Othello, in Act I, Scene iii, declares that he is “rude in speech”; however, he then goes on to describe at length how he seduced Desdemona by his wondrous capacity as a storyteller. “My story being done,” he confesses to his friends, “she [Desdemona] gave me for my pains a world of sighs […] and bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story” (I, iii, 158-165). Throughout the play, in fact, Othello’s poetic expression is unabated; it merely changes tone, as he devolves from happiness to suicidal despair. In Act III, scene iii he is faced with the likelihood that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him. This, of course, causes him outrage, but also a kind of melancholy, which invokes his poetic power of expression. In the passage of very few lines, we witness the play’s psychological transition point, as Othello, once a confident, happily married high-standing member of Venetian society, turns into an insecure, jealous, crude and violent cuckold. After Iago has placed the seed of doubt in Othello’s mind, the Moor indulges in an extended meditation of great visceral and poetic power: Haply for I am black,
And have not those soft parts of conversation
That chamberers have; or for I am declined
Into the vale of years—yet that’s not much—
She’s gone. I am abused, 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;
Prerogatived are they less than the base.
’Tis destiny unshunnable, like death. (III.iii.267–279) It is interesting to note that once Iago has suggested Desdemona’s infidelity, Othello wavers in confidence; suddenly, he “has not the soft parts of conversation / that chamberers have.” Othello here also, for the first time, expresses dissatisfaction with his race and his...