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Characters of the Play "Othello" by Shakespeare

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Othello :

Character description

Character description: a courageous warrior, a talented military leader, a devoted son of Venice.  He had experienced a lot of hardships, including slavery and prison, but these life challenges made him stronger and more fearless. Despite of being a foreigner in Venice, Othello was successful in his military career, his skill and experience as a soldier and a leader is highly valuable and required by the state. Othello provides safety to the country and patriotically defends its independence.  Duke and senate totally rely upon him and trust Othello boundlessly.

Othello is in great demand by the government of Venice. He is an integral part of Venetian elite, an honorable, respectful citizen of the country thanks to his military achievements as well as to his good nature.  Othello falls in love with Desdemona sincerely, without any hint of deceit. His sincerity, honesty, bravery altogether conquer the heart of Desdemona.

Humours : He is full of energy, an example of bravery, fearlessness, honesty, pride. It is possible to tell that Othello is noble, but in this scene his nobility suffers because of a secret marriage to Desdemona. Here Othello is calm, restrained, he is able to control his temper. He does not lose his dignity and confidence. He keeps balance, but his hot mind can be provoked.

Character flaws : Othello looks almost ideal. But at the same time we already hear from Iago’s words that his mind still can be played with.

Iago

Character description:  from the first lines of Shakespeare’s play this character is represented as a man who is not the one he seems to be to the surroundings. He carries a highly suitable and extremely hypocritical disguise for convenience of manipulating people. Such a mask is rather helpful to him in terms of satisfying his own ambitions. His high-class pretense and fake amicability make other people trust him, rely upon him and, moreover, have him as a trustworthy and faithful friend. In the Act I, there is a scene when Iago demonstrates his real face.  His revealed true nature causes dislike and disrespect. His pride is heavily hurt because he does not succeed to get promotion he has eagerly expected.  He is envious to Cassio for getting lieutenancy, and he thinks of himself as the one who is considerably underestimated and ignored. From the very beginning, Iago shows his malicious and revengeful nature, his inclination to weaving a web of intrigues by using characters’ weaknesses and defects. He misuses people for his own benefits and keeps them nearby until it is required. It is highlightedin his relationship with Roderigo. He is jealous and suspicious, but these traits are faded, although they also motivate  him to poison happiness of others’.

Humours: Iago is an ambitious, envious person, a character with hidden arrogance,  absence of morality and nobility. He is a dishonest and hypocritical character. Iago has a gift for understanding and manipulating the desires of others. He is a good physiologist, moreover, he knows various weapons of destroying and damaging each type of nature. By means of this weapon, he exploits the weak sides of other characters. Being a talented intrigue maker and an instigator, Iago patiently plans his revenge while waiting for the right time for it to happen.

Character flaw: Selfishness and envy make him ignore morals and norms set up within society. The present character seems a possessor of only flaws. All his behavior leads to destruction, revenge and achievement of his own aims. During his speech about Othello, he is highlighted as a strong racist, insulting Othello with all possible offensive words.

Roderigo 

Character description:  a wealthy noble man of Venice with lack of nobility. He is deeply in love with Desdemona. Nonetheless, Roderigo was rejected by Brabantio (Desdemona’s father) as a candidate for Desdemona's hand.  He wants to get her in his disposal ignoring the ways in which it can be done. In spite of the nobility’s rank, he serves as a puppet in Iago’s hands. 

Humours: Roderigo is a weak character, plain, backboneless, coward, dishonorable, envious.

Character Flaw: backboneless, dull, apprehensive.

Desdemona

Character description: Desdemona is a young noble lady from a wealthy family. She got married to Othello without her father’s blessing and approval. Ignoring prejudices and traditions, she gets married in a secret manner. True, deep and sincere feeling of love to Othello makes her forget about manners. Othello conquered her heart by being frank and honest to her; thus, she falls in love with him while listening to his life stories. Desdemona is no more a submissive daughter, she is ready to sacrifice her family and reputation because of their mutual love. In spite of her young age, she demonstrates independency in her deeds and mental conclusions. She shows a really strong feeling towards Othello and her readiness to accompany him to the war, disregarding risks and fears. She wants to share everything together with her recently married husband, to be an integral part of his life.

