David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s OTHELLO: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 1

— 5.1 —

Iago and Roderigo spoke together on a dark street near where Cassio was visiting Bianca.

Iago said, “Here, stand behind this projecting wall. Cassio will arrive quickly. Take out your rapier, and thrust it deep in him. Quick, quick; don’t be afraid. I will be at your elbow. This action will make us, or it will mar us and ruin us; think about that, and be resolute.”

“Be close at hand,” Roderigo said. “I may need help.”

“Here I am, by your side,” Iago said. “Be bold, and take your stand.”

Iago withdrew a short distance away.

I have no great desire to do this deed of murder, Roderigo thought. And yet Iago has given me reasons for committing murder. Oh, well. It is only the death of a single man. I will draw my sword — Cassio will die tonight.

Iago thought, I have rubbed this pimple — this youngster, this Roderigo — until it is raw, and now he grows angry at me. Now, whether Roderigo kills Cassio, or Cassio kills him, or each kills the other, I come out ahead. If Roderigo stays alive, he will demand that I make a large restitution to him — he will demand that I restore to him all the gold and jewels that I defrauded him, saying that they were gifts for Desdemona when actually I put them in my own pocket. That must not happen. If Cassio should stay alive, he has a constant beauty of character in his life that makes me ugly by comparison and, in addition, the Moor may eventually talk to him and learn that I have been lying about Desdemona. Because of that, I stand in much danger, and so Cassio must die. Listen! I hear him coming!

Cassio arrived.

Roderigo thought, I know his gait — he is Cassio.

He then said to Cassio, “Villain, now you must die!”

He thrust his sword at Cassio, who said, “That sword thrust would have been my death, but I am a soldier and I am wearing a privy coat — a coat of mail underneath my regular clothing — for protection. Now let us see whether your coat is as good as mine.”

Cassio thrust his sword into Roderigo’s body, and Roderigo cried, “I am going to die!”

In the dark, Iago came up behind Cassio. Knowing that Cassio was wearing a protective coat of mail, Iago wounded him in the leg with his sword and then fled.

Cassio shouted, “I am maimed forever! Murder! Murder!”

He fell.

Othello, who was walking to his home after having walked Lodovico home, heard the noise and thought, It is the voice of Cassio; Iago has kept his word and murdered him.

Roderigo shouted, “Damn me!”

Othello thought, Cassio should be damned.

Cassio shouted, “Help! Bring some light here! I need a doctor!”

Othello thought, Yes, it is the voice of Cassio. Brave Iago, you are honest and just. You have a noble sense of the wrong done to me, your friend! You teach me how to act now.

He thought about Desdemona, Hussy, your dear lies dead, and your cursed end hurries to you. Whore, I am coming to see you. Your charming eyes no longer influence my heart. You have spotted our bed with lust, and now I shall spot it with your whorish blood.

Othello departed.

Lodovico had decided to take a walk with his friend Gratiano and seek Cassio.

Cassio shouted, “Help! Are there no watchmen? No passersby to help me? Murder! Murder!”

“Something bad has happened,” Gratiano said. “Someone badly needs assistance.”

Cassio shouted, “Help!”

Lodovico said, “Listen!”

Roderigo shouted, “Damn!”

“Two or three men are groaning,” Lodovico said. “It is a dark night. Let’s be careful. These men may be acting as if they are hurt so that they can rob us when we come to their assistance. Let’s get more people and then go to them.”

Lodovico was understandably cautious because he was in a country that was not his own.

“Is nobody coming to help me?” Roderigo shouted. “Then I shall bleed to death.”

Lodovico said again, “Listen!”

Iago now returned.

Gratiano said, “Here comes someone wearing a nightshirt and carrying a lamp and a sword.”

“Who’s there?” Iago said. “Who is shouting, ‘Murder!’?”

“We do not know,” Lodovico said.

“Did you hear anyone shout?” Iago asked.

“Here, here!” Cassio shouted, “For Heaven’s sake, help me!”

Iago asked, “What’s the matter?”

Gratiano said, “I recognize this man. This is Othello’s ancient.”

“You are right,” Lodovico said. “He is Iago, a very valiant fellow.”

“Who are you here who is shouting so grievously?” Iago asked.

Cassio replied, “Is that you, Iago? I am wounded, injured by villains. Give me some help.”

“Lieutenant, what villains have done this?” Iago asked.

“I think that one of them is still near here and cannot flee.”

“They are treacherous villains!” Iago said.

Seeing Lodovico and Gratiano, he said, “Who are you there? Come here, and give us some help.”

Roderigo shouted, “Help me! I am over here!”

“That is one of the men who attacked me,” Cassio said.

Iago went over to Roderigo and said, “You murderous slave! You villain!”

Then he stabbed Roderigo, who weakly said, “Damn you, Iago! You inhuman dog!”

