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Act 3 Scene 3

Scene Summary

Desdemona seems to persuade her husband to re-appoint Cassio, but Iago begins to raise Othello’s suspicions of an affair between them. Emilia notices when Desdemona’s handkerchief – her first present from Othello – is dropped by accident. She picks it up and gives it to her husband, remarking that Iago has often asked her to steal it. Iago convinces Othello that he saw Cassio with such a handkerchief, and Othello demands that Desdemona and Cassio die for their adultery.

  1. Enter Desdemona, Cassio, and Emilia.

  2. Desdemona:

    Be thou assured, good Cassio, I will do
    All my abilities in thy behalf.

  3. Emilia:

    Good madam, do. I warrant it grieves my husband
    As if the cause were his.

  4. Desdemona:

    O, that’s an honest fellow. — Do not doubt, Cassio,
    But I will have my lord and you again
    As friendly as you were.

  5. Cassio:

    Bounteous madam,
    Whatever shall become of Michael Cassio,
    He’s never anything but your true servant.

  6. Desdemona:

    I know ’t. I thank you. You do love my lord, 
    You have known him long, and be you well assured
    He shall in strangeness stand no farther off
    Than in a politic distance.

  7. Cassio:

    Ay, but, lady,
    That policy may either last so long,
    Or feed upon such nice and waterish diet,
    Or breed itself so out of circumstance,
    That, I being absent and my place supplied,
    My General will forget my love and service.

  8. Desdemona:

    Do not doubt that. Before Emilia here,
    I give thee warrant of thy place. Assure thee,
    If I do vow a friendship, I’ll perform it
    To the last article. My lord shall never rest, 
    I’ll watch him tame, and talk him out of patience, 
    His bed shall seem a school, his board a shrift, 
    I’ll intermingle everything he does
    With Cassio’s suit. Therefore be merry Cassio,
    For thy solicitor shall rather die
    Than give thy cause away.

  9. Enter Othello and Iago.

  10. Emilia:

    Madam, here comes my lord.

  11. Cassio:

    Madam, I’ll take my leave.

  12. Desdemona:

    Why, stay, and hear me speak.

  13. Cassio:

    Madam, not now. I am very ill at ease,
    Unfit for mine own purposes.

  14. Desdemona:

    Well, do your discretion.

  15. Exit Cassio.

  16. Iago:

    Ha, I like not that.

  17. Othello:

    What dost thou say?

  18. Iago:

    Nothing, my lord; or if ... I know not what.

  19. Othello:

    Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?

  20. Iago:

    Cassio, my lord? No sure, I cannot think it
    That he would steal away so guiltylike,
    Seeing your coming.

  21. Othello:

    I do believe ’twas he.

  22. Desdemona:

    How now, my lord?
    I have been talking with a suitor here,
    A man that languishes in your displeasure.

  23. Othello:

    Who is ’t you mean?

  24. Desdemona:

    Why, your lieutenant, Cassio. Good my lord,
    If I have any grace or power to move you,
    His present reconciliation take. 
    For if he be not one that truly loves you,
    That errs in ignorance, and not in cunning,
    I have no judgment in an honest face.
    I prithee call him back.

  25. Othello:

    Went he hence now?

  26. Desdemona:

    Ay sooth, so humbled
    That he hath left part of his grief with me
    To suffer with him. Good love, call him back.

  27. Othello:

    Not now, sweet Desdemon, some other time.

  28. Desdemona:

    But shall ’t be shortly?

  29. Othello:

    The sooner, sweet, for you.

  30. Desdemona:

    Shall ’t be tonight at supper?

  31. Othello:

    No, not tonight.

  32. Desdemona:

    Tomorrow dinner then?

  33. Othello:

    I shall not dine at home, 
    I meet the captains at the citadel.

