William Shakespeare’s play Othello offers an interesting cast of characters, many of which become involved in the play’s central conflict. We offer you a character map at the end of this page, which will give you a better understanding of the characters and their involvement in the events.

The main character is Othello, a Moorish general who, at the beginning of the play, seems to be a highly respected and important figure. Othello initially is presented as having a noble and restrained disposition, but this will change drastically throughout the play, as he starts giving in to his jealousy and paranoia. Iago is Othello’s secret antagonist. He also experiences jealousy but, unlike Othello, he does not act impulsively. Instead, he cleverly manages to manipulate everyone around him, causing several deaths.

Othello’s wife, Desdemona, is the innocent victim that is caught in the middle of Iago’s plans, simply because of her connection to Othello. Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant, is also the target of Iago’s jealousy. Emilia, Iago’s wife, is initially naïve and obeys Iago to the letter. However, her loyalty to Desdemona causes her to stand up to Othello and Iago after Desdemona’s death, vouching for Desdemona’s innocence and revealing Iago’s lies.

Roderigo also plays an important role in the plot. His unrequited love for Desdemona makes him Iago’s accomplice, although he is unaware that Iago is using him just as much as he is using everyone else. Senator Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, resents Desdemona for marrying Othello without his permission. He displays racism typical of the period towards Othello, since he is distressed that his daughter has married a black man and even accuses Othello of seducing Desdemona through witchcraft.

Other characters include the Clown, who accompanies Othello and Desdemona to Cyprus, the Duke of Venice, who decides that Desdemona and Othello’s marriage is legal, and Lodovico and Gratiano, who are related to Brabantio. Bianca, Cassio’s lover, should also be mentioned. Montano, an official from Cyprus, also appears in the play. The character map illustrates the relationships between the central characters of the play. 

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