Notes on Characters from Othello

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Othello Major Characters

Othello: Othello is a Moor, who has risen to high military prestige in Venice, after defeating the Turks and other enemies in battle. He is well-liked and honored, despite his racial difference. Othello becomes a general and moves to Cyprus after marrying the white daughter of a Venetian senator. He is the object of Iago's cruel plan of destruction and is slowly tricked into believing himself a cuckold. He falls victim to Iago's chicanery, becomes insanely jealous of Cassio and Desdemona's supposed relationship, and ultimately smothers his wife to death. When he realizes that Iago has tricked him and that his beloved Desdemona has always been faithful and chaste, he stabs Iago, leaving him to a life of pain, and then kills himself.

Desdemona: Desdemona is the beautiful maiden daughter of Brabantio, a Venetian senator. She falls in love with and marries the Moor, Othello, disappointing her father and Roderigo, a man desperately in love with her. She moves with her husband from Venice to Cyprus, where she befriends Othello's lieutenant, Cassio. Desdemona is the innocent victim in Iago's plan of destruction: he causes Othello to believe his wife has cuckolded him with Cassio. Consequently, Othello smothers her to death. Desdemona always loved Othello, remained faithful, and died loyal to her true love.

Cassio: Cassio is Othello's lieutenant and the object of Iago's hatred. He befriends Desdemona and asks her help to mend his relationship with her husband. Iago schemes and makes Othello believe that Cassio is having an affair with Desdemona. In fact, he has no such relationship with her; he does, however, have a mistress named Bianca for whom he cares little. Cassio is injured at the end of the play, but lives to become the new General and leader of Cyprus after Othello's death.

Iago: Iago is Othello's Ensign, and the perpetrator of evil and fallacy in this play. He finds pleasure in destroying happiness and therefore plots to ruin many lives. He despises Othello for making Cassio his lieutenant instead of himself; yet always presents himself as honest, amicable, and faithful. Because he illustrates himself in such a way, he is able not only to complete his scheme, but to kill men and frame others for his actions. The once 'honest Iago' is revealed as a horrific villain at the end of the play by his wife, Emilia, whom he later stabs. Iago is left alive, yet injured, as the play concludes, for death is too easy an exit for such a cruel man.

Emilia: Emilia is Iago's wife and Desdemona's maidservant. She is strong, forthright, and honest. Iago treats her with disdain and annoyance, as opposed to the benevolent love of a true husband. Emilia has difficulty believing that her husband could enact such cruelty upon others, but ultimately reveals the truth to all of Cyprus. Because she is the heart of truth, Iago kills her. She desires to be placed next to her dying mistress, Desdemona, as she dies.

Brabantio: Brabantio is Desdemona's father and a senator of Venice. He is horribly distraught when he discovers that his beloved daughter has married the Moor Othello. He brings her to the Duke of Venice; while in front of the court, she confirms that she is in love with Othello. Brabantio believes Othello to have used magic and witchcraft to summon Desdemona from her home.

Roderigo: Roderigo is a Venetian gentleman who is in love with Desdemona. He is also one of Iago's pawns in the plot to destroy Othello. He delivers information,hoping to be rewarded. Roderigo starts a brawl with Cassio that destroys Cassio's reputation, and then continues to implement Iago's plan. Iago kills Roderigo in the dark, pretends that someone else was the perpetrator of the murder, and then feigns concern for his friend. A letter found in Roderigo's pocket tells all of Cyprus and Venice of the truth behind Iago's plot. Although he dies, Roderigo is the vehicle of truth.

Minor Characters

The Duke of Venice: The Duke of Venice runs the city and delegates order. Brabantio brings Othello and Desdemona before him to decide the truth behind the marriage. The Duke sends Othello to Cyprus and allows Desdemona to meet him there.

Bianca: Bianca is a seamstress; the mistress of Cassio. She is often referred to as a whore and a harlot, for she is of lower class than both Desdemona and Emilia. She becomes jealous of Desdemona and Cassio, as well. She follows Cassio around and hangs on his every word. Iago uses her as another innocent victim in his scheme.

Gratiano: Gratiano is Brabantio's brother and Desdemona's uncle. He comes to Cyprus towards the end of the play and brings the news of Brabantio's death. He cannot believe that Iago would draw his sword upon a woman. Later, he cleans up after Othello's murder of Desdemona and suicide.

Lodovico: Lodovico is one of Gratiano and Brabantio's kinsmen and aids them in their trials throughout Venice and Cyprus. He comes to Cyprus with Gratiano at the conclusion of the play, when he reveals the letters written by Cassio and Roderigo that expose Iago's devious scheming. He informs Othello that he must leave Cyprus to Cassio's rule, and has the final words of the play.

Montano: Montano is the governor of Cyprus who always attempts to help out those in need. He supports Cassio in his attempted reconciliation with Othello, and tries to make peace between Cassio and Roderigo in their early duel. He is in shock, as is the rest of Cyprus, to discover Iago's cruel intentions.

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