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Free Study Guide-Othello by William Shakespeare-Free Online Booknotes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

Othello is not confined to a single place. Act I of the play takes place in Venice. Act II moves on to Cyprus, where the rest of the action takes place. There is also a violation of the unity of atmosphere because Venice symbolizes civilized behavior, law and order, while Cyprus symbolizes the reverse.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Othello

The protagonist of the play. He is a black army general in the service of the Duke of Venice. He falls in love with Desdemona, daughter of Brabantio, a Venetian Senator, and marries her in the midst of heavy opposition from her father. He is easily susceptible to sexual jealousy, which is ignited by Iago, the villain of the play. He kills his beloved; after her death, he realizes his mistake and kills himself for the great crime committed by him.

Iago

The antagonist of the play. He is Othello’s standard bearer, who feels frustrated because his seniority is overlooked and the position of lieutenant is given to Cassio. Iago takes revenge on Cassio by tarnishing his reputation and by creating a doubt in Othello’s mind that Desdemona and Cassio are lovers.


Desdemona

The pretty daughter of Brabantio, the Venetian Senator. She goes against the wishes of her father and becomes the wife of Othello. She becomes an innocent victim of Iago’s villainy and Othello’s jealousy.

Cassio

A young and handsome Florentine who becomes Othello’s lieutenant. When he wounds Montano in a brawl, his boss dismisses him from his post. He manages to escape from being killed in a plot engineered by Iago and becomes the Governor of Cyprus after Othello’s death.

Minor Characters

Brabantio

A Venetian Senator and the father of Desdemona who is disturbed when he learns of his daughter’s marriage to Othello.

Gratiano

Brabantio’s brother. He and Lodovico discover the wounded Cassio after Roderigo has attacked him.

Duke of Venice

The Head of the Venetian State who commissions Othello to lead the Venetian army against the Turkish Ottamites. He respects Othello and tries to pacify Brabantio after Desdemona marries him.

Roderigo

A Venetian who is infatuated with Desdemona. Iago cashes in on this weakness of Roderigo.

Emilia

Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maid. She unwittingly becomes an agent in causing Desdemona’s death. When Iago stabs her, the dying Emilia convinces Othello that Desdemona was a faithful wife.

Montano

The Governor of Cyprus. He is a loyal friend and supporter of Othello.

Clown

Othello’s servant who makes fun of the Cyprian Musician and their musical instruments. He serves as a link between Cassio and Desdemona.

Bianca

A jealous mistress of Cassio. She receives Desdemona’s handkerchief from Cassio, not realizing whose handkerchief it is.

Lodovico

A kinsman of Brabantio. Gratiano and he discover the wounded Cassio after Roderigo has attacked him.

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