Of all the impassioned speeches by tortured characters in Shakespeare, Othello’s last might be my favorite. “Loved not wisely but too well” is as subtle, human, and genius a line as they come and one from which I wanted to draw a poem. Othello is utterly spent, at the end of himself, lost to his own mania, and yet, in classic Shakespearean complexity, has enough poetic self-awareness to turn to the only sharp-edged instrument of justice he knows. His final words carry all the tormented wisdom of a man who believes he must give unto himself what he’s given to his beloved.

 

if you’re going to talk about me

 

……………………………………………don’t say it slant

 

gossip and do it true,

how

 

I wasn’t the one for half measures

in affairs of the heart,

 

I spent myself

between being and seeming,

 

given to

seeing before doubting

acting before asking

trading danger for pity

 

a man on whom a woman’s look wasn’t lost,

wearing my heart on my sleeve

loving vein deep

………………………………not wisely

………………………………(I’ll grant you)

but too well,

 

I’ve never kissed a thing I haven’t killed

or stopped long enough to know where the dagger lands

 

bearing the shame of green-eyed monsters

and groundlings

and devils alike

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