15 Jul Othello
Directed by Andrew Hilton
8 February – 17 March 2007
Production Photos © 2007 Alan Moore
Roderigo Byron Mondahl
Iago Chris Donnelly
Brabantio Paul Nicholson
Servant & Bianca Phoebe Beacham
Othello Leo Wringer
Cassio Philip Buck
Senate Officer & Soldier Morgan Philpott
Civil Officer & 2nd Cyprus Officer Russell Bright
Duke & Montano Alan Coveney
Lodovico Paul Currier
Gratiano John Walters
Secretary & 1st Cyprus Officer Nicholas Gadd
Desdemona Saskia Portway
Emilia Lucy Black
Director Andrew Hilton
Associate Director Dominic Power
Assistant Director Chris Loveless
Set & Costume Designer Chris Gylee
Costume Supervisor Corina Bona
Costume Assistant Miri Birch
Lighting Designer Paul Towson
Composer & Sound Designer Elizabeth Purnell
Fight Director Kate Waters
Production Manager Tim Hughes
Stage Manager Jayne Byrom
Deputy Stage Manager Eleanor Dixon
Assistant Stage Manager Adam Moore
Costume Laundry Kim Winter
★★★★ The Guardian This time last year, Andrew Hilton’s unsubsidised company, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, faced closure. Supporters raised £30,000 to guarantee its survival, and Hilton’s tenacious team is now back with more Shakespeare, again without public funding, in this charismatic venue.
Such a recent reminder of the company’s perilous existence makes Hilton’s production of Othello all the more precious. There is seemingly no problem this year with ticket sales – long queues formed for the unreserved seating over the weekend – and the audience was transfixed during three hours of Shakespeare pared down to the bare bones of thrilling language.
Played in the round and with admirably simple staging, Hilton’s version builds slowly and carefully to its terrible denouement. There is very little in the way of embellishment or stage trickery: the set is limited to a stone floor, a dining table and Othello’s marital bed. Such an uncluttered approach is not only cost-effective, it also clears the way, quite literally, for some superb performances.
Chris Donnelly’s Iago is the most restrained and unshowy I’ve encountered, and this makes the seeping of his poison into Othello’s mind all the more compelling and credible. As Desdemona, Saskia Portway is utterly convincing as a bright, besotted new wife and a woman wronged in a man’s world, perched alone at the edge of a room while the men talk war.
Leo Wringer’s Othello, a commanding performance from the start, begins with a warm, quiet dignity which he loses as he becomes Iago’s hopeless plaything. His transition, the thing that any production of Othello must render real to its audience, is made absolutely plausible here and, in the final scene centred on that marital bed, still shocking to behold. Elizabeth Mahoney
★★★★ The Independent … Most productions of this play feel the need to issue some great statement about race, perceptions of colour, and so on … In this Othello, the story is the thing and we watch in horror as the great general is taken apart psychologically and then destroyed by his most trusted lieutenant.
Staged in the round with no scenery whatsoever, the costumes locate the action somewhere in the 19th century. The Venetian senate wear frock coats, the military blue serge. Iago looks like a Victorian peeler. From this buttoned-up world of machismo and convention Desdemona springs wide-eyed to cavort with her adored celebrity general.
Leo Wringer’s Othello is a true revelation – a virile, shaven-headed warrior-poet. You can hear his every word and he seems to delight in the poetical magic that the general pours on the political proceedings. Desdemona (Saskia Portway) has fallen for him and their intimacy is wonderfully unforced – until, that is, Iago sows a seed of hellish doubt as to her faithfulness.
