Wednesday, February 14th, 2018...10:39 pmLillian

Staging Othello (Act 1 Scene 3)

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While reading the first act of Othello I was most taken with the monologue and following lines in Act One Scene 3 where Iago repeatedly tells Rodrigo to “Put money in thy purse.”

Act 1 Scene 3


It is merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will. Come, be a man. Drown thyself? Drown cats and blind puppies! I have professed me thy friend, and I confess me knit to thy deserving with cables of perdurable toughness.

I could never better stead thee than now. Put money in thy purse. Follow thou the wars, defeat thy favor with an usurped beard. I say, put money in thy purse. It cannot be long that Desdemona should continue her love to the Moor—put money in thy purse—nor he his to her. It was a violent commencement in her, and thou shalt see an answerable sequestration—put but money in thy purse. These Moors are changeable in their wills—fill thy purse with money. The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida. She must change for youth. When she is sated with his body she will find the errors of her choice. Therefore, put money in thy purse. If thou wilt needs damn thyself, do it a more delicate way than drowning. Make all the money thou canst. If sanctimony and a frail vow betwixt an erring barbarian and supersubtle Venetian be not too hard for my wits and all the tribe of hell, thou shalt enjoy her. Therefore make money. A pox of drowning thyself! ‘Tis clean out of the way. Seek thou rather to be hanged in compassing thy joy than to be drowned and go without her.

Wilt thou be fast to my hopes, if I depend on the issue?

Thou art sure of me. Go, make money. I have told thee often, and I re-tell thee again and again, I hate the Moor. My cause is hearted. Thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him. If thou canst cuckold him, thou dost thyself a pleasure, me a sport. There are many events in the womb of time which will be delivered. Traverse, go, provide thy money. We will have more of this tomorrow. Adieu.

Where shall we meet i’ th’ morning?


At my lodging.

I’ll be with thee betimes.

Go to, farewell.
Do you hear, Roderigo?

What say you?

No more of drowning, do you hear?

I am changed.

Go to, farewell. Put money enough in your purse.

I’ll sell all my land.


Throughout Iago’s monologue, he repeats this phrase about the money. It varies slightly with some repetitions, but for the most part, it’s the same.

The set I imagine has a central area, with a raised platform upstage right. I see this as an opportunity for a very comedic moment, as everytime Iago speaks Rodrigo he just stares back at Iago blank-faced.

It’s a funny moment because Iago is used to working either at his own personal, I assume very fast, speed or the person he’s manipulating is following along without too much prompt on his part. Rodrigo makes it impossible for Iago to move fast, and also doesn’t do what Iago repeatedly asks him.

I see Rodrigo sitting with his legs dangling off where he sits on this raised platform, looking almost childish. Meanwhile, as Iago paces, and generally commands the space of the central area, Rodrigo can’t help but watch from his perch, and Iago can’t help but become more and more frustrated with everytime Rodrigo doesn’t do what he is so explicitly asked.

I think this would be a really funny scene, especially with Iago saying this line again right before they exit, he could physically put the money int eh purse himself.

This lends itself to a nice dichotomy, especially if Rodrigo falls into the large bumbling idiot sort of look. Like a large, lost puppy. While Iago is played by someone smaller, maybe even sort of nondescript, in an offputtingly boring Micheal Cera sort of way. I think Rodrigo could also be just as plain, but it’s important that Iago is unassuming and altogether bland in his look. This gives him the physical mobility to play these games without coming across as too, well, anything.


  • I think how you describe this scene (especially your imagining of Iago) is excellent, and I personally agree that Iago should appear unassuming. It would make his character much more interesting and intimidating to the audience, since his inner-self is so conniving and clever. If his external-self reflected the opposite, that would strengthen his character as a master liar and manipulator. Iago has so much control of himself and of others that it would be a nice contrast to have an actor play him who looks approachable and modest. It would make his deceptive actions that much more significant and striking. If Iago was too impressive-looking, it would make the audience question why everyone was letting such an imposing person guide them, instead of a “humble” man who is simply “advising” them.

  • I think that staging this scene this way could be a very comedic moment. I can see Iago saying this in the way that I read it in the book a Roderigo still not understanding what is really going on. I agree with you on the dichotomy when Roderigo gives off the idiot look. I think that this is a great interpretation of this scene and you pictured it the same way that I did when I read it. I think the really important part of this scene is that the actors really portray the idea that you are saying. That Iago just continues to tell Roderigo to put the money in the purse and Roderigo continues to look at him like he does not understand what he is talking about.

  • I really like your idea for staging this specific scene. It does almost seem as though Rodrigo is sitting like a child in front of a television set and mindlessly listening to what is being said. However, after first reading your staging idea, I thought it might be interesting to have Iago on a larger raised platform (though this might be hard to physically supply) and having Rodrigo on a lower platform sitting cross-legged to show how above Rodrigo Iago truly feels. While writing this, while, again, probably not very practical, I think it might be interesting to set Rodrigo amongst the audience as Iago is not only trying to manipulate Rodrigo, but also is manipulating the audience throughout the play.

  •   Professor Seiler
    February 20th, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Lillian–Would it be too on-the-nose funny, do you think, to have the childlike Roderigo you envision actually depositing money in a purse–or piggy-bank!–like a child receiving an allowance?

    And: do you think your critical approach essay might return to this scene with which you were so taken? Or to R as the kind of minor character we were discussing after class today?

  • This post made me giggle for a while! I have never thought of any comedic element in a tragic play like “Othello”, but your adaptation of this scene is just hilarious. I totally loved the idea of a dumbfounded, lovestruck, almost naive Roderigo who could not follow Iago’s pace! From the beginning to the end of “Othello”, Roderigo has acted as a puppet that is completely under Iago’s control. While other characters still sometimes question Iago’s stories (even though their suspicions are subtle), Roderigo buys everything that Iago has to say. To me, he appears as an easy prey, who Iago can deceive without much effort.

    I also agree that Iago should be played by an actor whose figure is smaller than those of Othello, Cassio, or Roderigo since Iago does not exert his power by physical force. Instead, Iago chooses to present himself as a harmless and amiable ensign: in “Othello”, he appears as everyone’s best friend but is, in fact, their worst enemy. By the way, what do you think of Iago’s voice? Should his voice possess a shrewd and conniving quality to it, or should it be so plausible and compelling that everyone would submit to his narratives? How can we give Iago enough space to reveal his true nature, or should there even be one, without portraying him as outwardly intimidating and manipulative?

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