Othello’s Defence

From “Othello,” Act I. Sc. 3. OTHELLO.—Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors, My very noble and approved good masters,— That I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter, It is most true; true, I have married her: The very head and front of my offending Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech, And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace; For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith, Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used Their dearest action in the tented field; And little of this great world can I speak, More than pertains to feats of broil and battle; And therefore little shall I grace my cause In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience, I will a round unvarnished tale deliver Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms, What conjuration, and what mighty magic,— For such proceeding I am charged withal,— I won his daughter.* * * * * I ’ll present How I did thrive in this fair lady’s love, And she in mine.* * * * * Her father loved me; oft invited me; Still questioned me the story of my life, From year to year;—the battles, sieges, fortunes, That I have passed. I ran it through, even from my boyish days, To the very moment that he bade me tell it: Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances, Of moving accidents by flood and field; Of hair-breadth ’scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach; Of being taken by the insolent foe, And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence, And portance in my travel’s history: Wherein of antres vast, and deserts idle, Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven, It was my hint to speak,—such was the process; And of the Cannibals that each other eat, The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear, Would Desdemona seriously incline: But still the house affairs would draw her thence; Which ever as she could with haste despatch, She ’d come again, and with a greedy ear Devour up my discourse. Which I observing, Took once a pliant hour; and found good means To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart, That I would all my pilgrimage dilate, Whereof by parcels she had something heard, But not intentively: I did consent; And often did beguile her of her tears, When I did speak of some distressful stroke, That my youth suffered. My story being done, She gave me for my pains a world of sighs: She swore,—in faith ’t was strange, ’t was passing strange; ’T was pitiful, ’t was wondrous pitiful: She wished she had not heard it; yet she wished That Heaven had made her such a man: she thanked me; And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should teach him how to tell my story, And that would woo her. Upon this hint, I spake: She loved me for the dangers I had passed, And I loved her that she did pity them. This only is the witchcraft I have used: Here comes the lady, let her witness it.

English
Year Written: 
1584
Year Rounded: 
1 500
Sub Title: 
IV. Wooing and Winning
Year Estimate Only: 

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