What is the function of Lodovico in William Shakespeare's Othello?

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vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Lodovico’s first words in Shakespeare’s Othello – “Save you, worthy general!” – seem ironic for a variety of reasons. Thus, “Save you” actually means “God save you.” This was a conventional greeting during Shakespeare's era, but it seems fairly ironic since in the immediately preceding scene Othello and Iago have been plotting the murders of Desdemona and Cassio. If anyone truly needs to be saved by God at this point in the play, it is Othello, who is about to risk damning his soul to hell by killing his own wife. Thus, by this point in the play, Othello is anything but the “worthy general” Lodovico still imagines him to be.

Further irony arises when Lodovico asks how Cassio is doing, to which Iago briefly and cryptically replies “Lives, sir” – sardonic words since Iago has just promised Othello that he, Iago, will be glad to kill Cassio on Othello’s behalf.

Irony continues to mount as Lodovico continues to speak.  Thus, Lodovico explains Othello’s bad mood by saying that perhaps the letter that he (Lodovico) has brought from Venice has “moved” Othello:

Lodovico. For, as I think, they do command him home, 
Deputing Cassio in his government.

Othello is already angry because he thinks that Cassio has been committing adultery with Desdemona.  Now he discovers that Cassio will replace him not only in bed (or so he thinks) but also as commander of the Venetians in Cyprus. More gasoline is thrown onto the flames of his jealousy.

Lodovico also functions as the voice of common outrage when he witnesses Othello strike Desdemona:

Lodovico. My lord, this would not be believed in Venice, 
Though I should swear I saw't: 'tis very much: 
Make her amends; she weeps.

Rather than being a “worthy general,” Othello is now revealed as a wife-beater, although the violence he shows toward Desdemona here is just a foretaste of what will happen later.

As these examples show, Shakespeare often effectively used even minor characters, such as Lodovico, to enhance the themes and tones of his works.

 

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Lodovico is a relatively minor character in William Shakespeare's play Othello. He is a kinsman of Brabantio, Desdemona's father, and thus a sort of uncle to Desdemona. His main action in the play is to serve as a letter bearer from the council in Venice to Othello in Cyprus. He also serves as a sort of "everyman" in that his reaction to the deterioration of the relationship between Othello and Desdemona is that of a disinterested spectator, and shows just how much Othello has deteriorated into madness, to the point of being almost unrecognizable as the "noble Moor" of the opening of the play.

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