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I am one who loved not wisely, but too well

“I am one who loved not wisely but too well” is a well-known Shakespearean quote that features at the end of his tragedy, Othello. The quote can be found in Act V, Scene 2. 

In the play, the quote reads, “one who loved not wisely but too well.” The “I am” portion is added by contemporary sources that utilize the same sentiment. It is a portion of the play spoken by Othello that will likely divide readers. Some might accept his reasoning behind his actions, but others will likely still feel as though nothing excuses how he reacted to Iago’s manipulation.

I am one who loved not wisely but too well


“I am one who loved not wisely but too well” Meaning

“I am one who loved not wisely but too well” is one of the most memorable parts of Othello’s final speech in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. He suggests that the reason he acted so rashly and killed his wife with no real proof she was cheating on him was that his love was strong, but not wise. He was inspired by his overwhelming emotions to act swiftly and based only on what Iago wants him to see. 

Where Did Shakespeare Use “I am one who loved not wisely but too well?” 

“I am one who loved not wisely but too well” is one part of a powerful monologue that Othello delivers before stabbing himself in front of Lodovico, Cassio, and Gratiano. It appears very near the end of the play. Here is the quote in the first part of Othello’s monologue: 

Soft you. A word or two before you go. 

I have done the state some service, and they

 know ’t. 

No more of that. 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 loved not wisely, but too well

Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, 

Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand, 

Like the base Judean, threw a pearl away 

Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued 

eyes

Within these lines, Othello is speaking knowing that as soon as he finishes his short monologue that he’s going to commit suicide. He begins by drawing everyone’s attention and asking to share a “word or two.” He asked that when his story is told and “these unlucky deeds relate,” that everyone will speak of him as he truly is. He hopes that no one will heighten his accomplishments or “set down aught malice” (or describe his life and deeds with malice).

He goes on, suggesting that he’s recovered from the jealous rage that drove him to kill Desdemona. He uses the quotation “one who loved not wisely but too well” to describe himself. Throughout his life, he loved passionately and with a great deal of emotion, but not wisely. He made a number of mistakes. These mistakes were only increased in their consequences due to his heightened love. 

The speech ends with: 

Albeit unused to the melting mood

Drops tears as fast as the Arabian trees 

Their medicinable gum. Set you down this. 

And say besides, that in Aleppo once, 

Where a malignant and a turbanned 

Turk Beat a Venetian and traduced the state, 

I took by th’ throat the circumcisèd dog, 

And smote him, thus.

Othello is trying to justify his actions, something that may feel more or less convincing for readers. It is difficult to accept how he treated his wife and how easily he was swayed by Iago to believe she was sleeping with another man.

Why Did Shakespeare Use “I am one who loved not wisely but too well?”

Shakespeare used this quote as a way of revealing more about Othello’s character, or at least how he sees himself. Throughout the play, readers judge Othello’s actions, his rage, and his willingness to believe that his wife is cheating on him. He never gives Desdemona the benefit of the doubt or truly tries to investigate what Iago has made him believe. 

He describes himself as someone who has loved with a great deal of heart but not with wisdom. He is suggesting that he was overcome with passion and emotion-fueled jealousy and acted out of that rage rather than from his own wisdom.

Throughout this speech, he tries to make sense of his own actions and explain to those around him why he killed his wife, Desdemona. The lines are quite clear and easy to read, especially for a section of Shakespearean text. 

FAQs

Who said, “I am one who loved not wisely but too well?” 

This quote appears in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello. The line is spoken by Othello in Act 5, Scene 2, right before the title character kills himself. He is referring to himself in the quote, suggesting that his murder of his wife only occurred because he loved too deeply and didn’t analyze the situation as it deserved to be. 

Why did Othello kill Desdemona?

Othello killed Desdemona in William Shakespeare’s Othello because he was convinced that she was cheating on him by Iago. The latter wanted to destroy Othello for not entirely clear reasons.

Why is the handkerchief so special to Othello?

The handkerchief is a symbol of love and fidelity in the play. Othello confronts Desdemona and demands that she produce the handkerchief. When she can’t (as part of Iago’s plan), Othello is convinced that their marriage is going wrong.


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