  34. Desdemona:

    Why then tomorrow night, or Tuesday morn,
    On Tuesday noon, or night, on Wednesday morn.
    I prithee name the time, but let it not
    Exceed three days. In faith. He’s penitent, 
    And yet his trespass, in our common reason 
    (Save that, they say, the wars must make example
    Out of her best) is not almost a fault
    T’ incur a private check. When shall he come?
    Tell me Othello. I wonder in my soul
    What you would ask me that I should deny
    Or stand so mamm’ring on? What? Michael Cassio,
    That came a-wooing with you? And so many a time
    (When I have spoke of you dispraisingly) 
    Hath ta’en your part, to have so much to do
    To bring him in? By’r Lady! I could do much—

  35. Othello:

    Prithee, no more. Let him come when he will. 
    I will deny thee nothing.

  36. Desdemona:

    Why, this is not a boon. 
    ’Tis as I should entreat you wear your gloves,
    Or feed on nourishing dishes, or keep you warm,
    Or sue to you to do a peculiar profit
    To your own person. Nay, when I have a suit
    Wherein I mean to touch your love indeed,
    It shall be full of poise and difficult weight,
    And fearful to be granted.

  37. Othello:

    I will deny thee nothing. 
    Whereon, I do beseech thee, grant me this,
    To leave me but a little to myself.

  38. Desdemona:

    Shall I deny you? No. Farewell, my lord.

  39. Othello:

    Farewell my Desdemona. I’ll come to thee straight.

  40. Desdemona:

    Emilia come. — Be as your fancies teach you, 
    Whate’er you be, I am obedient.

  41. Exit Desdemona and Emilia.

  42. Othello:

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

  43. Iago:

    My noble lord.

  44. Othello:

    What dost thou say, Iago?

  45. Iago:

    Did Michael Cassio,
    When you wooed my lady, know of your love?

  46. Othello:

    He did, from first to last. Why dost thou ask?

  47. Iago:

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

  48. Othello:

    Why of thy thought , Iago?

  49. Iago:

    I did not think he had been acquainted with her.

  50. Othello:

    O yes, and went between us very oft.

  51. Iago:


  52. Othello:

    Indeed? Ay, indeed. Discern’st thou aught in that?
    Is he not honest?

  53. Iago:

    Honest, my lord?

  54. Othello:

    Honest ? Ay, honest.

  55. Iago:

    My lord, for aught I know.

  56. Othello:

    What dost thou think?

  57. Iago:

    Think, my lord?

  58. Othello:

    “Think, my lord?” By heaven, thou echo’st me
    As if there were some monster in thy thought
    Too hideous to be shown. Thou dost mean something.
    I heard thee say even now, thou lik’st 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 cried’st “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.

  59. Iago:

    My lord, you know I love you.

  60. Othello:

    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 dilations, working from the heart,
    That passion cannot rule.

  61. Iago:

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

  62. Othello:

    I think so too.

  63. Iago:

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

  64. Othello:

    Certain, men should be what they seem.

  65. Iago:

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

  66. Othello:

    Nay, yet there’s more in this.
    I prithee speak to me as to thy thinkings,
    As thou dost ruminate, and give thy worst of thoughts
    The worst of words.

  67. Iago:

    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 that breast so pure
    But some uncleanly apprehensions
    Keep leets and law-days and in Sessions sit
    With meditations lawful?

  68. Othello:

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

  69. Iago:

    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 oft my jealousy
    Shapes faults that are not)that your wisdom,
    (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 and wisdom,
    To let you know my thoughts.

  70. Othello:

    What dost thou mean?

  71. Iago:

    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.

  72. Othello:

    By heaven, I’ll know thy thoughts!

  73. Iago:

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

  74. Othello:


  75. Iago:

    O, beware, my lord, of jealousy.
    It is the green-eyed 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 damnèd minutes tells he o'er,
    dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves?

  76. Othello:

    O misery!

  77. Iago:

    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 God! The souls of all my tribe defend 
    From jealousy.

  78. Othello:

    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 resolved. 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.

  79. Iago:

    I am glad of this. 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 eyes thus, not jealous,  nor secure.
    I would not have your free and noble nature,
    Out of self-bounty, be abused. Look to ’t.
    I know our country disposition well:
    In Venice, they do let God see the pranks
    They dare not show their husbands. Their best conscience
    Is not to leave’t undone, but keep’t unknown.

