Othello - Male Characters

Mike Hourie

The four main characters in the play Othello represent four different character traits of manhood: Roderigo, the failure; Othello, the hero, yet the insane lover; Cassio, the noblemen; and Iago, the villain, yet the strongest character of the play.

Of these four characters Roderigo reveals the weakest character traits. Iago effortlessly profits from Roderigo’s deficiency in a intelligence, in fact Iago himself said he would not waste time and effort on “such a snipe”(I iii 387) except for “sport and profit.” Towards the end of the play Roderigo reveals some traits that might classify him as a man with a spine. He finally stands up to Iago and threatens to expose the conspiracy against Othello and Cassio, but ultimately his flaws overpower his virtuous traits and he is persuaded by Iago to kill Cassio instead.

Likewise, Othello is the tragic hero of the play but his character is also weak. Jealousy is Othello’s major downfall. He reveals his insecurities in the scene where he strikes Desdemona and calls her a “devil”. Similarly, in the brothel scene, Othello’s insecurities arise when he cruelly questions Desdemona. He condemns her as a “simple bawd” and a “whore”, which he has no real proof of. Iago also easily manipulates Othello, like Roderigo, throughout the play. Othello is naive. He demonstrates that a few well-placed suggestions can alter his train of thought, such as when Iago was talking to Cassio and made Othello believe that the lieutenant was speaking of Desdemona instead of Bianca. On the whole, Othello was a weak character and a naive man.

In contrast, Cassio’s character is strong. He spoke about Othello with dignity and grace, which no other character in the play does. Also, Cassio showed extreme loyalty to the Moor. Cassio’s only flaw is that he temporarily lost his power of reasoning when he was drunk and let himself be manipulated by Iago. All in all, Cassio is a good example of how a man should act; with dignity and honor.

Likewise, Iago’s character is also strong. He is an intelligent man as can seen in the soliloquy where he is hatching a plan to frame Cassio “to get his place “(I iii). In the soliloquy Iago’s intelligence is revealed in the statement “How, How? - To abuse Othello’s ear / That [Cassio] is too familiar with his wife.”(I iii 396-39). Iago used his intelligence to think of a plan to frame Cassio and bring down Othello at the same time. Iago is also a confident man. Throughout the soliloquy Iago is confident “That the moor …Will be tenderly led by the nose./ As asses are ” (I iii 401- 404) and will be easily manipulated. However, if Iago had used his good character traits for good he would have been the hero of the play instead of Othello.

On the whole, Shakespeare did an excellent job on setting the character traits for the male characters in the play: Roderigo was the “snipe”; Cassio, the noble gentleman; Othello, the fallen “noble Moor”; and Iago, the intelligent, confident and arrogant self-made villain. All the Characters in the play had some good traits but each of them had an appalling attribute that led to their downfall.