What is the role of Brabantio in Othello?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Brabantio is Desdemona's father. He is a powerful Venetian senator. His daughter's marriage to Othello comes as a complete surprise and shock to him. He strongly disapproves of the marriage because, for one thing, he is prejudiced against Othello for his race. Brabantio believes Othello has won Desdemona's love by some sort of witchcraft known only to his own alien people in Africa. His character functions to give the play a dramatic opening and to express the general prejudice felt by Venetians against members of Othello's race. ("Damned as thou art, thou hast enchanted her!" 1.2.64) Using his authority as a senator, he has Othello arrested. He hopes to have the marriage annulled, but Desdemona convinces the Duke that she loves Othello and married him of her own free will. Significantly, Brabantio plants the first tiny seed of suspicion and jealousy in Othello's mind when he says in parting: "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. / She has deceived her father, and may thee." (1.3.295-6) Othello will remember these words later.

 

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