Othello’s Last Oration by Philip Monks

This poem was written in response to the engravings by John Hutton on the wall between the cafe and the garden at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which show a range of Shakespearian characters. They are wonderful depictions of many well-known characters from the plays, and it can be quite fun working out who everyone is – especially which king is which!

Othello is of course one of the great tragic figures and I have tried to capture in his commanding voice some of his conflict between his public status and his sense of his own unworthiness for Desdemona; both throughout the play and in his fatal, final moments.

The poem Falstaff by Helen Monks in the Art In The Heart anthology Iris Of A peeping Eye is also inspired by the John Hutton engravings and if you have the anthology you may be interested to compare the two poems.

Othello’s Last Oration

Here is one who can be reckoned by his deeds of valour.
Here is one whose voice should be heard above the ragged clamour.
Here is one who can command an army.
Show me respect, I am worthy.

I have pursued, without fear, a dangerous destiny.
I have subjugated the perilous enemy.
I have made my chosen country wealthy.
Show me respect, I am worthy.

I have travelled the wild, wide seas.
I have fought terrible battles in far-off brutal fields.
I have seen death before me and did not yield.
I have done my duty.
Show me respect, I am worthy.

Oh, Desdemona, how fast my heart beats.
Oh, Desdemona, my clenched words, my sturdy hands are useless.
I wish I could be happy in the lap of peace,
But all I know is war and worry.
So show me not respect, I am not worthy.
Show me your pity.

Philip Monks

You can also find this poem in the excellent Wenlock Poetry Festival Anthology 2014. If you want to use the poem for educational purposes that’s great, but please let me know at PhilMonks@aol.com if you do, so I can see where it’s got to. Thanks.

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