  80. Othello:

    Dost thou say so?

  81. Iago:

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

  82. Othello:

    And so she did.

  83. Iago:

    Why, go to then.
    She that so young could give out such a seeming 
    To seel her father’s eyes upclose 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.

  84. Othello:

    I am bound to thee forever.

  85. Iago:

    I see this hath a little dashed your spirits.

  86. Othello:

    Not a jot, not a jot.

  87. Iago:

    I’ faith, I fear it has.
    I hope you will consider what is spoke
    Comes from my love. But I do see you’re moved.
    I am to pray you not to strain my speech
    To grosser issues, nor to larger reach
    Than to suspicion.

  88. Othello:

    I will not.

  89. Iago:

    Should you do so (my lord) 
    My speech should fall into such vile success
    As my thoughts aim not at. Cassio’s my worthy friend.
    — My lord, I see you’re moved.

  90. Othello:

    No, not much moved.
    I do not think but Desdemona’s honest.

  91. Iago:

    Long live she so, And long live you to think so.

  92. Othello:

    And yet, how nature erring from itself

  93. Iago:

    Ay, there’s the point. As (to be bold with you)
    Not to affect many proposèd matches
    Of her own clime, complexion, and degree,
    Whereto we see, in all things, nature tends. 
    Fie! 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 judgment,
    May fall to match you with her country forms,
    And happily repent. 

  94. Othello:

    Farewell, farewell!
    If more thou dost perceive, let me know more.
    Set on thy wife to observe. Leave me, Iago.

  95. Iago:

    [Going] My lord, I take my leave.

  96. Othello:

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

  97. Iago:

    [Coming back.]
    My lord, I would I might entreat your honour
    To scan this thing no farther. Leave it to time.
    Although ’tis 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.

  98. Othello:

    Fear not my government.

  99. Iago:

    I once more take my leave.


  100. Othello:

    This fellow’s of exceeding honesty,
    And knows all qualities with a learnèd 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 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 vapour 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.
    Even then this forkèd plague is fated to us
    When we do quicken. Desdemona comes.

    Enter Desdemona and Elilia.

    If she be false, heaven mocks itself,
    I'll not believe't. 

  101. Desdemona:

    How now, my dear Othello?
    Your dinner, and the generous islanders
    By you invited, do attend your presence.

  102. Othello:

    I am to blame.

  103. Desdemona:

    Why do you speak so faintly? Are you not well?

  104. Othello:

    I have a pain upon my forehead, here.

  105. Desdemona:

    Faith, that’s with watching, ’twill away again.
    Let me but bind your head, within this hour
    It will be well.

    [She starts to bind his head with a handkerchief.] 

  106. Othello:

    Your napkin is too little.

    [He pulls it off, and throws it on the floor.]

    Let it alone. Come, I’ll go in with you.

  107. Desdemona:

    I am very sorry that you are not well.

    Exit Othello and Desdemona.

  108. Emilia:

    [Picking it up]

    I am glad I have found this napkin.
    This was her first remembrance from the Moor.
    My wayward husband hath a hundred times
    Wooed me to steal it, but she so loves the token
    (For he conjured her she should ever keep it)
    That she reserves it evermore about her
    To kiss and talk to. I’ll have the work ta’en out
    And give’t Iago. What he will do with it
    Heaven knows, not I.
    I nothing but to please his fantasy.

    Enter Iago.

  109. Iago:

    How now? What do you here alone?

  110. Emilia:

    Do not you chide. I have a thing for you.

  111. Iago:

    You have a thing for me? It is a common thing —

  112. Emilia:


  113. Iago:

    To have a foolish wife.

  114. Emilia:

    O, is that all? What will you give me now
    For that same handkerchief?

  115. Iago:

    What handkerchief?

  116. Emilia:

    What handkerchief?
    Why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona,
    That which so often you did bid me steal.

  117. Iago:

    Hast stol’n it from her?

