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THE CHARACTERS

EMILIA

It's astonishing how quickly our opinion of Emilia changes. When she first appears, she seems little more than coarse, hard-edged, and world-weary. Her opinion of men is very low-after all, she says, it's owing to men's faults that women cheat on them as much as they do.

We're also distressed when Emilia finds Desdemona's handkerchief and doesn't return it to her. She's merely following Iago's instructions, and can't know what he has in mind, but still, she's being dishonest.

However, she redeems herself when she discovers Desdemona near death. Emilia's grief and her willingness to die for the truth tell you that her rough exterior has hidden a good and generous heart (at least where Desdemona is concerned). As one critic said about Emilia's last moments: "If she lived forever she never could soar a higher pitch, and nothing in her life became her like the losing it."

RODERIGO

Does Roderigo fall into Othello's clutches because he's foolish or because he's unlucky?

This is a difficult question to answer. All we know of Roderigo's past is that Desdemona rejected him when he tried to court her.


There's no question that Roderigo makes some stupid assumptions:
1) that he can "buy" Desdemona;
2) that she is having an affair with Cassio just because Iago tells him it is true;
3) that killing Cassio will make Desdemona turn to him for love. We watch Roderigo with amazement. We wonder when he's going to realize that Desdemona doesn't love him and never will.

But, in his defense, Roderigo may be just unlucky to have fallen into Iago's clutches. As we know, Iago is a master manipulator. He is able to deceive people who are stronger and smarter than Roderigo. And remember that Roderigo is a man in love and particularly susceptible to being fooled. If you've ever had a crush on someone, you know that people in love don't always think clearly. As Iago convinces him there is hope with Desdemona, Roderigo will do anything he asks. He's that fixated on her.

Do you have sympathy for Roderigo when he's killed? On one hand, he's played a role in Iago's wicked plot. On the other hand, he dies because he was fooled by someone he trusted. Is Roderigo punished too harshly for his failure to see that Iago is wicked?

BRABANTIO

Brabantio, Desdemona's father, is a Venetian Senator. When we first meet him, he's terrified that his only child has been kidnapped by Othello and seduced with drugs and potions. When he learns that Desdemona's in love with the Moor, he's bitter and resentful. He accepts defeat, but not graciously: he won't allow Desdemona to stay in his house while Othello is in Cyprus, and he warns the Moor that Desdemona could betray her husband if she betrayed her father.

Yet Brabantio is not a villain. He's disappointed when his daughter marries a man so different from herself, and hurt when she does so behind his back. So wounded is he by Desdemona, that when he dies in Act V it's probably of a broken heart.

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