One that loved not wisely but too well

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 lov'd not wisely but too well;
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought,
Perplex'd in the extreme. . . .

Othello Act 5, scene 2, 340–346

This is Othello's swan song: his attempt, before killing himself, to justify having suffocated his blameless wife Desdemona. The solidity of this speech reveals one side of Othello's personality—calm, cool, and collected. But the fact that Othello seems to have recovered from the jealous passion that drove him to murder his wife doesn't ensure his credibility. Some readers, pitying the Moor's anguish, wish to accept his self-judgment—that he may not have loved in the wisest fashion, but he loved very deeply, and that is the reason he was "Perplex'd in the extreme" by groundless charges against Desdemona.

Others, unable to forgive Othello's rash, brutal, and overconfident act, find his justification just another self-delusion. In fact, Othello has shown himself extremely susceptible to jealousy. And it is difficult to accept that his foolish credulousness is compatible with loving his wife too well—he never gave her the benefit of the doubt or any real chance to defend herself.

Themes: murder and assassination, jealousy, suicide

Speakers: Othello