fidelity, I expect that Cassio shall be put to death within three days; and for that fair devil, I will withdraw an devise some swift means of death for her.”

Othello did not care to enquire how Cassio came by with the handkerchief of Desdemona. He passed death sentence upon both of them. Desdemona had never given such a present to Cassio; nor would this constant lady have ever wronged her husband with doing so naughty a thing as to give her lord’s presents to another man. The shrewd lago used his wife, Emilia, to steal the handkerchief from Desdemona and drop it in Cassio’s way where it might and thereby provide evidence to lago’s suggestion that it was Desdemona’s present.

Soon after the meeting with lago, Othello pretended that he had headache and longed her to lend him her handkerchief to hold on to his temples. Desdemona did so but Othello wanted the handkerchief which gave her. Desdemona could not find it. “That’s a fault,” said Othello. “That handkerchief was given to my mother by an Egyptian woman. She was a charmer and could almost read the thoughts of people; she told her while she kept it, it would make her amiable, and subdue my father entirely to her love; but if she lost it, or made a gift of it, my father’s eye should hold her loathsomely.” The lady said, “Is it possible?” Othello replied, “It is true. It is a magical handkerchief.” Desdemona was ready to die with fear for she plainly perceived that she had lost it and with it, she feared, the love of her husband. She tried to divert him from too serious thoughts. She cheerfully told him that all his talk about the handkerchief was only to put her off from Cassio’s suit and went on to praise him until Othello in perfect distraction burst out of the room. Then Desdemona began to suspect that her lord was jealous of Cassio.

When Othello and Desdemona met again he accused her more plainly of being unfaithful and of loving another man. Othello wept and told her that he could have borne all sorts of evils-poverty, disease and disgrace- with fortitude but her infidelity had broken his heart. He called her a weed that looked so fair and smelled so sweet that the sense ached at it. He wished she had never been born. When Othello left her, Desdemona was so stupefied at her husband’s untrue suspicion of her that a weight like sleep came over her. She only desired that her attendant to make her bed and to lay her bed sheets upon it. She said that when people teach their babies, they do it by gentle means and easy tasks and Othello might have chided her so; for in good faith she was but a child.

Desdemona soon fell asleep. Othello entered the room full of dark purpose which he had meditated of putting her lady to death. When he saw her asleep he thought he would not shed her blood, but he was resolved that should die else she would live to betray more as she had done him. Then he kissed her for the last time and he wept but he said they were cruel tears.

Desdemona was awakened by his kisses. She looked upon Othello and she saw him gnaw his lips and roll his eyes. She knew he was always fatal when he looked so. He told her to prepare for death and to say her prayers for he would not kill her soul. Desdemona begged for mercy and to know her fault. Then she named Cassio and the handkerchief which he said she had given him, and the guiltless lady was proceeding to clear herself but suddenly he would hear no more and covering her up in the bed clothes, stifled her till death.

At the same time Cassio came in, wounded and bleeding. Iago had set one of his men to assassinate him but the fellow was unable to kill Cassio. He was killed by lago to prevent discovery. In his pockets were found certain letters which exposed the guilt of lago and confirmed the innocence of Cassio who now came to Othello to beg apology and also to ask him the reason why lago had been employed to murder him.

The discovery was like a thunder stroke to Othello who now felt he was no better than a murder and that his lady was innocent and faithful. Extreme anguish made life intolerable and killed himself and fell upon the lifeless body of his dear wife.

These rash acts raised much horror and passion among the bystanders. Othello had borne a fair reputation and until he was wrought upon by the art of a villain, he was indeed a loving and doting husband. He had loved Desdemona not wisely, but too well. When he was dead all his former merits and valiant acts were remembered. lago was executed with strict tortures and the state of Venice lamented for the demise of their renowned General Othello.


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