Eileen Atkins marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death – speaking the lines from Othello ‘If wives do fall’

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Guardian has asked leading actors to perform key speeches from his plays. Here, Eileen Atkins speaks Emilia’s lines from Othello, act IV scene 3. Emilia, Iago’s wife, counsels Desdemona on marriage and fidelity.

Read the full text for this speech

Yes, a dozen; and as many to the vantage as would
store the world they played for.
But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,
And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
Or scant our former having in despite;
Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell
And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
As husbands have. What is it that they do
When they change us for others? Is it sport?
I think it is: and doth affection breed it?
I think it doth: is’t frailty that thus errs?
It is so too: and have not we affections,
Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
Then let them use us well: else let them know,
The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

BOOKING

Book tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Company