I have seen more wicked Iagos but none so business-like as Chris Donnelly’s passed-over NCO, whose crisp manner conceals a heart of bile. There’s a depth to his evil that is unknown even to him. There will be those who quibble that the play could major more on issues of race than – as here – character. But the show’s gripping strength is that it becomes a roller-coaster ride of tragic inevitability. The result is thrilling. Robert Gore-Langton
★★★ The Sunday Times Like many of Andrew Hilton’s productions, this comes across almost like a new play. Roderigo, for example, is usually played as a gullible dimwit. Here, Byron Mondahl comes on indignant and aggressive: promises have been made, and lago had better keep them. Iago (Chris Donnelly) gradually becomes more and more sinister because there’s nothing sinister about him: a quiet, thin-lipped, open-faced fellow, amenable, matter-of-fact, calm. Never underestimate a quiet man. On racism, Hilton takes a moderate line, though it’s clear that the duke and senators are not above patronising Othello. But Leo Wringer plays an assimilated Moor, soft-spoken, calm, almost casual. He knows that he belongs. It’s this quiet confidence in himself and in his place that makes his disintegration so pathetic and moving … Saskia Portway, as Desdemona, delivers her best performance for this company: a warm, playful, sensual woman, dignified even in death. John Peter
★★★★ The Mail on Sunday The play is the thing, refreshingly free from fancy directorial flourishes, at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. Andrew Hilton’s spare, penetrating production of Othello, staged in the round with minimal props, lets Shakespeare do the work, and the play emerges as a compelling study of sexual jealousy and racism, filled with convincing characters.
Leo Wringer is possibly the finest Othello I’ve ever seen; a noble, charismatic, profoundly civilised and eloquent man. Indeed, this Othello has a magical way with words, which is one of the reasons Desdemona is bewitched by him. But he is also easily seduced by them, which makes him vulnerable to the brain-washing tactics of Chris Donnelly’s exceptionally plausible Iago. Georgina Brown
We know almost nothing of Shakespeare’s sexual life, except that he married a woman eight years older than himself and fathered three children, but then left all of them in Stratford to pursue a twenty-five year career in the London theatre. Of extra-marital passions, infidelities and jealousies – if any – we know nothing, apart from four centuries of speculation based on enigmatic references in the Sonnets.
But throughout his life – in both comedy and tragedy – he writes vividly of passion as the most unruly and volatile of all human emotions, apt to convulse – sometimes to destroy – even the most capable, rational and powerful of men and women. In Twelfth Night Orsino threatens to kill Viola and Malvolio makes himself ridiculous in yellow stockings; in The Winter’s Tale Leontes fantasizies about his wife’s adultery; four lovers fight by night in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and in King Lear Goneril and Regan compete, fatally, to commit adultery with Edmund. The celebrations of sex in the lighter plays are counterpoised by the mayhem it wreaks elsewhere.
Othello is the most unblinking study of this. A confident, successful and honoured general, who has survived into middle age without venturing on romance is deconstructed by it in a matter of days – his poise, his patience, his authority blown apart as effectively as a city wall by one of his own heavy guns. That he is black is a detail – simply the most potent of Iago’s tools to upset his master’s equilibrium, to drive a wedge between his reason and his instincts. Shakespeare’s is no racist perspective; that black men are particularly suggestible, particularly jealous,particularly violent – these are slurs entertained by those far too comfortable in their ignorance of their own natures.
As always Shakespeare writes of the human condition, of the delight and the chaos that shadows us all.
The chief source for the play’s narrative is Giraldi Cinthio’s Hecatommithi, published in Venice in 1566. No contemporary English translation is known, but Shakespeare may have read it in Italian or in a French translation of 1584. Despite its unappetising title it is a vividly told story – see the extracts below. Shakespeare was clearly familiar with it in great detail, as both his borrowings and his transformations reveal.
Some of the many other influences on the text include Geoffrey Fenton’s Certain Tragical Discourses (translated from Belleforest in 1567), John Prory’s preface to his 1600 translation of Leo Africanus’ The History and Description of Africa and – for some exotic details in the history of Othello’s travels – Philemon Holland’s 1601 translation of Pliny’s Naturalis Historia.
The Play on Stage
The first recorded performance of Othello was on 1st November 1604 – before King James 1 at Whitehall, though the King’s Men may have performed the play earlier. It has been widely performed ever since, never slipping entirely from favour despite the fact that the colour, race and casting of its hero has continually created controversy and still does so today.