Humours:  sensitive, passionate, independent, decisive, honest (in case of neglecting the fact that she deceived her father), courageous, fearless.

Character flaw:  Her sensitivity is not controllable by her conscience. Thus, her passionate subtle nature can be exploited if it is trapped by a wrong person.    

Cassio

Character description :  He is young, recently appointed lieutenant of Othello without real battle experience, but completely faithful to Othello. A brave, courageous person. 

Humours: brave, trustworthy, open without obviously visible flaws.

Emilia: does not appear in ACT I.

ACT II

Othello :

Character description : After having won the battle against the Turks , the government of Venice  puts Othello in full command of Cyprus. They celebrate the wedding of Othello and Desdemona. But the wedding is spoilt with an unexpected fight between Cassio and Montano what is ideally planned and schemed by Iago. Othello fulfills an unpleasant role of punishing his lieutenant Cassio.

Humours : Othello is strict , fair despite the rank and attachments, mentally strong, independent, ability to take fast decisions

Character flaw : Fast decisions without detailed clarifications can bring to wrong conclusions

Iago

Character description: possibly, the most terrible, malicious and heinous villain in the play of Shakespeare.  During the Act II, his disgusting character is only further flourishing in terms of the abovementioned traits. Iago improves his ability to manipulate people, play with their feelings and thoughts, put them in a worst light on purpose. Iago feels strong and burning hatred towards Othello, unusual scorn to all the females despite their virtues, including Desdemona and his wife, Emilia. Iago carries traits of a sadist.  

Humours: jealous, hateful, hypocritical, provocative, cynic, a master of conviction instigator.

Character flaw: immorality, cynicism, pretense

Roderigo

Character description: This character is just a pawn in Iago’s games.  He is devoid of any honour and pride. He appears only on Iago’s call and does whatever is ordered to him. Even love cannot justify such humiliation.

Humours: there is no hint of self-respect, dignity, presence of any self-esteem, weak.

Character flaw: inability to resist, indecisiveness, apprehensiveness, fear to fight for the lady’s heart openly. These features create a portrait of a weak and cowardly person.

Desdemona

Character description: Having arrived to Cyprus, Desdemona and Othello celebrate their wedding and victory over the Turks. However, this happy event was spoilt with a fight between Cassio and Montano. As a result, Cassio loses his position. Desdemona wants to assist a young man in renovating his appointment. She demonstrates kindness, friendliness, shows sister-like concern in Cassio’s destiny, wants to help him to get back his position, but, unfortunately, it is taken as a lover’s concern.

Humours: innocent, compassionate, caring, friendly.

Character flaw: defenseless, can be easily victimized .

Cassio

Character description: Cassio is highlighted here not in a favorable light. He shows his weakness to alcohol. He is an assaulter of the street’s fight which serves a reason for  his dismission and Othello’s anger.

Humours: weakness to alcohol, hot-blooded when he gets drunk, irresponsible, unrestrained, awareness of his demerits.

Character flaws: dependent, easily-manipulated, irresponsible, lacks self-discipline.

Emilia

Character description: Desdemona’s servant and Iago’s wife. She accompanies Desdemona in her trip to Cyprus.

Humours: pragmatic, active, energetic, humorous.

Character flaw: light-minded.

ACT III

Othello

Character description:  Desdemona requests Othello to forgive Cassio for the night fight and give him back his lieutenancy. Othello practically gives up to her pleas, but suddenly Iago puts some seeds of suspicion in his mind. Othello does not consider himself as a jealous person and even says he is able to control his temper. If there are any rumours or suspicions regarding his wife, first they must be clarified and proved, he says. But in reality, Othello behaves himself on the contrary. Once he hears Iago’s hints about Desdemona’s possible pretense and mendacity, his mind boils up frantically.   

Humours: Inability to control his temper and to stay cool. Easily manipulated, his belief and trust are easily shaken. Inclination to exaggerations, even obvious things can be mistakenly interpreted. 

