My mother had a maid call’d Barbara:
She was in love, and he she loved proved mad
And did forsake her: she had a song of ‘willow;’
An old thing ’twas, but it express’d her fortune,
And she died singing it: that song to-night
Will not go from my mind; I have much to do,
But to go hang my head all at one side,
And sing it like poor Barbara. Prithee, dispatch.
My mother had a maid named Barbara.
She was in love but it turned out to not be true
She sang named “willow” that related to her life.
And she died singing it. That song is stuck with me
It will not get out of my head.
It’s keeping me from going insane
And I sing it like poor Barbara. Leave Dispatch
This group of lines was recited when Desdemona was waiting for Othello to come to bed and she was able to tell the sad story of how she learned this song. Desdemona is thoroughly depressed due to the way that Othello has been treating her in a negative way. Othello has become suspicious with because he thinks that she is cheating on him. Desdemona is able to rant to Emilia about the situation and tell him what she thinks of the situation.
Soft you; a word or two before you go.
I have done the state some service, and they know’t.
No more of that. I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought
Perplex’d in the extreme.
Wait let me talk to you before you go.
I have help in the past and know it.
When you record these events
Record me as the person that I am nothing degreading.
Do not speak bad on me rather speak as me as someone that loved to much.
In this passage Othello is talking to the Duke and other authorities right before he kills himself. This happens after he finds out that Iago was tricking him the whole time and that Desdemona was in fact loyal to him. He is making sure that his legacy is a good one and he does not want to be looked at as a terrible person that killed his wife.
Photo by Dani Wilde
Othello Close Reading by Zachary is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.