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Othello Retold In Plain and Simple English (A Modern Translation and the Original Version)
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Othello--a play full of secret marriage, evil villains, and revenge! It's often credited as one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies!. But if your like many people, you just don't get it! If you don't understand Shakespeare, then you are not alone.

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BRABANTIO, a Senator.

Other Senators.

GRATIANO, Brother to Brabantio

LODOVICO, Kinsman to Brabantio

OTHELLO, a noble Moor, in the service of Venice

CASSIO, his Lieutenant

IAGO, his Ancient

RODERIGO, a Venetian Gentleman

MONTANO, Othello's predecessor in the government of Cyprus

CLOWN, Servant to Othello


DESDEMONA, Daughter to Brabantio, and Wife to Othello

EMILIA, Wife to Iago

BIANCA, Mistress to Cassio

Officers, Gentlemen, Messenger, Musicians, Herald, Sailor,
Attendants, &c.

Comparative Version

Act I

Scene I. Venice. A street.



Tush! never tell me; I take it much unkindly

Be quiet! Don’t tell me this – I am already annoyed

That thou, Iago, who hast had my purse

That you, Iago, who already uses my money

As if the strings were thine, shouldst know of this.

As if it were yours, knows about this.


'Sblood, but you will not hear me:

My god, you won’t listen to me.

If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me.

If I even so much as dreamed this were true, which I didn’t, then go ahead and hate me.


Thou told'st me thou didst hold him in thy hate.

You told me that you hated him.


Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city,

You can hate me if I was lying: I do hate him. Three of the city’s noblemen

In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,

Approached him personally and asked him to make me his next-in-command,

Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,

Even took their hats off to him. Moreover, I promise you,

I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:

I know my own value and that I deserve that position.

But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,

But he, because he is prideful and loves his own reasons most,

Evades them, with a bombast circumstance

Avoided their request with puffed up speech

Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;

Full of military jargon and patriotic quotes,

And, in conclusion,

And, finally,

Nonsuits my mediators; for, 'Certes,' says he,

Rejected the noblemen, saying, "In fact,

'I have already chose my officer.'

I have already chosen my lieutenant."

And what was he?

Who did he choose?

Forsooth, a great arithmetician,

None other than the great statistician

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,

Michael Cassio, from Florence,

A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;

A man almost cursed with such a beautiful wife,

That never set a squadron in the field,

A man who never moved troops in combat

Nor the division of a battle knows

And knows less of how an actual battle plays out

More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,

Than an unmarried woman – unless you count theories he read in books

Wherein the toged consuls can propose

That any gown-wearing politician can explain

As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,

As well as he can. He speaks simply to speak, and has no actual fighting

Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:

To back up his military life. But it is he, Roderigo, who was chosen:

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

And as for me, whose bravery and talent he saw

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

At Rhodes and Cyprus and all over,

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd

On Christian ground and foreign land, I must act calm

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

In front of this accountant. So Cassio, this numbers-man,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,

Will become his lieutenant,

And I--God bless the mark!--his Moorship's ancient.

While I – how stupid – must hold the flag for the Moor general.


By heaven, I rather would have been his hangman.

I swear, I would rather be his executioner.


Why, there's no remedy; 'tis the curse of service,

And there is no cure for it all. It’s the curse of the military life:

Preferment goes by letter and affection,

Promotions come from how liked one is,

And not by old gradation, where each second

And not from simple hierarchy where one

Stood heir to the first. Now, sir, be judge yourself,

Moves up to the next rank. Now, Roderigo, you tell me

Whether I in any just term am affined

If I am in any position

To love the Moor.

To love and respect the Moor general.


I would not follow him then.

If it were me, I would not serve him.


O, sir, content you;

Now don’t be hasty:

I follow him to serve my turn upon him:

I serve under him now, but for my own purposes –

We cannot all be masters, nor all masters

After all, we cannot all be leaders, and leaders

Cannot be truly follow'd. You shall mark

Cannot all be followed. Take note

Many a duteous and knee-crooking knave,

Of the servant who bows and does his duty,

That, doting on his own obsequious bondage,

Who fully attend to their obedience, their slavery,

Wears out his time, much like his master's ass,

And in the end is worn out like his master’s donkey,

For nought but provender, and when he's old, cashier'd:

Both working for nothing but their food, and then terminated when too old.

