Othello Characters at a Glance

Othello key characters:

  • In Othello, the character Othello is a Moorish general who is manipulated by Iago into believing that his wife and loyal lieutenant have betrayed him.

  • Iago is driven by his envy of Cassio’s promotion to destroy the other characters, including himself.

  • Desdemona is Othello’s faithful wife whose innocence serves as a benchmark of the other characters.

  • Michael Cassio is Othello’s loyal lieutenant who resists Iago’s temptations and eventually becomes governor of Cyprus.

  • Emilia is Iago’s wife; she speaks out about her husband’s duplicity and declares Desdemona’s innocence at the end of the play.

List of Characters

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

(Great Characters in Literature)


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

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

The clown, a servant of Othello. Among Shakespeare’s clowns, he has perhaps the weakest and briefest role.

Othello Character Analysis

Othello Brabantio (Character Analysis)

Brabantio is Desdemona's father. A Venetian senator, he is a magnifico, a prominent citizen and landowner in Venice. He charges Othello with...

(The entire section is 353 words.)

Othello Cassio (Character Analysis)

Cassio is chosen over Iago to be Othello's lieutenant. He is discredited when he participates in a drunken brawl during Othello's wedding...

(The entire section is 393 words.)

Othello Desdemona (Character Analysis)

Desdemona is the daughter of Brabantio, a man of some reputation in Venice. As such, she is part of the upper class of Venetian society....

(The entire section is 707 words.)

Othello Emilia (Character Analysis)

Emilia is Iago's wife. She travels to Cyprus with her husband and acts as a waiting woman to Desdemona. She gives Iago Desdemona's...

(The entire section is 347 words.)

Othello Iago (Character Analysis)

Iago is Othello's ancient, or ensign. When Othello promotes Cassio, Iago feels slighted and plots revenge against them both. He manipulates...

(The entire section is 1157 words.)

Othello (Character Analysis)

Othello, a Moor, is a general and commander of the Venetian armed forces, and later governor of Cyprus. He secretly weds Desdemona and...

(The entire section is 1545 words.)

Othello Roderigo (Character Analysis)

Roderigo is a Venetian desperately desiring, but a rejected suitor of Desdemona. He becomes Iago's pawn, wounds and is wounded by Cassio in...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

Othello Other Characters (Descriptions)

Othello and Desdemona are characters of some stature in the communities of both Venice and Cyprus. In their public...

(The entire section is 1519 words.)