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Drama to Film | Planting the Seeds of Doubt

Play | Script | Film

Shakespeare's Play

Planting the seeds of doubt
From The Tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare
from Act III, Scene iii
The Yale Shakespeare, Yale University Press, 1947

Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul,
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.

My noble lord,--

What dost thou say, Iago?

Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady,
Know of your love?

He did, from first to last: why dost thou ask?

But for a satisfaction of my thought;
No further harm.

Why of thy thought, Iago?

I did not think he had been acquainted with her.

O, yes; and went between us very oft.


Indeed! ay, indeed:--discern'st thou aught in that?
Is he not honest?

Honest, my lord!

Honest! ay, honest.

My lord, for aught I know.

What dost thou think?

Think, my lord!

Think, my lord!
By heaven, he echoes me,
As if there were some monster in his thought
Too hideous to be shown.--Thou dost mean something:
I heard thee say even now,--thou lik'dst not that,
When Cassio left my wife. What didst not like?
And when I told thee he was of my counsel
In my whole course of wooing, thou criedst, "Indeed!"
And didst contract and purse thy brow together,
As if thou then hadst shut up in thy brain
Some horrible conceit: if thou dost love me,
Show me thy thought.

My lord, you know I love you.

I think thou dost; And,--for I know thou'rt full of love and honesty
And weigh'st thy words before thou giv'st them breath,--
Therefore these stops of thine fright me the more:
For such things in a false disloyal knave
Are tricks of custom; but in a man that's just
They're close delations, working from the heart,
That passion cannot rule.

For Michael Cassio,
I dare be sworn I think that he is honest.

I think so too.

Men should be what they seem;
Or those that be not, would they might seem none!

Certain, men should be what they seem.

Why, then, I think Cassio's an honest man.

Nay, yet there's more in this:
I pr'ythee, speak to me as to thy thinkings,
As thou dost ruminate; and give thy worst of thoughts
The worst of words.

Good my lord, pardon me:
Though I am bound to every act of duty,
I am not bound to that all slaves are free to.
Utter my thoughts? Why, say they are vile and false;--
As where's that palace whereinto foul things
Sometimes intrude not? who has a breast so pure
But some uncleanly apprehensions
Keep leets and law-days, and in session sit
With meditations lawful?

Thou dost conspire against thy friend, Iago,
If thou but think'st him wrong'd and mak'st his ear
A stranger to thy thoughts.

I do beseech you,--
Though I perchance am vicious in my guess,
As, I confess, it is my nature's plague
To spy into abuses, and of my jealousy
Shape faults that are not,--that your wisdom yet,
From one that so imperfectly conceits,
Would take no notice; nor build yourself a trouble
Out of his scattering and unsure observance:--
It were not for your quiet nor your good,
Nor for my manhood, honesty, or wisdom,
To let you know my thoughts.

What dost thou mean?

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

By heaven, I'll know thy thoughts.

You cannot, if my heart were in your hand;
Nor shall not, whilst 'tis in my custody.


O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on: that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But O, what damned minutes tells he o'er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!

O misery!

Poor and content is rich, and rich enough;
But riches fineless is as poor as winter
To him that ever fears he shall be poor;--
Good heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend
From jealousy!

Why, why is this?
Think'st thou I'd make a life of jealousy,
To follow still the changes of the moon
With fresh suspicions? No; to be once in doubt
Is once to be resolv'd: exchange me for a goat
When I shall turn the business of my soul
To such exsufflicate and blown surmises,
Matching thy inference. 'Tis not to make me jealous,
To say my wife is fair, feeds well, loves company,
Is free of speech, sings, plays, and dances well;
Where virtue is, these are more virtuous:
Nor from mine own weak merits will I draw
The smallest fear or doubt of her revolt;
For she had eyes and chose me. No, Iago;
I'll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove;
And on the proof, there is no more but this,--
Away at once with love or jealousy!

I am glad of it; for now I shall have reason
To show the love and duty that I bear you
With franker spirit: therefore, as I am bound,
Receive it from me:--I speak not yet of proof.
Look to your wife; observe her well with Cassio;
Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor secure:
I would not have your free and noble nature,
Out of self-bounty, be abus'd; look to't.
I know our country disposition well;
In Venice they do let heaven see the pranks
They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience
Is not to leave undone, but keep unknown.

Dost thou say so?

She did deceive her father, marrying you;
And when she seem'd to shake and fear your looks,
She loved them most.

And so she did.

Why, go to then;
She that, so young, could give out such a seeming,
To seal her father's eyes up close as oak,--
He thought 'twas witchcraft,--but I am much to blame;
I humbly do beseech you of your pardon
For too much loving you.

I am bound to thee for ever.

I see this hath a little dash'd your spirits.

Not a jot, not a jot.

Trust me, I fear it has.
I hope you will consider what is spoke
Comes from my love; but I do see you're mov'd:--
I am to pray you not to strain my speech
To grosser issues nor to larger reach
Than to suspicion.

I will not.

Should you do so, my lord,
My speech should fall into such vile success
Which my thoughts aim'd not. Cassio's my worthy friend:--
My lord, I see you're mov'd.

No, not much mov'd. I do not think but Desdemona's honest.

Long live she so! and long live you to think so!