Whip me such honest knaves. Others there are

We should punish such obedient servants. But there are others

Who, trimm'd in forms and visages of duty,

Who know how to give the appearance of obedience

Keep yet their hearts attending on themselves,

While focusing on themselves.

And, throwing but shows of service on their lords,

They give a performance of doing their duty to their masters

Do well thrive by them and when they have lined their coats

And in reality prosper by quietly stealing

Do themselves homage: these fellows have some soul;

And thus working for themselves. Servants like this are gutsy and bold,

And such a one do I profess myself. For, sir,

And I admit I am one like that. To be sure,

It is as sure as you are Roderigo,

As sure as your name is Roderigo,

Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago:

If I were in the Moor’s position, I would not want to switch places with Iago.

In following him, I follow but myself;

By serving him, I am really serving myself –

Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,

God knows I do not serve him for love or duty,

But seeming so, for my peculiar end:

But just make it look like that while serving my own goals.

For when my outward action doth demonstrate

If I ever act in such a way

The native act and figure of my heart

That shows my inner self

In compliment extern, 'tis not long after

Then before long I would be in danger:

But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve

One who wears his heart on his sleeve

For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.

Leaves it open for birds to peck at it. I am not who I appear to be.


What a full fortune does the thicklips owe

That thick-lipped Moor is lucky

If he can carry't thus!

If he can go through with this!


Call up her father,

Speaking of which, call after her father

Rouse him: make after him, poison his delight,

And wake him. Annoy him, spoil his happiness,

Proclaim him in the streets; incense her kinsmen,

Shout at him in the streets, anger his and his daughter’s family

And, though he in a fertile climate dwell,

Until it seems like, though he lives in a temperate climate,

Plague him with flies: though that his joy be joy,

He is plagued with flies. Though his joy may be real,

Yet throw such changes of vexation on't,

If it changes because of the confusions we put on it,

As it may lose some colour.

It may lose some of its brightness.


Here is her father's house; I'll call aloud.

Here is her father’s house; I’ll call for him.


Do, with like timorous accent and dire yell

Do it as if you are frightened and yell

As when, by night and negligence, the fire

As if a fire started from negligence at night

Is spied in populous cities.

Has been spotted in a city full of people.


What, ho, Brabantio! Signior Brabantio, ho!

Brabantio! Mister Brabantio, hey!


Awake! what, ho, Brabantio! thieves! thieves! thieves!

Wake up, Brabantio! Thieves are in your house!

Look to your house, your daughter and your bags!

Look around you and protect your daughter and your possessions!

Thieves! thieves!

Thieves! Thieves!

BRABANTIO appears above, at a window


What is the reason of this terrible summons?

Why are you shouting all of this?

What is the matter there?

What is the matter?


Signior, is all your family within?

Sir, if your family at home?


Are your doors lock'd?

And have you locked your doors?


Why, wherefore ask you this?

Why? Tell me why you are asking.


'Zounds, sir, you're robb'd; for shame, put on your gown;

For God’s sake, sir, you have been robbed! Put your nightgown on.

Your heart is burst, you have lost half your soul;

Your heart is broken and you have lost a part of your soul

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram

For now, right now, a black ram

Is topping your white ewe. Arise, arise;

Is riding your white female sheep. Get up, get up;

Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,

Wake up the sleeping people with the bell

Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you:

Or it will be too late and the devil will give you grandchildren.

Arise, I say.

Get up, I say.


What, have you lost your wits?

Have you gone crazy?


Most reverend signior, do you know my voice?

My respected sir, do you recognize my voice?


Not I what are you?

No, who are you?


My name is Roderigo.

I am Roderigo.


