Prior to this monologue, Iago has promised to help Roderigo cuckold Othello. Iago tells Roderigo that all he has to do is acquire money (which Iago fully intends to con him out of).
This soliloquy begins once Roderigo leaves and Iago is alone.
First there's a sneer at Roderigo: "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse" (1.3.383). He goes on to assure us that Roderigo is beneath contempt, "For I mine own gain'd knowledge should profane, / If I would time expend with such a snipe. / But for my sport and profit" (1.3.384-386). A snipe is a bird notorious for its flightiness and its tendency to run right into traps. If the actor who plays Roderigo has been skillfull enough, Iago can get a laugh at this point, because Roderigo is indeed a snipe.
Then Iago turns his attention to bigger game -- Othello. He hates Othello, "And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets / He has done my office" (1.3.387-388). "Abroad" means "everywhere," and Iago's "office" (function) between his sheets is to have sex with his wife. Iago is saying that everyone thinks that Othello is having an affair with Iago's wife. The rest of the play makes it clear that none of this is true; Othello and Iago's wife are not even vaguely interested in one another, and no one thinks otherwise. Iago is lying again, both to us and to himself, and he knows it, but that doesn't change his attitude towards Othello. He says, "I know not if't be true; / But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, / Will do as if for surety" (1.3.388-390).
Now Iago mulls over the situation and improvises a plan. Othello trusts him, and that will help. Then, "Cassio's a proper man" (1.3.392). By "proper" Iago means "handsome," which in Iago's jealous mind is one more strike against Cassio. If he could get Cassio's job while tearing down Othello, that would be even better. He turns it over in his head a little more, and then everything comes together: "After some time, to abuse Othello's ear / That he [Cassio] is too familiar with his wife" (1.3.395-396). This plan pleases Iago and he goes back over the elements that will make it work. Cassio is handsome and charming, the kind of man who naturally tempts women, and Othello is a trusting soul who "will as tenderly be led by the nose / As asses are" (1.3.401-402). Iago will be able to turn the good qualities of these men against them, and he is pleased with himself. He ends the scene saying, "I have't. It is engender'd. Hell and night / Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light" (1.3.403-404).
AuthorName: William Shakespeare
Eras: 1601-1700, 1501-1600
Age Range: 30s - Late, 40s - Early, 40s - Late
Dialects: Standard American, Standard English
Rating: Suitable for all ages
Copyright Status: Public domain
Thus do I ever make my fool my purse: For I mine own gain'd knowledge should...View Full Monologue Text
Thus do I ever make my fool my purse:
For I mine own gain'd knowledge should profane,
If I would time expend with such a snipe.
But for my sport and profit. I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if't be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety. He holds me well;
The better shall my purpose work on him.
Cassio's a proper man: let me see now:
To get his place and to plume up my will
In double knavery--How, how? Let's see:--
After some time, to abuse Othello's ear
That he is too familiar with his wife.
He hath a person and a smooth dispose
To be suspected, framed to make women false.
The Moor is of a free and open nature,
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so,
And will as tenderly be led by the nose
As asses are.
I have't. It is engender'd. Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.