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Othello-Lists of Characters by Different Authors For Use With Character Map (See last post)
Character List 1
DUKE OF VENICE.
BRABANTIO, a Senator.
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.
Character List 2
A Moor, and an officer in the Venetian military. He falls in love with, and marries, the delicate Desdemona though he is middle-aged, and she is still young. Othello is bold and a good warrior, but he is a good man undone by his two main failings – jealousy and pride. Although Othello is very eloquent, he believes his manners and words are both rough.
Othello’s wife, a young Venetian woman of high birth and good breeding. Desdemona is almost overly virtuous, which causes her to feel that she must defend Cassio, and speak in a public sphere when necessary. She is stronger than Othello believes her to be, and is not the private, withdrawn, meek woman he wish she were.
Othello’s lieutenant, though he has little field experience. Cassio is a smooth-talking Venetian courtier, the opposite of Othello in many respects, which is why Othello admires him. Othello is led to believe that Cassio has had an affair with his wife, though Cassio has only honorable intentions toward Desdemona.
Othello’s ensign who was passed over for the lieutenant position in favor of Cassio. Iago is young and treacherous; he is a villain from the start, and though he cites his wounded pride and Othello’s alleged infidelity with his wife Emilia, his actions are without justification. He is immoral, but very perceptive, keen, and able to manipulate people into falling for his deceptions.
Iago’s wife, and Desdemona’s handmaiden. She is entrusted with bringing people into Desdemona’s presence, staying with her at all times, etc. Emilia is not aware of her husband’s machinations, nor his darker qualities. She remains loyal to Desdemona above all others, although she unwittingly plays a key part in Iago’s treachery.
Desdemona’s father, a senator and renowned citizen of Venice. He is not at all pleased by Desdemona’s union, and warns Othello that as Desdemona betrayed her father, she may betray her husband too.
A Venetian who lusts after Desdemona, and thus a tool in Iago’s plots. Iago promises Roderigo that he shall have Desdemona’s love in return for his help; Roderigo actually receives nothing but a disgraced death following his attempt on Cassio’s life.
Duke of Venice
Ruler of the city, and Othello’s superior. He allows Othello and Desdemona to stay together despite her father’s protests. The Duke also sends Othello off to Cyprus to battle the Moors.
Other authority figures of Venice, and men of reason and order; they also support Othello and Desdemona’s union, and Othello answers to them and the Duke in matters of war.
A courtesan who Cassio visits frequently; Cassio asks her to make a copy of Desdemona’s handkerchief, and the fact that the handkerchief is found in her place further incriminates Cassio. She is the only female in the play whom Cassio shows less than full respect to, likely because she is a prostitute.
Montano, Governor of Cyprus
Pronounces judgment on Iago at the end of the play, comments on the situation, and helps to wrap the play up. He is the main law and order figure of Cyprus, and serves as damage control after Othello dies, and Iago is proven unfit.
Lodovico and Gratiano
Two Venetian nobles, both of some relation to Desdemona; both play their biggest part after Desdemona has died, and must take the news of the tragedy back to Venice as officials of that city.
Character List 3
Othello – The 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).
Desdemona – The 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 incomprehensible jealousy.
Iago – Othello’s 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.
Michael Cassio – Othello’s 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.
Emilia – Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s attendant. A cynical, worldly woman, she is deeply attached to her mistress and distrustful of her husband.
Roderigo – A 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.
Bianca – A courtesan, or prostitute, in Cyprus. Bianca’s favorite customer is Cassio, who teases her with promises of marriage.
Brabanzio – Desdemona’s 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 – The 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.
Montano – The 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.
Lodovico – One 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.
Graziano – Brabanzio’s kinsman who accompanies Lodovico to Cyprus. Amidst the chaos of the final scene, Graziano mentions that Desdemona’s father has died.
Clown – Othello’s 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.
Character List 4
Meet the Cast
Othello is the first great black protagonist in Western literature… and he’s still one of the most famous (which is a big problem, and why you should set a goal to do a “read only non-white autho…
Iago is one of the most notorious and mysterious villains of all time—it’s no accident that the hyper-annoying and malicious sidekick to Jafar in Disney’s Aladdin was named Iago. But unlike…
Desdemona is a beautiful, young, white, Venetian debutante. And she’s a total Daddy’s girl… until she falls head over heels in love with Othello. She refuses to marry any of the rich, handsome Ve…
Desperate HousewifeYou’d be desperate and jaded too if you realized that monogramming “Mrs. Emilia Iago” on all your towels meant that… you were married to Iago.Because here’s the thing: Emilia i…
Top Brass-When we begin, Cassio is one of Othello’s soldiers, recently appointed the general’s second-in-command. This infuriates Iago—because he wanted to be lieutenant, and because Cassio is…
Roderigo is a rich, unintelligent guy who thinks that if he sends Desdemona enough expensive presents, she’ll fall in love with him. He’s hired Iago to be his wingman, but Iago basically uses him a…
Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, is a rich and important Venetian politician. He likes Othello and invites him to visit his house a lot—but he never expected Othello to “steal” his daughter. Furthe…
Bianca is a Venetian courtesan who is in love with Cassio… who in turn sees her as a laughable nuisance. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Bianca is sympathetic—when Cassio treats her like garbage, it…
The important men in charge of Venice. They think Othello’s pretty great—and even that he might make a pretty great son-in-law.
Desdemona’s cousin and a member of Venice’s diplomatic service, Lodovico arrives in Cyprus just in time to see Desdemona get slapped by her new husband, and then witness the deaths of all the main…
Governor of Cyprus before Othello showed up to take command, Montano ends up getting in a fight with Cassio, and in turn gets Cassio in serious trouble.
