Othello Navigator: Major Characters
, Othello's ensign.
- His Motivations. Iago refers to himself as a devil, but to say that he is bad because he is bad doesn't explain why he repeatedly explains himself to himself. (See also A Note on "The Motive-Hunting of Motiveless Malignity")
- His Honesty. "Honesty" means both truthfulness and loyalty. Your "honest friend" is one who is always there for you and who will always tell you the truth. Iago has a reputation for honesty and uses it for dishonest purposes.
- His Beast Imagery. Iago is more than a cynic; he often compares others to animals, especially when he's referring to their sexuality.
- His Self Esteem. Iago has a very high opinion of himself, takes delight in his own evil, and seems driven to prove that he can outsmart anyone.
- His Anti-Heroic Language. Maybe Iago is known as "honest Iago" because of the way he talks. He's ironic, sarcastic, and he scoffs at any idea that he considers overblown. He presents himself as a down-to-earth kind of guy who asks questions and appeals to common sense.
, General of the Venetian army.
- What He is Called. Brabantio, Desdemona's father, uses "Moor" as a derogatory name for Othello, but Othello is called other things, including "my lord" and "general." What he is called depends on the situation and seems to reflect various views of him.
- His Difference. After the first two scenes of the play, Othello's color is rarely mentioned, so we may forget that when the play is seen, Othello's blackness always makes him dramatically different from everyone else. References to him as "the Moor" emphasize that difference, but it is emphasized in other ways, as well.
- Othello as a Military Man. Othello has been a warrior since the age of seven. Sometimes this appears to be a source of strength in his character, but not always.
- His Self Esteem. Othello is justifiably proud of his accomplishments, but when he falls prey to jealousy, he struggles to maintain his self-esteem by trying to convince himself that he is not jealous and not a murderer.
- His Heroic Language. Othello's language is elevated. He uses irony only to express impossibilities and his superlatives and extreme comparisons reveal a view of the world in which everything is either black or white.
, Othello's wife, Brabantio's daughter.
- Her Obedience. In Shakespeare's time obedience was thought to be one of a woman's primary virtues, and Desdemona thinks of herself as obedient, but she seems to have her own interpretation of what that means.
- Her Advocacy. Desdemona spends much of her time making a case -- for herself, for Cassio, and finally for Othello.
- Her Beauty. Desdemona is beautiful, both in body and spirit. It's not something she mentions, or even seems aware of, but it affects how others treat her and think of her.
- Desdemona as a Gem. Roderigo hopes to seduce Desdemona with jewels, and on three occasions a gem is used as a metaphor for her. Each time, the speaker is expressing what he has lost in losing her.
- Her Self Esteem. Othello's mistreatment of Desdemona shakes her confidence in herself, but does not destroy it.