Character flaw: Othello makes fast conclusions without clarifications. He on his own gives birth to his devils which provoke disbalance, disbelief, unstability and mistrust to the dearest people. 

Iago

Character description:  Throughout the Act III, Iago poisons Othello’s mind with insinuations of Desdemona’s infidelity seeking for some false evidences for that. He further builds up various ways of putting characters in confusion for the purpose of compromising them to a considerable degree.  

Humours: guile, scheming mind, false friendliness, terrible liar, a great potential for pretense.

Character flaw : immorality, cynicism, indifference, pretense, carelessness for these people’s feelings.

Roderigo

This character does not participate in this Act.

Desdemona

Character description: Cassio’s defendant. She makes her best to renovate Cassio in his position and her eagerness in this matter disturbs Othello’s mind.

Humours: caring, loving, amiable, courteous, attentive.

Character flaw: lack of life experience and wisdom.

Cassio

Character description: He represents an inexperienced young officer without any knowledge how to control himself. His skill of haltering passions and appropriate behavior are not developed.

Humours: unstable, light-minded, womanizer, weak for drinks, a character of contradictions, he carries both negative and positive features.

Character flaw: instability, lack of self-discipline.

Emilia

Character description: She also wants to assist Cassio in his desire to be forgiven, and she, by all means, essentially contributes towards this initiative. Without realizing the fact of jeopardizing Desdemona and Cassio, she steals Desdemona’s handkerchief.

Humours: frivolous, light-minded, and an obedient executor of Iago’s orders.

ACT IV

Othello

Character description: Othello demonstrates terrible, burning, self-destructive jealousy and complete mistrust to his wife, Desdemona. His consciousness is deeply poisoned. He feels himself betrayed and deceived by the dearest creature. His feelings are hurt and his suspicions keep on growing with every day.  Othello turns from a balanced and a cool-blooded hero into a mad, jealousy-blinded, brutal man. Jealousy contaminates his mind as a virus and his common sense is totally paralyzed. But demonstrated cruelty, brutality only hide real Othello’s tortures, his internal sufferings which he even feels physically. Though he humiliates and insults Desdemona on purpose and wants her to suffer as he does, we see that he is deeply in love with her. But jealousy dictates him how to act – to assassinate Desdemona.

Humours:  Instability and mental imbalance in his behavior, rudeness, brutality, easy irritability, unrestraint. Othello stays deaf to Desdemona’s sufferings, nevertheless his mind is open to newly made lies. He makes his judgments on unchecked information and everything is taken by him at its face value.  Inability to stay cool and keep his mind balanced, inability to differ truth from untruth, an easy prey for the intrigue-makers, provocative minds.

Character flaw: He allows to interfere in his personal life, he becomes weak because he allows his blood to control his mind.

Iago

Character description: He gradually turns his villainous, merciless plot into reality by putting poisonous seeds of mistrust and suspicion inside a hot-headed mind of Othello. He goes on with his dirty and disgraceful deeds, making his best to compromise Othello, Desdemona, Cassio. He eagerly wants to set them against each other by knowingly putting them in the worst light. 

Humours: Unhealthy desire to take revenge upon Othello and Cassio; merciless, cruel-hearted and uncompassionate in spite of his fake amicability to everybody.

Character  flaw:  Iago’s defects are simply being mounted  from act to act, his negative scornful attitude is getting stronger and more obvious. He is a personification of hypocrisy, hatred, hostility, envy and cynicism.

Desdemona

Character description: She becomes an object of Othello’s jealousy without giving any reason for that. Trying to defend and assist Cassio, she causes a wave of outrage and humiliating offences from Othello’s side. She is a devoted, trustworthy, loving wife, a compassionate friend in her honest desire to help Cassio.

Humours: compassionate, innocent, honest, polite, forgiving, kind-hearted, tender, trustworthy, tolerant. 

Character flaw: no flaws.

Roderigo:

Character description: The character remains an obedient puppet in Iago’s hands, although some notes of mistrust in Roderigo’s speech addressed to Iago begin to emerge. He almost drops the idea to seduce Desdemona. Roderigo’s own dishonest intention makes him still due to the support of Iago.  

