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Othello is anoble figure of greatauthority, respected andadmired by the dukeand senate of Venice aswell as by those whoserve him, such asCassio, Montano, andLodovico. Only Iagovoices an explicitlystereotypical view ofOthello, depicting himfrom the beginning asan animalistic,barbarous, foolishoutsider.
Othello is an eloquentand physically powerfulfigure, respected by allthose around him. Inspite of his elevatedstatus, he isnevertheless easy preyto insecurities becauseof his age, his life as asoldier, and his race.He possesses a “freeand open nature,”which his ensign Iagouses to twist his love forhis wife, Desdemona,into a powerful anddestructive jealousy.
Desdemona is thedaughter of the Venetiansenator Brabanzio.Desdemona and Othelloare secretly marriedbefore the play begins.While in many waysstereotypically pure andmeek, Desdemona is alsodetermined and self-possessed. She is equallycapable of defending hermarriage, jesting bawdilywith Iago, andresponding with dignityto Othello’sincomprehensiblejealousy.
Iago is Othello’s ensign(a job also known as anancient or standard-bearer), and the villain ofthe play. Iago is twenty-eight years old. While hisostensible reason fordesiring Othello’s demiseis that he has been passedover for promotion tolieutenant, Iago’smotivations are neververy clearly expressedand seem to originate inan obsessive, almostaesthetic delight inmanipulation anddestruction.
Roderigo is ajealous suitor ofDesdemona. Young,rich, and foolish,Roderigo isconvinced that if hegives Iago all of hismoney, Iago willhelp him winDesdemona’s hand.
• Othello begins on a street in Venice, in the midst of an argument between Roderigo, a rich man, and Iago. Roderigo has been paying Iago to help him in his suit to Desdemona. But Roderigo has just learned that Desdemona has married Othello, a general whom Iago begrudgingly serves as ensign. Iago says he hates Othello, who recently passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced soldier Michael Cassio…
Themes:The Incompatibility of Military Heroism & Love The Danger of Isolation Sight and Blindness Plants Animals Hell, Demons, and Monsters