  118. Emilia:

    No faith! She let it drop by negligence,
    And to th’advantage I, being here, took’t up.
    Look, here it is.

  119. Iago:

    A good wench! Give it me. [She does.]

  120. Emilia:

    What will you do with it, that you have been so earnest
    To have me filch it?

  121. Iago:

    Why, what's that to you?

  122. Emilia:

    If it be not for some purpose of import,
    Give’t me again. Poor lady, she’ll run mad
    When she shall lack it.

  123. Iago:

    Be not known on’t.
    I have use for it. Go, leave me.

    Exit Emilia.

    I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin
    And let him find it. Trifles light as air  
    Are, to the jealous, confirmations strong
    As proofs of holy writ. This may do something.
    The Moor already changes with my poison. 
    Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons 
    Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
    But, with a little act upon the blood,
    Burn like the mines of sulphur.
    [Enter Othello.] I did say so.
    Look where he comes. Not poppy, nor mandragora,
    Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world
    Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
    Which thou ow'dst yesterday

  124. Othello:

    Ha, ha, false to me?

  125. Iago:

    Why, how now, General? No more of that.

  126. Othello:

    Avaunt, begone! Thou hast set me on the rack.
    I swear ’tis better to be much abused
    Than but to know’t a little.

  127. Iago:

    How now, my lord?

  128. Othello:

    What sense had I of her stol’n hours of lust?
    I saw’t not, thought it not, it harmed not me.
    I slept the next night well, fed well, was free and merry.
    I found not Cassio’s kisses on her lips.
    He that is robbed, not wanting what is stol’n,
    Let him not know’t, and he’s not robbed at all.

  129. Iago:

    I am sorry to hear this.

  130. Othello:

    I had been happy if the general camp,
    Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,
    So I had nothing known. O now forever
    Farewell the tranquil mind; farewell content;
    Farewell the plumèd troops and the big wars
    That makes ambition, virtue! O farewell;
    Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
    The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife,
    The royal banner, and all quality,
    Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.
    And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
    Th’immortal Jove’s dread clamors counterfeit,
    Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!

  131. Iago:

    Is ’t possible my lord?

  132. Othello:

    Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore; 
    Be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof,
    Or, by the worth of mine eternal soul,
    Thou hadst been better have been born a dog
    Than answer my waked wrath.

  133. Iago:

    Is’t come to this?

  134. Othello:

    Make me to see’t, or at the least, so prove it
    That the probation bear no hinge nor loop
    To hang a doubt on. Or woe upon thy life!

  135. Iago:

    My noble lord—

  136. Othello:

    If thou dost slander her and torture me,
    Never pray more. Abandon all remorse. 
    On horror’s head, horrors accumulate. 
    Do deeds to make Heav'n weep, all Earth amazed,
    For nothing canst thou to damnation add
    Greater than that.

  137. Iago:

    O grace! O heaven forgive me!
    Are you a man? Have you a soul? Or sense?
    God buy you. Take mine office. O wretched fool,
    That liv’st to make thine honesty a vice! 
    O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world,
    To be direct and honest is not safe.
    I thank you for this profit, and from hence
    I’ll love no friend, sith love breeds such offense.

    [He starts to leave.]

  138. Othello:

    Nay, stay. Thou shouldst be honest. 

  139. Iago:

    I should be wise; for honesty’s a fool
    And loses that it works for.

  140. Othello:

    By the world,
    I think my wife be honest, and think she is not.
    think that thou art just, and think thou art not.
    I’ll have some proof. Her name, that was as fresh
    As Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black
    As mine own face. If there be cords or knives,
    Poison or fire, or suffocating streams,
    I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied!

  141. Iago:

    I see, Sir, you are eaten up with passion.
    I do repent me that I put it to you.
    You would be satisfied?

  142. Othello:

    Would? Nay, and I will.

  143. Iago:

    And may. But how? How satisfied, my lord?
    Would you, the supervisor, grossly gape on?
    Behold her topped?

  144. Othello:

    Death and damnation! O!

