James Earl Jones

Othello's Defense Before the Venetian Senate

delivered 12 May 2009, The White House, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Performance


Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,

My very noble and approved good masters,

That I have taken away this old man's daughter,

It is most true; true, I have married her:

The very head and front of my offending

Hath this extent, no more.


Rude am I in my speech,

And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace:

For since these arms of mine had seven years' pith,

Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used

Their dearest action in the tented field,

And little of this great world can I speak,

More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,


And therefore little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnished tale deliver

Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,

What conjuration and what mighty magic,

For such proceeding I am charged withal....

Her father loved me; oft invited me;

Still questioned me the story of my life,

From year to year, the battles, sieges, fortunes, I have passed.

I ran it through, even from my boyish days

To the very moment that he bade me tell it:

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,

Of moving accidents by flood and field;

Of hair-breadth scapes i' the imminent deadly breach;

Of being taken by the insolent foe,

And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence,

And portance in my travels' history:

Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,

Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven,

It was my hint to speak, -- such was the process;

And of the Cannibals that each other eat,

The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads

Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear

Would Desdemona seriously incline:


But still the house affairs would draw her thence;

Which ever as she could with haste dispatch,

She'd come again, and with a greedy ear

Devour up my discourse; which I observing,

Took once a pliant hour; and found good means

To draw from her a prayer of earnest heart

That I would all my pilgrimage dilate,

Whereof by parcels she had something heard,


But not intentively; I did consent;

And often did beguile her of her tears,

When I did speak of some distressful stroke

That my youth suffered. My story being done,

She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:

She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;

'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful:

She wished she had not heard it, yet she wished

That heaven had made her such a man: she thanked me;

And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,


I should but teach him how to tell my story,

And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:

She loved me for the dangers I had passed;

And I loved her that she did pity them.

This only is the witchcraft I have used: --

Here comes the lady; let her witness it.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Original Text Source: Othello, Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene III

Also in this database: James Earl Jones Field of Dreams Movie Speech

Audio, Video, Images (Screenshots) Source: WhiteHouse.gov

Page Updated: 2/5/24

U.S. Copyright Status: Text and Images = Public domain. Audio = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com.










































































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