To us ‘Moor’ refers specifically to the peoples of North Africa – generally the Arab populations north of the Sahara, whilst the ‘black African’ hails from the sub-Saharan region and is quite distinct from the Arab. These distinctions were by no means as clear in 1600 – the disparaging term black-a-moor actually expressing the wider application of the term – and we believe that Shakespeare’s actors ‘blacked up’ as full African Othellos. He continued to be portrayed as a black African until the 1820s when Edmund Kean presented him as a Berber tribesman. This began a fitful but shameful tradition among British and American producers, actors and audiences of insisting that Shakespeare could not possibly have intended a ‘negro’ Othello – see our selection of quotes under ‘The Barbarous Moor’. In 1833 the American, Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play the part, experienced both praise and abuse. He was threatened with imprisonment in some American states for ‘inciting the Negro populace to rebellion’ and in England – despite his acclaimed appearance at Covent garden and the upbeat claims about the ‘liberality of the British public’ on a Surrey Theatre poster – the pro-slavery lobby managed to have the run of the production cut short. It was only fifteen years later that he found a widely sympathetic audience in Europe, whilst in America it was well into the twentieth century before actors and producers could persuade a white audience to witness a black actor offering a black Othello.
While the part continued to be favoured by many leading white actors it was left to Paul Robeson, in a production in 1930 at London’s Savoy Theatre, to attempt again to claim the role for the black African. In an interview in theNew York Times on 18th May he said: “I feel the play is so modern for the problem is the problem of my own people. It is a tragedy of racial conflict, a tragedy of honor, rather than of jealousy. Shakespeare presents a noble figure, a man of singleness of purpose and simplicity with a mind as direct as a straight line. The fact that he is an alien among white people makes his mind work more quickly. He feels dishonor more deeply. His color heightens the tragedy. There are very few Moors in Northern Africa without Ethiopian blood in their veins, but I am approaching the part as Shakespeare wrote it and am playing Othello a man whose tragedy lay in the fact that he was sooty black.”
It has taken another half century or more to resolve these issues of interpretation and ownership of the role, and controversy still remains. The black British actor, Hugh Quarshie, who has both played Othello and co-directed the play, has questioned whether or not black actors should accept the role; does it not exploit racial stereotypes of violence, naivety and pathological jealousy, born of prejudice and ignorance, and so directly contradict the modern black actor’s battle for respect for his art and his race?
It is our belief that Shakespeare’s play is more complex and more humane than Quarshie fears (fears he has since qualified) and that Shakespeare’s study of jealousy transcends, perhaps even rebukes, crude notions of a man predisposed by race to behave as he does.
of the BARBAROUS MOOR
George Best on Frobisher’s Travels (1578)in Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations
I myself have seen an Ethiopian as black as coal brought into England, who taking a fair English woman to wife, begat a son in all respects as black as the father was, although England were his native country, and an English woman his mother: whereby it seemeth this blackness proceedeth rather of some natural infection of that man, which was so strong, that neither the nature of the Clime, neither the good complexion of the mother concurring, could anything alter.