The worser welcome:

Even worse:

I have charged thee not to haunt about my doors:

I have asked you not to come near my house

In honest plainness thou hast heard me say

And very honestly told you

My daughter is not for thee; and now, in madness,

That my daughter is not for you. Now, as if you are crazy,

Being full of supper and distempering draughts,

After dinner and likely drunk

Upon malicious bravery, dost thou come

With the evil courage a drunkard has, you come here

To start my quiet.

And disturb me.


Sir, sir, sir,--

Sir, sir, sir–


But thou must needs be sure

Let me be clear:

My spirit and my place have in them power

I have the desire and the connections that can

To make this bitter to thee.

Make this turn out very poorly for you.


Patience, good sir.

Please wait, good sir.


What tell'st thou me of robbing? this is Venice;

Why are you telling me my house is being robbed? This is Venice –

My house is not a grange.

I do not live out in the country.


Most grave Brabantio,

Respectable Brabantio,

In simple and pure soul I come to you.

I have come with pure intentions and a simple message.


'Zounds, sir, you are one of those that will not

For God’s sake, sir, you are so stubborn that you will not

serve God, if the devil bid you. Because we come to

turn to God if even the devil asks you to. We come

do you service and you think we are ruffians, you'll

for your benefit and yet you think we are troublemakers;

have your daughter covered with a Barbary horse;

so instead of listening, an African horse will mount your daughter.

you'll have your nephews neigh to you; you'll have

Your nephews will neigh at you, you will have

coursers for cousins and gennets for germans.

racing horses for cousins, and all of your close relatives will become horses.


What profane wretch art thou?

Who are you, you rude pervert?


I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter

I am someone, sir, who has come to you to tell you that your daughter

and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

and the Moor general are having sex, like animals.


Thou art a villain.

You are an evil person.


You are--a senator.

And you are a senator and statesman.


This thou shalt answer; I know thee, Roderigo.

Since I know you, Roderigo, you must respond to this.


Sir, I will answer any thing. But, I beseech you,

Sir, I will tell you anything. But, please,

If't be your pleasure and most wise consent,

If you are pleased and contented with this arrangement,

As partly I find it is, that your fair daughter,

As I think you might be, that your beautiful daughter

At this odd-even and dull watch o' the night,

At this late hour of the night,

Transported, with no worse nor better guard

Has left with no regular guard

But with a knave of common hire, a gondolier,

But with just hired commoner, a boatman,

To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor--

To the disgusting embrace of the lustful Moor – 

If this be known to you and your allowance,

If you already know this and are allowing it

We then have done you bold and saucy wrongs;

Then we have done you a very great evil in coming here.

But if you know not this, my manners tell me

But if you do not know this, I think

We have your wrong rebuke. Do not believe

You are wrongly accusing us. You should not think

That, from the sense of all civility,

That, opposite of any sort of politeness,

I thus would play and trifle with your reverence:

I would disturb you and mess with you.

Your daughter, if you have not given her leave,

Your daughter, if you have not allowed her to leave,

I say again, hath made a gross revolt;

I will repeat, has disgustingly rebelled against you

Tying her duty, beauty, wit and fortunes

By giving her respect, beauty, intelligence, and wealth

In an extravagant and wheeling stranger

To an extravagant and tricky man who is a stranger

Of here and every where. Straight satisfy yourself:

Here and everywhere. Now see for yourself:

If she be in her chamber or your house,

If she is still in her room or in your house,

Let loose on me the justice of the state

Then punish me as the state allows

For thus deluding you.

For tricking you.


Strike on the tinder, ho!

Someone light a match!

Give me a taper! call up all my people!

Give me a candle! Wake my servants!

This accident is not unlike my dream:

What you have told me is similar to a dream I have had –

Belief of it oppresses me already.

Believing it as possible already haunts me.

Light, I say! light!

Give me a light, I say! A light!

Exit above


Farewell; for I must leave you:

Goodbye, I must go

It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place,

Since it is not good, or right since I serve him,

To be produced--as, if I stay, I shall--

To be seen – which I will if I stay here –

Against the Moor: for, I do know, the state,

As against the Moor. Especially because I know that the senator,

However this may gall him with some cheque,

However this may offend and upset him,

Cannot with safety cast him, for he's embark'd

Cannot easily get rid of him, since the Moor is leaving

With such loud reason to the Cyprus wars,

With clear and understood reason to Cyprus for the wars.

