Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury you have heard the good State of Veni
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Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, you have heard the good State of Venice attempt to
place guilt on my client - to place responsibility for the death of Othello and Desdemona
on Iago. You have heard how Iago allegedly twisted circumstances beyond Othello’s
control rendering him impotent and unable to control his own free will. You have heard
the State argue that Iago killed Othello and his charming wife. That is a lie. And today,
most gentle jury, you will hear the truth and by hearing the truth, you will set the
defendant free. You will know the truth and the truth will set us all free.
The prosecution has a difficult task. It must prove cause. You have heard the State point
to certain “conversations” and other so-called hard evidence. But conversations and
misplaced handkerchiefs are not causes; they are circumstantial sidelines-influences if
you will, but not causes.
Othello may have heard words, but the words did not cause him to murder. That is an
excuse. Othello acted of his own overbearing pride and purpose. Othello’s weakness in
mind and character alone captained his ship onto the rocky shore of paranoia, jealousy
and savage murder. The State would have us blame influences, not the influenced.
But haven’t we all heard this before? Have we not heard the whining of excuse makers
crying: “But soft, hither yonder child is but innocent of stealing-it twere poor potty
training that didst him so.” Or, “Tush, I am an innocent flower; butst for my opponent’s
negative campaign ads, I wouldst be President?”
Gentle jury, the gig is up. The truth is that “tis in ourselves that we are thus.” Othello,
who commanded armies in battle, surely commanded his own mind. If you think this is
true, then you must agree that simple whispers would have had little effect on the mental
strength of one such as Othello. Consequently, he alone is the cause of his action. He
alone murdered himself and his innocent wife Desdemona.
If you think his mind is weak, then, more the reason to condemn him and him alone for
murder. Weak minds are easily swayed by rumor and circumstance. Then run. chasing
ghost after ghost, blaming everyone except themselves for the fact that their hand remain
By heaven, let us look at Brabantio for example. It twere a single whisper that set him off
late in the night with bloody design itching for satisfaction. Sayth Roderigo to Brabantio:
Your daughter, if you have not given her leave,
I say again, hath made a gross revolt,
Tying her duty, beauty, wit, and fortunes
In an extravagant and wheeling stranger
Of here and everywhere, Straight satisfy yourself. (1.1.130-34)
Indeed he does. With only a briefest word, Brabantio leaps from bed, and like a madman
chased by fears and imagination shouts, “Call up all my people!...Belief of it oppresses
me already. Light, I say Light!” (1.1.138-41)
Notice how Brabantio reacts. He accepts his fears as fact. Led not so much by Roderigo
as by his own impulse, Brabantio organizes a mob yelling, “get weapons, ho.”
Has Roderigo caused Brabantio’s mad lust for violence? No. Brabantio acts from
influences and from his own pride and purpose. Is Brabantio’s mind strong or weak? It
matters not, Brabantio is the cause of his own behavior. Just like Brabantio who cries
foolishly, “I may command at most,” so goes Cassio.
Oh, Cassio. Did Iago cause him to drunkenness? Cause him to forfeit his command?
Cause him to loose his reputation? We think not.
But Cassio, like the prosecution’s case, wants to blame someone other than himself as
the cause. Listen to Cassio in his moment of defeat. Does he blame his own weakness?
His own inability to control his vice? No. He blames his problems on the influence, not
the influenced, “O strange! Every inordinate cup is unblest, and the ingredient is a
No. Cassio is to blame. He lacks the stomach to resist influence. When my client, Iago,
asks if he will share a goodwill toast of “happiness to Othello and Desdemona’s sheets,”
Cassio at first resists saying, “I am unfortunate in the infirmity are dare not task my
weakness with any more.” (2.3.39-40) But after saying this-and knowing full well that he
cannot command his own ship when influenced by drink-goes right ahead and whines,
“I’ll do’t, but it dislikes me.” Give me a break!
Then moments later he becomes engaged in a street brawl while he was entrusted by
Othello to keep order and command. But what does he do and become? Cassio, while on
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Othello, Iago, Roderigo, Michael Cassio, Brabantio, Otello, Desdemona, Emilia
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