Queen Elizabeth I (1601) from ‘A proclamation for the exportation of “negroes” from England’
… whereas the Queen’s majesty, tendering the good and welfare of her own natural subjects greatly distressed in these hard times of dearth, is highly discontented to understand the great numbers of Negars and Blackamoors which as she is informed are crept into this realm since the troubles between Her Highness and the King of Spain, who are fostered and relieved here to the great annoyance of her own liege people that want the relief which those people consume; as also for that the most of them are infidels, having no understanding of Christ or his Gospel, hath given especial commandment that the said kind of people should be with all speed avoided and discharged out of her majesty’s dominions. …
Thomas Rymer (1692)
The Character of that State is to employ strangers in their Wars; but shall a Poet thence fancy that they will set a Negro to be their General; or trust a Moor to defend them against the Turk? With us a Black-amoor might rise to be a Trumpeter; but Shakespeare would not have him less than a Lieutenant-General. With us a Moor might marry some little drab, or Small-coal Wench: Shakespeare, would provide him the Daughter and Heir of some great Lord, or Privy-Councellor: And all the Town should reckon it a very suitable match.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1812)
Can we imagine [Shakespeare] so utterly ignorant as to make a barbarous negro plead royal birth,—at a time, too, when negroes were not known except as slaves?—As for Iago’s language to Brabantio, it implies merely that Othello was a Moor, that is, black. Though I think the rivalry of Roderigo sufficient to account for his wilful confusion of Moor and Negro,—yet, even if compelled to give this up, I should think it only adapted for the acting of the day, and should complain of an enormity built on a single word, in direct contradiction to Iago’s ‘Barbary horse.’ Besides, if we could in good earnest believe Shakespeare ignorant of the distinction, still why should we adopt one disagreeable possibility instead of a ten times greater and more pleasing probability? It is a common error to mistake the epithets applied by the dramatis personae to each other, as truly descriptive of what the audience ought to see or know. No doubt Desdemona saw Othello’s visage in his mind; yet, as we are constituted, and most surely as an English audience was disposed in the beginning of the seventeenth century, it would be something monstrous to conceive this beautiful Venetian girl falling in love with a veritable negro. It would argue a disproportionateness, a want of balance, in Desdemona which Shakespeare does not appear to have in the least contemplated.
The Times (1833) from a review of Ira Aldridge’s Othello at Covent Garden
An experiment, and not a remarkably successful one, as the emptiness of the house incontestably proved, was last night essayed here. The tragedy of Othello was performed, the part of the Moor by an individual, of Negro origin, as his features sufficiently testify, who calls himself Aldridge, and who has been facetiously nick-named “the African Roscius.” Such an exhibition is well enough at Sadler’s Wells, or at Bartholomew fair, but it certainly is not very creditable to a great national establishment.
Mr. Aldridge’s Othello, with all the advantage of “hic niger est,” wanted spirit and feeling. His accent is unpleasantly, and we would say, vulgarly foreign; his manner, generally, drawling and unimpressive; and when, by chance (for chance it is, and not judgment), he rises to a higher strain, we perceive in the transition the elevation of rant, not the fiery dignity of soul-felt passion … Well might Desdemona’s father imagine that sorcery, and not nature, had caused his daughter to listen to such a wooer.
Paul Robeson from ‘Paul Robeson Speaks, 1918 -1974
Shakespeare meant Othello to be a Black Moor from Africa, an African of the highest nobility of heritage. From Kean on, Othello was made a light-skinned Moor because the West had since made Africa a slave center and the African was pictured only as a slave.
M.R.Ridley (1958) from his introduction to his Arden edition of Othello
Much argument, and an even more plentiful lack of it, has been devoted to showing that Othello was not black, or alternatively that he was at least not what Coleridge calls a “veritable negro”, but rather, like the Prince of Morocco in a Quarto stage-direction in The Merchant of Venice, a “tawny Moor”—Coleridge, rather surprisingly, admits the blackness but insists that he was a Moor in our sense of the word. The reductio ad absurdum of this line of criticism was achieved by a lady writing from Maryland, who said:
In studying the play of Othello, I have always imagined its hero a white man. It is true the dramatist paints him black, but this shade does not suit the man. It is a stage decoration, which my taste discards; a fault of colour from an artistic point of view. I have, therefore, as I have before stated in my readings of this play, dispensed with it. Shakespeare was too correct a delineator of human nature to have coloured Othello black, if he had personally acquainted himself with the idiosyncrasies of the African race. We may regard, then, the daub of black upon Othello’s portrait as an ebullition of fancy, a freak of imagination,—the visionary conception of an ideal figure,—one of the few erroneous strokes of the great master’s brush, the single blemish on a faultless work. Othello was a white man.
