Chaos is come again
Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul
But I do love thee! and when I love thee not,
Chaos is come again.
My noble lord—
What dost thou say, Iago?
Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady,
Know of your love?
By "Excellent wretch" Othello means his new wife, Desdemona, who
has just left the scene. Though "wretch" is elsewhere in
Shakespeare a term of endearment, it is nonetheless ominous, just
like Othello's other oaths in his speech. "Perdition catch my soul
but I do love thee" isn't exactly a comforting sentiment; roughly
translated, Othello says, "I'll be damned if I don't love you."
Thoughts of perdition and chaos aren't the normal signs of a
healthy relationship. Othello can only imagine falling out of love
with Desdemona as the collapse of all form and order. In effect,
his wife is shouldered with the responsibility for Othello's
So when in this same scene, through Iago's machinations, Othello
does fall out of love with Desdemona, he cries "Othello's
occupation's gone!" and embarks on a desperate campaign to prove
his wife's treachery, a campaign which culminates in his murdering
her. Iago hasn't missed a beat; immediately after Othello
pronounces his theory of chaos, Iago begins working on the
impassioned Moor. He starts by raising doubts about the kind of
relationship Othello's friend Cassio has with Desdemona, doubts
which explode, within a few hundred lines, into Othello's certainty
that he's been cuckolded.