Desdemona’s uncle. He’s a wee bit of a jerk: when he finds out that Desdemona is dead, he says something lame like “Gee, it’s a good thing her dad is dead, otherwise he would have been really upset…
CHARACTER LIST 5
Roderigo—a Venetian gentleman; rejected suitor to Desdemona
Iago—newly appointed ensign to Othello, Moor of Venice
Brabantio—Venetian Senator; father to Desdemona
Othello—the Moorish General; husband to Desdemona
Cassio—newly appointed lieutenant to Othello
Duke of Venice—official who appoints Othello in charge of Cyprian mission
Desdemona—wife to Othello; daughter to Brabantio
Montano—retiring governor of Cyprus; predecessor to Othello in Cyprian government
Emilia—wife to Iago; attendant to Desdemona
Clown—servant to Othello
Bianca—a courtesan; mistress to Cassio
Gratiano—Venetian nobleman; brother to Brabantio
Lodovico—Venetian nobleman; kinsman to Brabantio
Senators—officials who discuss Cyprian mission
Messengers—deliver announcements during the play
Two Gentlemen—converse with the governor
Third Gentleman—brings news of the Turkish fleet
Herald—Othello’s herald who reads a proclamation
Sailor—brings message about Turkish fleet
Officers—unnamed characters throughout the play who serve in the military
Attendants—unnamed characters throughout the play whose purpose is to serve the other characters
Othello Characters Discussed
Othello (oh-THEHL-oh), a Moorish general in the service of Venice. A romantic and heroic warrior with a frank and honest nature, he has a weakness that makes him vulnerable to Iago’s diabolic temptation. He becomes furiously jealous of his innocent wife and his loyal lieutenant. His character decays, and he connives with Iago to have his lieutenant murdered. Finally, he decides to execute his wife with his own hands. After killing her, he learns of her innocence, and he judges and executes himself.
Iago (ee-AH-goh), Othello’s ancient (ensign), a satirical malcontent who is envious of the appointment of Michael Cassio to the position of Othello’s lieutenant. He at least pretends to suspect his wife Emilia of having an illicit affair with the Moor. A demi-devil, as Othello calls him, he destroys Othello, Desdemona, Roderigo, his own wife, and himself. He is William Shakespeare’s most consummate villain, perhaps sketched in several of Shakespeare’s other characters: Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus, Richard of Gloucester in Henry VI and Richard III, and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing. He is echoed in Edmund in King Lear and Iachimo in Cymbeline. He contains strong elements of the Devil and the Vice in the medieval morality plays.
Desdemona (dehz-dee-MOH-nuh), the daughter of Brabantio and wife of Othello. An innocent, idealistic, and romantic girl, she gives her love completely to her warrior husband. In her fear and shock at his violent behavior, she lies to him about her lost handkerchief, thus convincing him of her guilt. Even when she is dying, she tries to protect him from her kinsmen. Other characters can be judged by their attitude toward her.
Emilia (ee-MIHL-ee-uh), Iago’s plainspoken wife. Intensely loyal to her mistress, Desdemona, she is certain that some malicious villain has belied her to the Moor. She does not suspect that her husband is that villain until too late to save her mistress. She is unwittingly the cause of Desdemona’s death; when she finds the lost handkerchief and gives it to Iago, he uses it to inflame the Moor’s insane jealousy. Emilia grows in stature throughout the play and reaches tragic dignity when she refuses to remain silent about Iago’s villainy, even though her speaking the truth costs her her life. Her dying words, clearing Desdemona of infidelity, drive Othello to his self-inflicted death.
Michael Cassio (KAS-ee-oh), Othello’s lieutenant. Devoted to his commander and Desdemona, he is impervious to Iago’s temptations where either is concerned. He is, however, given to loose living, and his behavior when discussing Bianca with Iago fires Othello’s suspicions, after Iago has made Othello believe they are discussing Desdemona. Cassio’s drinking on duty and becoming involved in a brawl lead to his replacement by Iago. He escapes the plot of Iago and Othello to murder him, and he succeeds Othello as governor of Cyprus.
Brabantio (brah-BAN-shee-oh), a Venetian senator. Infuriated by his daughter’s elopement with the Moor, he appeals to the senate to recover her. Losing his appeal, he publicly casts her off and warns Othello that a daughter who deceives her father may well be a wife who deceives her husband. This warning plants a small seed of uncertainty in Othello’s heart, which Iago waters diligently. Brabantio dies brokenhearted at losing Desdemona and does not learn of her horrible death.
Roderigo (rod-eh-REE-goh), a young Venetian suitor of Desdemona. The gullible victim of Iago, who promises Desdemona to him, he aids in bringing about the catastrophe and earns a well-deserved violent death, ironically inflicted by Iago. The degradation of Roderigo is in striking contrast to the growth of Cassio. Iago, who makes use of Roderigo, has profound contempt for him.
Bianca (bee-AN-kuh), a courtesan in Cyprus. Cassio gives her Desdemona’s handkerchief, which Iago has planted in his chambers. She thus serves doubly in rousing Othello’s fury.
Montano (mohn-TAH-noh), a former governor of Cyprus. He and Cassio quarrel while drinking (by Iago’s machinations), and Montano is seriously wounded. This event causes Cassio’s removal. Montano recovers and aids in apprehending Iago when his villainy is revealed.
Gratiano (gray-shee-AH-noh), Brabantio’s brother. He and Lodovico go to Cyprus from Venice and aid in restoring order and destroying Iago.
Lodovico (loh-doh-VEE-koh), a kinsman of Brabantio. As the man of most authority from Venice, he ends the play after appointing Cassio governor of Cyprus to succeed the self-killed Othello.
The clown, a servant of Othello. Among Shakespeare’s clowns, he has perhaps the weakest and briefest role.