And yet, how nature erring from itself,--

Ay, there's the point:--as,--to be bold with you,--
Not to affect many proposed matches,
Of her own clime, complexion, and degree,
Whereto we see in all things nature tends,--
Foh! one may smell in such a will most rank,
Foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural:--
But pardon me: I do not in position
Distinctly speak of her; though I may fear,
Her will, recoiling to her better judgement,
May fall to match you with her country forms,
And happily repent.

Farewell, farewell:
If more thou dost perceive, let me know more;
Set on thy wife to observe: leave me, Iago.

[Going.] My lord, I take my leave.

Why did I marry?--This honest creature doubtless
Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds.

[Returning.] My lord, I would I might entreat your honor
To scan this thing no further; leave it to time:
Though it be fit that Cassio have his place,--
For sure he fills it up with great ability,--
Yet, if you please to hold him off awhile,
You shall by that perceive him and his means:
Note if your lady strain his entertainment
With any strong or vehement importunity;
Much will be seen in that. In the meantime,
Let me be thought too busy in my fears,--
As worthy cause I have to fear I am,--
And hold her free, I do beseech your honour.

Fear not my government.

I once more take my leave.


This fellow's of exceeding honesty,
And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,
Of human dealings. If I do prove her haggard,
Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings,
I'd whistle her off, and let her down the wind
To prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black,
And have not those soft parts of conversation
That chamberers have; or for I am declin'd
Into the vale of years,--yet that's not much,--
She's gone; I am abus'd, and my relief
Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage,
That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad,
And live upon the vapor of a dungeon,
Than keep a corner in the thing I love
For others' uses. Yet, 'tis the plague of great ones:
Prerogativ'd are they less than the base;
'Tis destiny unshunnable, like death:
Even then this forked plague is fated to us
When we do quicken. Desdemona comes:
If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself!--
I'll not believe't.

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The Television Script

Planting the seeds of doubt
From Othello by Andrew Davies,
based on the play by William Shakespeare
Scene 66

Int. RAC club bar -- night.

Or somewhere like that. Not aristocratic but a place for guys that have made it. Very quiet. Everything is old and solid. Big portraits on the wall. Othello and Jago sit.

Othello: I knew it. I was right. Now we can put him in as a prosecution witness. It's as I said. All it took was the will.

Lost in his dreams of triumph. On Jago.

Jago: (voice over) All it took was the will? You speechmaker. You personality. You go to parties and play with your wife's tits and I'll make your dreams come true.

Othello turns and sees something in Jago's face.

Othello: And the skill of course, Ben. Top job.

Jago: Oh, thank you John. Your saying that makes it all worth while. How's Dessie?

Othello: She's fine.

He smiles.

Othello: (cont'd) In fact she's better than fine.

He decides to confide.

Othello: (cont'd) I never thought I could feel so much for another person.

There should be a bit of awkwardness in this, almost embarrassment.

Jago: Oh, yeah John. I know what you're talking about. I've been there.

Othello: But...

He lapses into silence for a moment, then:

Othello: (cont'd) Between you and me, you understand?

Jago: Of course, John, as always.

Othello: Well, I wake in the night. And I stay awake just so I can watch her sleep, you know? And watch her dream. I watch her eyelids tremble and sometimes her mouth even moves, just a little bit. It's like a whisper. I can never make that out. I don't know where she goes, in her dreams. I don't even know if I'm in them.

He is a bit embarrassed.

Othello: (cont'd) It scares me, Ben. All this feeling. It's a feeling as if I'm at her mercy, somehow.

Jago: She's only a woman, John. You've had women.

Othello: Yes, but not like this.

A pause.

Othello: (cont'd) I don't know if I could bear losing her.

Jago: I don't think there's much chance of that. I don't think I've ever seen a girl so keen.

A little pause.

Jago: (cont'd) Though Mike Cass is spending more time with her than you at the moment. You all right about that, then?

Othello: Why shouldn't I be?

Jago hesitates, then:

Jago: The way he talks about it, you just feel he's enjoying his work just a little bit too much. And...well?

As though reluctantly:

Jago: (cont'd) He's supposed to be a hell of a swordsman, Mike. His only weakness. He loves woman and they love him.

Othello: You're saying that I should be worried about Dessie with him? Swordsman? Please! You can forget that. That'll never happen.

He looks straight at Jago. The seed is planted.

Othello: (cont'd) Never in a million years.

Othello is angry at this point rather than worried. He is affronted that anyone could make such an insinuation.

Jago: All right, John. Point taken. You know me, I'm just a suspicious old bastard. And Dessie, well, you can see she's put her wild times behind her.

Othello: Wild times? What are you talking about?

Jago: Nothing. It's not worth mentioning.

Othello: What?

Jago: Well, just a few things Lulu let slip. You know...young girls growing up.

Othello: Are you saying that Dessie slept around?

Jago: No more than anyone else.

A pause.

Jago: (cont'd) Probably.

They both laugh nervously.

Jago: (cont'd) What does she say about those days?

Othello: We don't talk about those days.

Jago: And why should you? Look, I wish I'd never mentioned Michael Cass. He's fine. Dessie's fine. Everything's fine.

But Jago has dropped a pebble in and the ripples are spreading.

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Planting the seeds of doubt
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