Dom Casmurro Chapter 135


I dined out and in the evening went to the theatre. As it happened they were playing Othello, which I had neither read nor seen before; I just knew the theme and was struck by the coincidence. I saw the Moor’s anguish, all caused by a handkerchief – a mere handkerchief – and here I provide matter for psychologists of this and other continents to meditate on, for I could not escape the observation that it only took a handkerchief to arouse Othello’s jealousy and to compose the most sublime tragedy that has ever been written. Handkerchiefs have become outdated; nowadays we need the very sheets themselves, and when these are not forthcoming only nightgowns will serve. Such were the vague, distorted ideas that passed through my mind as the Moor rolled on the ground in convulsions and Iago distilled his poison. During the intervals I did not leave my seat, not wishing to risk meeting some acquaintance. Nearly all the ladies stayed in their boxes, while the men went out to smoke. I wondered whether any of them had once loved someone now lying in the cemetery; similar incoherent thoughts came to me until the curtain rose on the next act. It was during the last act that I realized that it was not I but Capitu who ought to die. I heard Desdemona pleading with words of purest love and saw the fury of the Moor as he did her to death and then the frantic applause of the audience.

And she was innocent, I said to myself as I walked home. What would the audience do if she had been guilty, as guilty as Capitu? And how would the Moor kill her? A pillow would not serve; it would need blood and fire, a huge roaring fire to consume her entirely, reduce her to dust – a dust that the wind would whirl away to everlasting extinction …

I wandered the streets for the rest of the night. True, I ate supper, though hardly anything, just sufficient to tide me over till morning. I saw the last hours of the night and the first of the day; I saw the last nocturnal strollers and the first roadsweepers, the first carts, the first morning bustle, the first gleams of the dawn of one day that followed on another and which would see me depart, never to return. The very streets I trod seemed to flee of their own accord. Never again would I see the sea from Glória, the Orgãos Mountains, the Santa Cruz Fortress and all the rest. There were not so many people about as on working days, but they were already quite numerous, on their way to some job or other which they would go to again. I would never go to mine again.

I arrived home, opened the door slowly, tiptoed inside and went to my study; it was almost six o’clock. I took the poison from my pocket, sat in my shirt-sleeves and wrote yet another letter, the last, addressed to Capitu. None of the others was for her; I felt the urge to say something that would arouse remorse for my death. I wrote two versions. The first I burned as being too long and diffuse. The second said just what was necessary, clearly and concisely. I did not recall the past, neither our quarrels nor our good times; I mentioned only Escobar and my wish to die.