Which even now stand in act, that, for their souls,

Even now these wars are raging and the statesmen

Another of his fathom they have none,

Do not have another general like him

To lead their business: in which regard,

To lead their war efforts. I admit this

Though I do hate him as I do hell-pains.

Even though I hate him as I would the fires of hell.

Yet, for necessity of present life,

So it is necessary for now

I must show out a flag and sign of love,

That I carry his flag and act like I love him,

Which is indeed but sign. That you shall surely find him,

Which as I said is only an act. So that you definitely find him tonight,

Lead to the Sagittary the raised search;

Take the search party to the Arsenal

And there will I be with him. So, farewell.

And I will already be there with him. Goodbye.


Enter, below, BRABANTIO, and Servants with torches


It is too true an evil: gone she is;

And what's to come of my despised time

Is nought but bitterness. Now, Roderigo,

Where didst thou see her? O unhappy girl!

With the Moor, say'st thou? Who would be a father!

How didst thou know 'twas she? O she deceives me

Past thought! What said she to you? Get more tapers:

Raise all my kindred. Are they married, think you?

Is it true that she’s gone.

The rest of my life will be nothing without her

Where did you see her, Roderigo? That like unhappy brat.

Did you see her with the Moor? Who would want to be her father!

How did you know it was her? Does she really think she can trick me so easily?

What did she say to you? Get me more candles,

And wake up my relatives. Do you think they are married?


Truly, I think they are.

Truly, I think they are.


O heaven! How got she out? O treason of the blood!

Fathers, from hence trust not your daughters' minds

By what you see them act. Is there not charms

By which the property of youth and maidhood

May be abused? Have you not read, Roderigo,

Of some such thing?

How on Earth did she get out?

My own relatives conspire against me!

Fathers, never trust your daughters just because they act innocent and good!

They are under an evil spell.

Is there any spell that can’t lead a young girl away?

Have you ever heard of something like that, Roderigo?


Yes, sir, I have indeed.


Call up my brother. O, would you had had her!

Call for my brother. Oh, now I wish you married her!

Some one way, some another. Do you know

Some go one way, some go another. Do you know

Where we may apprehend her and the Moor?

Where we will find her and the Moor?


I think I can discover him, if you please,

I think I know where he is. Please,

To get good guard and go along with me.

Get a good party of your guards and come with me.


Pray you, lead on. At every house I'll call;

I beg you to lead us. I will call at every house –

I may command at most. Get weapons, ho!

I can at least command men to join. Hey, arm yourselves!

And raise some special officers of night.


On, good Roderigo: I'll deserve your pains.

Go forward, good Roderigo. You will be rewarded for your hard work.


Scene II. Another street.

Enter OTHELLO, IAGO, and Attendants with torches


Though in the trade of war I have slain men,

Though I have killed men in war,

Yet do I hold it very stuff o' the conscience

I think it is the makeup of a good character

To do no contrived murder: I lack iniquity

To not commit murder. I lack the evil

Sometimes to do me service: nine or ten times

That would sometimes help me. Nine or ten times

I had thought to have yerk'd him here under the ribs.

I thought to simply stab him through his ribs.


'Tis better as it is.

It is better that you didn’t.


Nay, but he prated,

No, he swore

And spoke such scurvy and provoking terms

And said such nasty and offensive things

Against your honour

Against you

That, with the little godliness I have,

That, with all the patience I could muster,

I did full hard forbear him. But, I pray you, sir,

I listened to him say. But, I must ask, sir,

Are you fast married? Be assured of this,

Are you securely married? Because you should know

That the magnifico is much beloved,

That Brabantio is very respected and loved –

And hath in his effect a voice potential

He has a voice worth potentially

As double as the duke's: he will divorce you;

Twice the duke’s. He will force you to divorce

Or put upon you what restraint and grievance

Or will try to punish you according to

The law, with all his might to enforce it on,

The law, with all his strength,

Will give him cable.

