William Shakespeare's Othello or The Moor of Venice. (Othello is a famous soldier who serves the Duke of Venice. He is from north Africa and has African features, apparently including a dark skin. The action takes place in Venice, but location apparently changes later to the island of Cyprus.)
The play opens with Iago (Yago or ee-yago) talking to his friend Roderigo. Roderigo complains that he has given Iago a lot of money. He is upset to hear that Othello has married the woman he is in love with, Desdemona. Iago says that he hates Othello because he gave the job of second-in-command to Cassio instead of him, while he serves Othello as a subordinate officer. Iago encourages Roderigo to tell Desdemona's father Brabantio that his daughter has run off with an African.
Brabantio, very upset, tries to get the Duke to annul the marriage. He accuses Othello of using witchcraft to win Desdemona, but, when Desdemona is brought in, she explains that she loves Othello. The Duke advises Brabantio to get over his anger. Othello is sent off on a military mission, because the Turkish fleet is threatening an attack on Cyprus. He leaves Iago in charge. Iago's wife Emilia is to look after Desdemona.
The Turkish fleet is shipwrecked in a storm and the Venetians are victorious. Othello happily comes to Cyprus with his wife. Iago plots to make Othello think that Desdemona is in love with Cassio. Another reason that he hates Othello is that Iago believes Othello may have seduced his wife Emilia.
Iago gets Cassio drunk and sends Roderigo and others to get him into a fight. In the brawl, Cassio stabs a man who dies. The uproar brings out Othello who reproaches Cassio and demotes him from his military position. Iago suggests to Cassio that he ask Desdemona to ask Othello to forgive him. She agrees to help.
Next Iago begins to drop hints that he knows something about Cassio. He warns Othello to "beware of jealousy." He points out that Desdemona deceived her father to marry Othello. Believing in Iago's honesty, Othello begins to doubt his wife. Emilia notices that Desdemona drops her handkerchief (probably like a fancy embroidered linen scarf); she picks it up, because Iago has been begging her to get it for him.
Othello, tortured by doubts, demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago claims that he heard Cassio talking about her in his sleep. Then he claims to have seen Cassio with Desdemona's handkerchief, which was a present from Othello. Desdemona comes to Othello and asks him to forgive Cassio, which seems to confirm his jealous fears. He demands that she produce the handkerchief. Meanwhile Cassio has given the handkerchief to Bianca, a prostitute who is in love with him.
In the next scene, Iago goes further and tells Othello that Cassio has admitted having an affair with Desdemona. Othello becomes so enraged that he faints or has a fit.
Iago stokes Othello's jealousy more by having him watch a conversation between him and Cassio. Cassio is talking about Bianca and laughing about her, but Othello believes he is talking about Desdemona. Bianca comes in and waves the handkerchief at Cassio. Othello recognizes it. He is now determined to kill his wife. Iago suggests that he should strangle her in bed.
The Duke enters and Desdemona mentions Cassio to him. Othello is so furious that he strikes her, shocking everybody. Othello questions Emilia about Cassio and his wife, but she denies that anything is going on. Othello insults Desdemona, who is crushed by his anger.
Iago persuades Rogerigo to attack Cassio. Desdemona approaches Othello who brusquely tells her to go to her bedroom. Emilia is to be sent away. Desdemona asks Emilia whether she really believes there are married women who have affairs with other men. She would never do it. Emilia has another viewpoint: women have feelings too, and men who mess around should not expect faithfulness.
Roderigo attacks Cassio, but is badly wounded. Cassio is wounded by Iago, who runs off and then runs back and pretends to rescue Cassio by stabbing Roderigo! He accuses Bianca of being responsible for the whole plot.
Othello comes into the bedroom. Desdemona is asleep and he kisses her. She wakes up and pleads for her life, but he smothers her with a pillow. Emilia comes in and discovers the murder. She is horrified to learn that Othello's jealousy originated in "honest Iago." People come running when she screams and she denounces Iago: she was the one who gave him the handkerchief. Iago stabs her and runs off. Iago is brought back in and Cassio arrives to explain how Iago left the handkerchief in his room. Iago is to be punished, and so is Othello. But Othello has a hidden knife and stabs himself over Desdemona's body.
Othello's speech in which he explains to the Duke how Desdemona came to fall in love with him.
Her father loved me, oft invited me;
Still questioned me the story of my life
From year to year—the battles, sieges, fortunes
That I have passed.
I ran it through, even from my boyish days
To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spoke of most disastrous chances
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth scapes in the imminent deadly breach,
Of being sold to slavery, of my redemption thence,
And portance* in my travel's history. *behavior or actions
Wherein of antres* vast and deserts idle, *caves
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint* to speak—such was my process— *chance
And of the cannibals that each other eat
The Anthropophagi*, and men whose heads *(Greek)—human-eaters
Do grow beneath their shoulders. These things to hear
Did Desdemona seriously incline;
But still the house affairs would draw her thence,
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,
She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse. Which I observing
Took once a pliant* hour, and found good means *convenient
To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart
That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,
Whereof by parcels she had something heard,
But not intentively. I did consent,
And often did beguile her of her tears*, *made her cry
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffered. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs;
She swore 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;
'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful.
She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished
That heaven had made her such a man. She thanked me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her. Upon this hint, I spake:
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.