play’s protagonist and hero. A Christian Moor and general of the
armies of Venice, Othello is an eloquent and physically powerful
figure, respected by all those around him. In spite of his elevated
status, he is nevertheless easy prey to insecurities because of
his age, his life as a soldier, and his race. He possesses a “free and
open nature,” which his ensign Iago uses to twist his love for his
wife, Desdemona, into a powerful and destructive jealousy (I.iii.381
in-depth analysis of Othello.
daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio. Desdemona and Othello
are secretly married before the play begins. While in many ways
stereotypically pure and meek, Desdemona is also determined and
self-possessed. She is equally capable of defending her marriage,
jesting bawdily with Iago, and responding with dignity to Othello’s
in-depth analysis of Desdemona.
ensign (a job also known as an ancient or standard-bearer), and
the villain of the play. Iago is twenty-eight years old. While his
ostensible reason for desiring Othello’s demise is that he has been
passed over for promotion to lieutenant, Iago’s motivations are
never very clearly expressed and seem to originate in an obsessive,
almost aesthetic delight in manipulation and destruction.
in-depth analysis of Iago.
lieutenant. Cassio is a young and inexperienced soldier, whose high
position is much resented by Iago. Truly devoted to Othello, Cassio
is extremely ashamed after being implicated in a drunken brawl on
Cyprus and losing his place as lieutenant. Iago uses Cassio’s youth,
good looks, and friendship with Desdemona to play on Othello’s insecurities
about Desdemona’s fidelity.
wife and Desdemona’s attendant. A cynical, worldly woman, she is
deeply attached to her mistress and distrustful of her husband.
in-depth analysis of Emilia.
jealous suitor of Desdemona. Young, rich, and foolish, Roderigo
is convinced that if he gives Iago all of his money, Iago will help
him win Desdemona’s hand. Repeatedly frustrated as Othello marries Desdemona
and then takes her to Cyprus, Roderigo is ultimately desperate enough
to agree to help Iago kill Cassio after Iago points out that Cassio
is another potential rival for Desdemona.
courtesan, or prostitute, in Cyprus. Bianca’s
favorite customer is Cassio, who teases her with promises of marriage.
father, a somewhat blustering and self-important Venetian senator.
As a friend of Othello, Brabanzio feels betrayed when the general
marries his daughter in secret.
Duke of Venice
official authority in Venice, the duke has great respect for Othello
as a public and military servant. His primary role within the play
is to reconcile Othello and Brabanzio in Act I, scene iii, and then
to send Othello to Cyprus.
governor of Cyprus before Othello. We see him first in Act II, as
he recounts the status of the war and awaits the Venetian ships.
of Brabanzio’s kinsmen, Lodovico acts as a messenger from Venice
to Cyprus. He arrives in Cyprus in Act IV with letters announcing
that Othello has been replaced by Cassio as governor.
kinsman who accompanies Lodovico to Cyprus. Amidst the chaos of
the final scene, Graziano mentions that Desdemona’s father has died.
servant. Although the clown appears only in two short scenes, his
appearances reflect and distort the action and words of the main
plots: his puns on the word “lie” in Act III, scene iv, for example,
anticipate Othello’s confusion of two meanings of that word in Act
IV, scene i.