Othello - The play’s protagonist and hero. A Christian Moor and general of the armies of Venice,
Othello is an eloquent and physically powerful figure, respected by all those around him. In spite of his
elevated status, he is nevertheless easy prey to insecurities because of his age, his life as a soldier, and
his race. He possesses a “free and open nature,” which his ensign Iago uses to twist his love for his wife,
Desdemona, into a powerful and destructive jealousy (I.iii.381).
Desdemona - The daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio. Desdemona and Othello are secretly
married before the play begins. While in many ways stereotypically pure and meek, Desdemona is also
determined and self-possessed. She is equally capable of defending her marriage, jesting bawdily with
Iago, and responding with dignity to Othello’s incomprehensible jealousy.
Iago - Othello’s ensign (a job also known as an ancient or standard-bearer), and the villain of the play.
Iago is twenty-eight years old. While his ostensible reason for desiring Othello’s demise is that he has
been passed over for promotion to lieutenant, Iago’s motivations are never very clearly expressed and
seem to originate in an obsessive, almost aesthetic delight in manipulation and destruction.
Michael Cassio - Othello’s lieutenant. Cassio is a young and inexperienced soldier, whose high position
is much resented by Iago. Truly devoted to Othello, Cassio is extremely ashamed after being implicated
in a drunken brawl on Cyprus and losing his place as lieutenant. Iago uses Cassio’s youth, good looks,
and friendship with Desdemona to play on Othello’s insecurities about Desdemona’s fidelity.
Emilia - Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s attendant. A cynical, worldly woman, she is deeply attached to
her mistress and d