As much as the law allows.


Let him do his spite:

He can do his worst:

My services which I have done the signiory

All that I have done for the government

Shall out-tongue his complaints. 'Tis yet to know,--

Will outweigh his complaints against me. This is not known about me –

Which, when I know that boasting is an honour,

If it is ever honorable to boast

I shall promulgate--I fetch my life and being

Then I will let it known widely – but my life

From men of royal siege, and my demerits

Comes from a royal line, and my worth

May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune

Can show that I have as great a wealth and position

As this that I have reach'd: for know, Iago,

As the woman I’ve married. And know this, Iago:

But that I love the gentle Desdemona,

Unless I loved Desdemona,

I would not my unhoused free condition

I would never have ruined my bachelorhood and freedom

Put into circumscription and confine

By adding the fence of marriage –

For the sea's worth. But, look! what lights come yond?

Not for an ocean’s amount of money. But wait, what are those lights?


Those are the raised father and his friends:

Those belong to the angry father and his friends.

You were best go in.

You should go inside and out of sight.


Not I, I must be found:

No, I will let them come to me.

My parts, my title and my perfect soul

My qualities, my rank, and my lack of wrongdoing

Shall manifest me rightly. Is it they?

Will prove me in the right. Is that them?


By Janus, I think no.

Actually no, I don’t think so.

Enter CASSIO, and certain Officers with torches


The servants of the duke, and my lieutenant.

It is the duke’s servants and my new lieutenant, Cassio.

The goodness of the night upon you, friends!

I hope you are well, friends!

What is the news?

Why do you come?


The duke does greet you, general,

The duke has sent us to greet you, general,

And he requires your haste-post-haste appearance,

And he requests your presence right away,

Even on the instant.



What is the matter, think you?

Do you know what the matter is?


Something from Cyprus as I may divine:

I think it is something about Cyprus,

It is a business of some heat: the galleys

And it seems to be important. The warships

Have sent a dozen sequent messengers

Have sent a dozen messengers

This very night at one another's heels,

Tonight, one after another,

And many of the consuls, raised and met,

And many of the statesmen have woken and are here

Are at the duke's already: you have been hotly call'd for;

With the duke. You were quickly asked for

When, being not at your lodging to be found,

And when you were not at found at your home,

The senate hath sent about three several guests

Three different groups were sent

To search you out.

To find you.


'Tis well I am found by you.

It’s good you are the one who found me.

I will but spend a word here in the house,

I have to spend a minute here in this house,

And go with you.

And then will go with you.



Ancient, what makes he here?

Officer, what business does he have here?


'Faith, he to-night hath boarded a land carack:

Truly, tonight he has boarded a large ship full of treasure,

If it prove lawful prize, he's made for ever.

And as long as it is and remains legal, he will be a made man forever.


I do not understand.

What are you talking about?


He's married.

He’s married.


To who?

To who?

Re-enter OTHELLO


Marry, to--Come, captain, will you go?

Why, to – My captain, shall we go?


Have with you.

Yes, let’s go.


Here comes another troop to seek for you.

Here comes another group looking for you.


It is Brabantio. General, be advised;

It is Brabantio. Be careful, general,

He comes to bad intent.

Because he intends you harm.

Enter BRABANTIO, RODERIGO, and Officers with torches and weapons


Holla! stand there!

Hello, stay there!


Signior, it is the Moor.

Sir, it is the Moor.


Down with him, thief!

Get that thief!

They draw on both sides


You, Roderigo! come, sir, I am for you.

Roderigo, come towards me, I’ll fight you.


Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them.

Keep your swords in their sheaths so the dew does not rust them.

Good signior, you shall more command with years

Good sir, the years you have served the government will make me respect you

Than with your weapons.

More than fighting you will.


O thou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter?

O you evil thief, where have you hidden my daughter?

Damn'd as thou art, thou hast enchanted her;

Since you are a damned soul, I know you put a spell on her.