  145. Iago:

    It were a tedious difficulty, I think,
    To bring them to that prospect. Damn them then,
    If ever mortal eyes do see them bolster
    More than their own. What then? How then?
    What shall I say? Where’s satisfaction?
    It is impossible you should see this,
    Were they as prime as goats, as hot as monkeys,
    As salt as wolves in pride, and fools as gross
    As ignorance made drunk. But yet, I say,
    If imputation and strong circumstances,
    Which lead directly to the door of truth,
    Will give you satisfaction, you might have’t.

  146. Othello:

    Give me a living reason that she’s disloyal.

  147. Iago:

    I do not like the office.
    But sith I am entered in this cause so far 
    (Pricked to’t by foolish honesty and love)
    I will go on. I lay with Cassio lately,
    And being troubled with a raging tooth
    I could not sleep. There are a kind of men,
    So loose of soul, that in their sleeps will mutter
    Their affairs. One of this kind is Cassio.
    In sleep I heard him say “Sweet Desdemona,
    Let us be wary, let us hide our loves.”
    And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,
    Cry “O sweet creature!” Then kiss me hard,
    As if he plucked up kisses by the roots
    That grew upon my lips, then laid his leg
    O’er my thigh, and sighed, and kissed, and then
    Cried “Cursèd fate, that gave thee to the Moor!"

  148. Othello:

    O monstrous! Monstrous!

  149. Iago:

    Nay, this was but his dream.

  150. Othello:

    But this denoted a foregone conclusion.

  151. Iago:

    ’Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream.
    And this may help to thicken other proofs 
    That do demonstrate thinly.

  152. Othello:

    I’ll tear her all to pieces.

  153. Iago:

    Nay, but be wise. Yet we see nothing done, 
    She may be honest yet. Tell me but this,
    Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief,
    Spotted with strawberries, in your wife's hand?

  154. Othello:

    I gave her such a one. ’Twas my first gift.

  155. Iago:

    I know not that, but such a handkerchief 
    (I am sure it was your wife’s) did I today
    See Cassio wipe his beard with.

  156. Othello:

    If it be that—

  157. Iago:

    If it be that, or any that was hers,
    It speaks against her with the other proofs.

  158. Othello:

    O, that the slave had forty thousand lives.
    One is too poor, too weak for my revenge.
    Now do I see ’tis true. Look here Iago,
    All my fond love thus do I blow to heaven.
    ’Tis gone.
    Arise black vengeance from thy hollow hell!
    Yield up, O Love, thy crown and hearted throne
    To tyrannous Hate! Swell bosom with thy fraught,
    For ’tis of aspics’ tongues.

  159. Iago:

    Yet be content.

  160. Othello:

    O, blood, blood, blood!

  161. Iago:

    Patience I say. Your mind perhaps may change.

  162. Othello:

    Never, Iago. Like to the Pontic Sea,
    Whose icy current and compulsive course
    Ne’er keeps retiring ebb, but keeps due on
    To the Propontic and the Hellespont.
    Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace
    Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love,
    Till that a capable and wide revenge
    Swallow them upOthello kneels.

    Now by yond marble heaven,
    In the due reverence of a sacred vow,
    I here engage my words.

  163. Iago:

    Do not rise yet. He kneels.

    Witness, you ever-burning lights above,
    You elements that clip us round about,
    Witness that here Iago doth give up
    The execution of his wit, hands, heart
    To wronged Othello’s service. Let him command,
    And to obey shall be in me remorse,
    What bloody business ever.

    They stand.

  164. Othello:

    I greet thy love
    Not with vain thanks, but with acceptance bounteous,
    And will upon the instant put thee to’t.
    Within these three days let me hear thee say
    That Cassio’s not alive.

  165. Iago:

    My friend is dead.
    ’Tis done at your request. But let her live.

  166. Othello:

    Damn her, lewd minx! O damn her, damn her!
    Come, go with me apart. I will withdraw
    To furnish me with some swift means of death
    For the fair devil.
    Now art thou my lieutenant.

  167. Iago:

    I am your own forever.

    They exit.