Théophile Gautier (1867) from ‘Voyage en Russie’
Aldridge was the lion of St. Petersburg. It was necessary to engage a seat several days in advance …. His entrance was magnificent . . . with his eyes half-closed, as if dazzled by the African sun, he was Othello himself, as Shakespeare had created him. He had that nonchalance, that Oriental attitude, that desinvolture of a Negro that no European is able to imitate …. He produced an immense effect and received interminable applause.”
John Dover Wilson (1966)
Seeing Robeson was like seeing the tragedy for the first time. The fact that he was a true Negro seemed to floodlight the whole drama. Everything was slightly different from what I had previously imagined; new points, fresh nuances, were constantly emerging; and all had, I felt, been clearly intended by the author. The performance convinced me in short that a Negro Othello is essential to the full understanding of the play.
Hugh Quarshie (1999)
I am left with a nagging doubt: if a black actor plays Othello does he not risk making racial stereotypes seem legitimate and true? When a black actor plays a role written for a white actor in black make-up and for a predominantly white audience, does he not encourage the white way, or rather the wrong way, of looking at black men, namely that black men, or ‘Moors’, are over-emotional, excitable and unstable, thereby vindicating Iago’s statement, ‘These Moors are changeable in their wills’ ? Of all the parts in the canon, perhaps Othello is the one which should most definitely not be played by a black actor.
and from Second Thoughts on Othello (1999)
Is it still possible to stage Othello without endorsing racist conventions? I think we have to accept that Othello is a seriously flawed play. But with some judicious cutting and textual emendation – anathema to certain directors I know – I think it would be possible to produce a version of the play which shifts the focus away from race and onto character. It might still be impossible to avoid the conclusion that Othello behaves as he does because he’s black; but it might be possible to suggest that he does so not because of a genetic disposition towards gullibility and violent jealousy, but for compelling psychological, social and political reasons; that he behaves as he does because he is a black man responding to racism, not giving a pretext for it.
by Giraldi Cinthio translated in 1855 by J.E.Taylor – edited extracts
The Moor and his Marriage
There once lived in Venice a Moor, who was very valiant and of a handsome person; and having given proofs in war of great skill and prudence, he was highly esteemed by the Signoria of the Republic, who in rewarding deeds of valour advanced the interests of the state.
It happened that a virtuous lady of marvelous beauty, named Disdemona, fell in love with the Moor, moved thereto by his valour; and he, vanquished by her beauty and noble character, returned her love; and their affection was so mutual that, although the parents of the lady strove all they could to induce her to take another husband, she consented to marry the Moor; and they lived in such harmony and peace in Venice that no word ever passed between them that was not affectionate and kind.
The Cyprus Mission
Now it happened at this time that the Signoria of Venice made a change in the troops whom they used to maintain in Cyprus, and they appointed the Moor commander of the soldiers whom they dispatched thither. Joyful as was the Moor at the honor proffered him, such dignity being only conferred on men of noble rank and well-tried faith, and who had displayed bravery in arms – yet his pleasure was lessened when he reflected on the length and dangers of the voyage, fearing that Disdemona would be pained at his absence. But Disdemona, who had no other happiness in the world than the Moor, was all impatient that he should embark with his troops, and longed to accompany him to so honorable a post … The Moor, in the fullness of his joy, threw his arms around his wife’s neck, and with an affectionate and tender kiss exclaimed, “God keep you long in such love, dear wife!” Then speedily donning his armor, and having prepared everything for his expedition, he embarked on board the galley with his wife and all his troops, and, setting sail, they pursued their voyage, and with a perfectly tranquil sea arrived safely at Cyprus.