Humours: weak, indecisive, easily persuaded and manipulated.

Character flaw: Roderigo is a man without character, weak, foolish.

Cassio

An object of Othello’s irritation and hatred being slandered by Iago.

Emilia

Character description: A comparatively minor character; however, she serves to provide a strong contrast to the romantic and obedient Desdemona.

Humours: intelligent, light-minded, emotional, energetic.

Chracater flaw: lack of seriousness.

ACT V

Othello :

Character description: Jealousy pushes Othello to make the last fatal step, to take a firm decision to kill Desdemona. He is confident and strongly persuaded in this decision of him that he is not willing to step back from it at all. He is transformed into a heartless, indifferent, deaf and merciless murderer, but deep inside he still loves Desdemona. After Desdemona’s death, truth starts gradually coming out. Othello sees and understands that he was a pawn in Iago’s hands, that he suffocated the innocent, his beloved wife, the only heart treasure of him. With Desdemona’s death, he loses any sense in life, especially knowing the fact that Desdemona is blamed and killed absolutely groundlessly. He cannot forgive himself and cannot live after that. He commits suicide.

Humours:   Despite a firm decision to kill Desdemona, he suffers, he wants her to confess in her adultery to justify his crime. After her death and revealed truth his soul is shattered, he feels lost and abandoned. He feels guilty and completely admits his guilt in killing an innocent creature, a pure soul. Comprehension of being used and manipulated totally discourages him. His own death becomes the only way out.

Character flaws : Unexplainable trust of Othello to Iago and unimaginable disbelief to Desdemona whatever she says and tries to explain. Wrong conclusions and wrong accusations lead to tragic end of the play. Inability to give strong resistance to lies and to his own suspicions. Othello cannot take control on his temper. 

Iago

Character description: A mean and disgusting nature of the character further horribly terrifies the readers. This is a transformation from a scoundrel into a criminal, a violent murder. There is no regrets towards him.

Humours: Indifferent, merciless, coward, cruel-hearted, vicious character. 

Character flaw: Iago is a person whose nature consists of defects which are getting more intensive and brighter. Whatever his humours are, they lie entirely in his flaws.

Roderigo

Character description: He becomes a victim of Iago’s intrigues and cynic exploitation. Roderigo dies from so-called friend’s and partner’s hands, Iago. However, his last letter to Iago, in which he tries to refuse from murdering of Cassio, becomes the evidence of Iago’s crimes.   

Humours: helpless, faint-heartedness, dependent, unable to take his own decisions and make conclusions.

Character flaw: indecisiveness, slave-like obedience, dependence.

Desdemona

Character description: Throughout the play, she remains a person she is – honest, innocent, inexperienced. Desdemona becomes a victim of  insinuations of Iago resulting in Othello’s unstoppable jealousy and frenzy. There is no trace of fear in the last moments of her short life. Desdemona feels her approaching death. 

Humours : She is characterized as a courageous young female, loving and faithful wife.  Despite feeling her death approaching, Desdemona does not escape or hide from it. She does not look for rescue or shelter, because there are no pangs of remorse in her consciousness. She proves her love to Othello till the last breath. Moreover, she does not blame him for her murder.

Character flaw: irresistance.

Cassio

Character description: Cassio gets a new appointment as a Governor of Cyprus, but simultaneously he is lucky to escape death, when he is attacked by  Roderigo and Iago. Cassio is also a sufferer of lies and slander. 

Humours: Cassio is lucky, objective when they discuss the recently happened events, respectful, reasonable.

Character flaw: Here Cassio does not demonstrate any flaws of his character.

Emilia

Character description: Emilia demonstrates herself brighter and more intensively in this Act. Her speech sounds accusingly, emotionally and expressively. She is more devoted to her mistress, and nothing frightens her from defending Desdemona even after the lady’s death.  She reveals Iago’s guileful plans and opens all his cards in front of everybody, though she also assisted Iago without knowing it.

Humours: Devoted and faithful to her mistress, honest, fair, open-minded, independent.

Character flaw: none.

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