For I'll refer me to all things of sense,

All good and common sense says that,

If she in chains of magic were not bound,

Unless she were enchanted through magic,

Whether a maid so tender, fair and happy,

A woman so gentle, beautiful, and happy,

So opposite to marriage that she shunned

A woman who was against marriage so much that she turned away

The wealthy curled darlings of our nation,

The wealthy noblemen of our nation,

Would ever have, to incur a general mock,

This woman would never do something others would see fit to make jokes at

Run from her guardage to the sooty bosom

Like run from her home to your black breast.

Of such a thing as thou, to fear, not to delight.

Someone like you should be feared, not enjoyed.

Judge me the world, if 'tis not gross in sense

The whole world may judge me if it’s not obvious

That thou hast practised on her with foul charms,

That you have practiced evil magic on her

Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals

And taken advantage of her naive youth through drugs

That weaken motion: I'll have't disputed on;

That make one unable to move. I would go to court over the matter;

'Tis probable and palpable to thinking.

It’s what most likely happened.

I therefore apprehend and do attach thee

Therefore, I will take you and see that you are tried

For an abuser of the world, a practiser

As a criminal, a practicer

Of arts inhibited and out of warrant.

Of dark magic.

Lay hold upon him: if he do resist,

Take him: if he resists arrest

Subdue him at his peril.

Then forcefully hold him down.


Hold your hands,

Do not touch me,

Both you of my inclining, and the rest:

Neither you on my side or the rest of you.

Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it

If it were necessary to fight, I would not

Without a prompter. Where will you that I go

Need someone to tell me. Where do you want me to go

To answer this your charge?

In order to respond to your accusations?


To prison, till fit time

To prison until the time

Of law and course of direct session

That the law sees fit to take you to court

Call thee to answer.

And ask you to testify.


What if I do obey?

And if I obey,

How may the duke be therewith satisfied,

Then how will the duke react,

Whose messengers are here about my side,

Since he sent these messengers

Upon some present business of the state

On urgent, national business

To bring me to him?

To bring me to him?

First Officer

'Tis true, most worthy signior;

It’s true, worthy sir:

The duke's in council and your noble self,

The duke has called a meeting and you, too,

I am sure, is sent for.

I am sure, are asked to attend.


How! the duke in council!

What? The duke has called a meeting!

In this time of the night! Bring him away:

This late at night! Take him away.

Mine's not an idle cause: the duke himself,

This is not some simple affair: the duke himself

Or any of my brothers of the state,

And all of the other senators

Cannot but feel this wrong as 'twere their own;

Will feel how wrong this is, as if it happened to them.

For if such actions may have passage free,

If actions like this go unpunished,

Bond-slaves and pagans shall our statesmen be.

Then slaves and pagans will become our rulers.


Scene III. A council-chamber.

The DUKE and Senators sitting at a table; Officers attending


There is no composition in these news

Nothing about these messages

That gives them credit.

Makes me think that they are credible.

First Senator

Indeed, they are disproportion'd;

Yes, they give conflicting reports.

My letters say a hundred and seven galleys.

My letters say there are a hundred and seven warships.


And mine, a hundred and forty.

And mine says a hundred and forty.

Second Senator

And mine, two hundred:

Mind says two hundred.

But though they jump not on a just account,--

But though they give conflicting numbers –

As in these cases, where the aim reports,

Since it is often when one is reporting an estimate

'Tis oft with difference--yet do they all confirm

For there to be different numbers – they all report

A Turkish fleet, and bearing up to Cyprus.

That a Turkish fleet is moving to Cyprus.


Nay, it is possible enough to judgment:

Right, that seems well confirmed.

I do not so secure me in the error,

I am not so taken by the inconsistency

But the main article I do approve

That I miss the bigger issue, which

In fearful sense.

Frightens me.


[Within] What, ho! what, ho! what, ho!

Hello! Hello!

First Officer

A messenger from the galleys.

Another messenger from the warships.

Enter a Sailor


Now, what's the business?

What have you come to tell us?


The Turkish preparation makes for Rhodes;

The Turkish fleet is heading to Rhodes, not Cyprus – 

So was I bid report here to the state

This was what I was ordered