The Wicked Ensign
Now amongst the soldiery there was an Ensign, a man of handsome figure, but of the most depraved nature in the world. This man was in great favor with the Moor, who had not the slightest idea of his wickedness; for, despite the malice lurking in his heart, he cloaked with proud and valorous speech and with a specious presence the villainy of his soul with such art that he was to all outward show another Hector or Achilles … Now the wicked Ensign, regardless of the faith that he had pledged his own wife, no less than of friendship, fidelity and obligation which he owed the Moor, fell passionately in love with Disdemona, and bent all his thoughts to achieve his conquest; yet he dared not to declare his passion openly, fearing that, should the Moor perceive it, he would at once kill him. He therefore sought in various ways, and with secret guile, to betray his passion to the lady; but she had no thought for this Ensign more than any other man, and all the means he tried to gain her love had no more effect that if he had not tried them. But the Ensign imagined that the cause of his ill success was that Disdemona loved the Captain of the troop; and the love which he had borne the lady now changed into the bitterest hate, and he devoted all his thoughts to plot the death of the Captain and to divert the affection of the Moor from Disdemona.
The Captain of the Troop
Not long afterwards it happened that the Captain, having drawn his sword upon a soldier of the guard, and struck him, the Moor deprived him of his rank; whereat Disdemona was deeply grieved, and endeavored again and again to reconcile her husband to the man. This the Moor told to the wicked Ensign, and how his wife importuned him so much about the Captain that he feared he should be forced at last to receive him back to service. Upon this hint the Ensign resolved to act, and began to work his web of intrigue …
The Ensign observed that Disdemona carried about with her a handkerchief, which he knew the Moor had given her, finely embroidered in the Moorish fashion, and which was precious to Disdemona, nor less so to the Moor. Then he conceived the plan of taking this kerchief from her secretly, and thus laying the snare for her final ruin. The Ensign had a little daughter, a child three years of age, who was much loved by Disdemona, who took her and pressed her to her bosom; whilst at the same instant this traitor, who had extreme dexterity of hand, drew the kerchief from her sash so cunningly that she did not notice him, and overjoyed he took his leave of her … Seizing a fit opportunity, he went to the Captain of the troop, and with crafty malice left the handkerchief at the head of his bed without his discovering the trick until the following morning, when, on his getting out of bed, the handkerchief fell upon the floor, and he set his foot upon it … One day the Ensign took occasion to speak with the Captain when the Moor was so placed that he could see and hear them as they conversed. And whilst talking to him of every other subject than of Disdemona, he kept laughing all the time aloud, and feigning astonishment, he made various movements with his head and hands, as if listening to some tale of marvel. As soon as the Moor saw the Captain depart, he went up to the Ensign to hear what he had said to him. And the Ensign, after long entreaty, said, “He has hidden nothing from me and has told me that he has been used to visit your wife whenever you went from home, and that on the last occasion she gave him this handkerchief which you presented to her when you married her.”
Disdemona and the Ensign’s Wife
Although conscious that she had given the Moor no cause, by act or deed, to be so troubled, yet Disdemona feared that he might have grown wearied of her; and she would say to the Ensign’s wife, “I know not what to say of the Moor; he used to be all love towards me; but within these few days he has become another man; and much I fear that I shall prove a warning to young girls not to marry against the wishes of their parents, and that the Italian ladies may learn from me not to wed a man who nature and habitude of life estrange from us. But as I know the Moor is on such terms of friendship with your husband, I pray you, if you have heard from him aught that you may tell me of, fail not to befriend me.” And as she said this, she wept bitterly.
The Ensign’s wife, who knew the whole truth (her husband wishing to make use of her to compass the death of Disdemona), but could never consent to such a project, dared not, from fear of her husband, disclose a single circumstance.
The Captain had a woman at home who did wonderful embroidery work on fine linen, and when she saw the handkerchief which belonged to the Moor’s wife, she resolved, before it was returned to her, to work one like it. As she was engaged in this task, the Ensign observed her standing at a window, where she could be seen by all the passer-bys in the street, and he pointed her out to the Moor, who was now perfectly convinced of his wife’s guilt. Then he arranged with the Ensign to slay Disdemona and the Captain of the troop, treating them as it seemed they both deserved.
