In Othello, Othello mutters: “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul.” What is he talking about?

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As he speaks these lines, Othello is attempting to steel himself to do what he feels is necessary: he is going to smother Desdemona for the crime of having (so he thinks) been "false as water." However, evidently, he is still vacillating over actually doing the deed, and his repetition of the words "it is the cause" emphasizes that he is trying to grasp and keep in his mind the reason he must kill his wife. "The cause" represents the so-called infidelity of Desdemona, which, Othello feels, is what is driving his own actions.

He does not really want to think about "the cause," of course. It is painful to him; he would rather put it out of his mind; he says he will not "name it to you, chaste stars," as if it is so dirty a thought that it might besmear the chastity of the stars themselves. However, if he puts it out of his mind, he will not be able to do what he must. As such, he focuses himself upon it—"it is the cause, my soul"—and then determines, as if justifying his own behavior,...

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