Foolish Roderigo is an instrumental tool in Iago’s plan to bring Othello to ruin. Throughout the play, we see Roderigo characterized primarily by his weakness. Iago easily riles up his anger by reminding him that Othello, a Moor and therefore an outsider in Venetian society, is set to marry Desdemona. That this mutual hatred of Othello is enough to win Roderigo’s trust suggests that Roderigo is shallow and foolish. Furthermore, a major component of Roderigo’s frustration over losing Desdemona appears to be that he believes it is unfair that Othello, being a Moor, should get to marry Desdemona, which reveals him to be xenophobic and racist. Once under Iago’s sway, Roderigo readily agrees to Iago’s direction, even at times exiting the stage on Iago’s command. When Iago suggests the murder of Cassio as part of a convoluted plan to keep Othello and Desdemona in Cyprus, Roderigo agrees despite stating that he has “no devotion to the deed.” That he is willing to kill someone so half-heartedly and unnecessarily shows a very dangerous sort of childish and self-absorbed weakness.
As a rejected suitor for Desdemona’s affections, Roderigo also serves as a point of comparison to Othello. Despite the firm rejection by both Desdemona and Brabantio, Roderigo continues to obsess over Desdemona, showing a disregard for her desires and boundaries. While Othello woos Desdemona with his heroic deeds, Roderigo attempts to win her over with money and jewels. Othello’s heroism on the battlefield also contrasts strongly with Roderigo inciting Cassio to cause a disturbance at the military camp in Cyprus, jeopardizing the stability of the camp over his lust for Desdemona. Roderigo’s complete weakness of mind and morals only serve to highlight Othello’s strength. Nevertheless, just like Roderigo, Othello is taken in by Iago’s manipulation, and enraged to violence by jealousy. In this sense, we can pity Roderigo. If Iago’s manipulation can fool Othello, we can see how a man like Roderigo so quickly became a puppet in his hands.