The Attack on the Captain
The Ensign, going out one dark night, sword in hand, met the Captain on his way to visit a courtesan, and struck him a blow on his right thigh, which cut off his leg and felled him to the earth. Then the Ensign was on the point of putting an end to his life, when the Captain, who was a courageous man and used to the sight of blood and death, drew his sword, and, wounded as he was, kept on his defense, exclaiming with a loud voice, “I’m murdered!” Thereupon the Ensign, hearing the people come running up, took to his heels to escape being caught; then turning about again, he joined the crowd, pretending to have been attracted by the noise. And when he saw the Captain’s leg cut off, he judged that if not already dead, the blow must, at all events, end his life; and whilst in his heart he was rejoiced at this, yet he feigned to compassionate the Captain as he had been his brother.
The Murder of Disdemona
Then the Moor and the Ensign consulted of one means and another to kill poor Disdemona, but could resolve on nothing. At length the Ensign said, “The house in which you live is very old, and the ceiling of your chamber has many cracks; I purpose we take a stocking, filled with sand, and beat Disdemona with it till she dies; thus will her body bear no signs of violence. When she is dead we can pull down a portion of the ceiling, and thus make it seem as if a rafter falling on her head had killed the lady.” … One night, when the Moor and Disdemona had retired to bed, the Ensign, whom the Moor had concealed in a closet which opened into the chamber, raised a noise in the closet, according to a concerted plan; whereat the Moor said to his wife, “Did you not hear that noise?”
“Indeed I heard it,” she replied.
“Rise,” said the Moor, “and see what ’tis.”
The unhappy Disdemona rose from the bed, and the instant she approached the closet, out rushed the Ensign, and being strong and stout of nerve, he beat her cruelly with the bag of sand across her back; upon which Disdemona fell to the ground, scarce able to draw her breath; but with the little voice she had left, she called upon the Moor for aid. But the Moor, leaping from bed, exclaimed, “Thou wickedest of women, thus has thy falseness found its just reward, the recompense to wives who, counterfeiting love, place horns upon their husbands’ brows.”
On the following day Disdemona was buried, followed to the grave by the universal grief of the people. But Heaven, the just rewarder of all hearts, willed not that so wicked a deed should go unpunished. Ere long the Moor began to feel such sorrow at her loss that he went wandering about as one bereft of reason. And reflecting in his thoughts that the Ensign had been the cause that he had lost, with Disdemona, all joy in life, he conceived so deep a hatred to that wicked man he could not bear to set eyes on him, and had it not been for his fear of the inviolable justice of the Signoria of Venice, he would have slain him openly. But being unable to do this with safety, he deprived him of his rank, and would not allow him to remain in his Company; whereat such an enmity arose between the two that no greater or more deadly can be imagined.
The Deaths of the Moor and the Ensign
The Ensign now turned his thought to injuring the Moor; and seeking out the Captain, whose wound was by this time healed, he said to him, ” ‘Tis time you should be avenged for your lost limb; and if you will come with me to Venice, I’ll tell you who the malefactor is …” The Signoria of Venice, when the heard of the cruelty inflicted by a barbarian upon a lady of their city, commanded the Moor should be arrested in Cyprus, and be brought to Venice, where, with many tortures, they sought to draw from him the truth. But the Moor, bearing with unyielding courage all the torment, denied the whole charge so resolutely that no confession could be drawn from him. But, although by his constancy and firmness he escaped death, he was, after being confined for several days in prison, condemned to perpetual banishment, in which he was eventually slain by the kinsfolk of Disdemona, as he merited.
The Ensign returned to his own country, and, following up his wonted villainy, he accused one of his companions of having sought to persuade him to kill an enemy of his, who was a man of noble rank; whereupon this person was arrested and put to the torture; but the Ensign was likewise tortured to make him prove the truth of his accusations; and he was tortured so that his body ruptured, upon which he was removed from prison and taken home, where he died a miserable death. Thus did Heaven avenge the innocence of Disdemona; and all these events were narrated by the Ensign’s wife, who was privy to the whole, after his death, as I have told them here.