“Killing men in the dark!” Iago shouted. “Where are these bloody thieves? How quiet the town is tonight! Murder! Murder!”

Seeing Lodovico and Gratiano, Iago asked, “Who are you! Are you good men or bad men?”

“Judge us by our actions, then praise us,” Lodovico said.

Iago asked, “Are you Signior Lodovico?”


“I beg your pardon. Here is Cassio. He has been hurt by villains.”

“Cassio!” Gratiano said.

“How are you, brother?” Iago asked Cassio.

“My leg has been cut in two.”

“Heaven forbid!” Iago exclaimed. “Hold the lamp so I have light, gentlemen. I will bandage Cassio’s wound with my shirt.”

The attack had occurred outside Bianca’s home. She had heard the noise and now came running.

She asked, “What is the matter? Who is he who cried out?”

“Who is he who cried out?” Iago repeated, sarcastically, implying that Bianca knew who had cried out.

Bianca saw the wounded Cassio and exclaimed, “Oh, my dear Cassio! My sweet Cassio! Cassio, Cassio, Cassio!”

“You are a notable whore!” Iago said to her.

He then asked, “Cassio, do you know which men wounded you?”


Gratiano said to Cassio, “I am sorry to see that you are wounded. I was on my way to find you.”

“Someone, lend me a garter so I can bind Cassio’s bandage,” Iago said. “Good. Now we need a sedan chair — an enclosed chair attached to two poles so that servants can carry it — so that we can easily carry Cassio to a doctor.”

“Cassio has fainted from loss of blood,” Bianca cried.

Iago said, “Gentlemen, I do suspect this trash — this woman — to be a party in this attack against Cassio.”

He said to Cassio, “Be patient. We will take care of you.”

He then walked over to where Roderigo was lying and said, “Bring a lamp here. Do we know this man? It is my friend and my dear countryman Roderigo! Is it? No — yes, it is, definitely. Oh, Heaven! It is Roderigo.”

“Roderigo of Venice?” Gratiano asked.

“Yes, it is he, sir,” Iago asked. “Did you know him?”

“Know him? Yes.”

“Is that you, Signior Gratiano?” Iago said. “Please pardon me. This bloody attack must excuse my bad manners — I did not mean to neglect you.”

“I am glad to see you,” Gratiano said.

“How are you doing, Cassio?” Iago asked. “We need a sedan chair! A chair!”

Gratiano looked at Roderigo’s body and said, “Roderigo!”

“Yes, it is he,” Iago said.

Some people arrived, carrying a sedan chair, and Iago said, “Well done. Some good men carry Cassio carefully from here; I’ll get the general’s surgeon.”

He said to Bianca, “As for you, mistress, keep out of the way.”

He said to Cassio, “The man who lies here dead was my dear friend. His name was Roderigo. What was the problem between you two?”

“There was none,” Cassio said. “I don’t even know the man.”

Iago said to Bianca, “You look pale. That is suspicious.”

He then said, “Carry Cassio away.”

Cassio was carried away in the sedan chair. Some men also carried away Roderigo.

Iago said to Lodovico and Gratiano, “Stay here a moment, gentlemen.”

He said to Bianca, “Do you look pale, mistress?”

He said to Lodovico and Gratiano, “Do you see the terror in her eyes?”

He said to Bianca, “Go ahead and stare. We shall learn more soon.”

He said to Lodovico and Gratiano, “Look at her closely. See how guilty she looks! Guilt will reveal itself even when tongues stay silent.”

Emilia walked up to Iago and the others and asked, “What is going on? What’s the matter, husband?”

Iago replied, “Cassio has here been attacked in the dark by Roderigo and some fellows who have escaped. Cassio is close to dying, and Roderigo is dead.”

“This is a pity, good gentlemen!” Emilia said. “It is a shame that this happened to good Cassio!”

“This is the fruit of whoring,” Iago said. “Please, Emilia, go to Cassio and ask him where he dined this night.”

He looked at Bianca and asked, “Are you shaking with fear because of what I asked my wife to do?”

“Cassio dined at my house tonight, but I am not shivering in this cool night air because of that.”

“Oh, so he did dine with you,” Iago said. “I command you to come with me.”

“Damn you, whore,” Emilia said.

“I am no whore,” Bianca said. “I live as respectable a life as you who are verbally abusing me.”

“As respectable a life as I!” Emilia said. “Not likely!”

Iago said, “Kind gentlemen, let’s go and make sure that poor Cassio’s wounds are bandaged.”

He said to Bianca, “Come, mistress, you must tell us another tale.”

He said to his wife, “Emilia, run to the citadel and tell the Moor and Desdemona what has happened.”

He said to Lodovico and Gratiano, “Please lead the way.”

He thought, This is the night that will either make me or entirely ruin me.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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