Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul But I do love thee! and when I love thee not, Chaos is come again.
~ Othello to Desdemona
Othello, the Moor of Venice.png

Othello is the main protagonist and anti-hero from William Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name.

Othello

The story begins on a street in Venice where the Moor Othello's diabolical ensign, Iago, and his henchman Roderigo argue. Roderigo is determined to win the heart of Desdemona, the daughter of Brabantio, a senator. Iago despises Othello because he has given the title of lieutenant to an inexperienced soldier, Michael Cassio.

Iago and Roderigo cry out to Brabantio that Othello had stolen and married Desdemona against her will. Brabantio summons some officers to find Othello, who is arrested. Cassio arrives with a message from the duke that Othello's help is needed in a battle against the Turks. Brabantio accuses Othello of cursing his daughter with witchcraft. The Moor explains that he won Desdemona's heart not by witchcraft, but by the stories of his travels and wars. Desdemona arrives and announces to her father that her allegiance is to Othello.

The Turkish fleet is destroyed in a storm at sea, and Othello's army is victorious. Othello greets his wife and everyone celebrates...all except Iago and Roderigo. The evil man plots to bring down Cassio by starting a brawl, which he does by getting him drunk. Roderigo sounds the alarm.

Othello arrives to break up the fight and dismisses Cassio from the army as punishment. Cassio laments to Iago that he has been stripped of his job. The villain plots to frame Cassio and Desdemona for deceiving Othello to make him jealous.

Cassio sends some musicians to play beneath Othello's window, but our hero sends them away. Iago suggests Cassio request Desdemona to convince her husband to give Cassio his job back. Desdemona helps Othello when he falls ill using her handkerchief. She drops it and Iago's wife, Emilia, picks it up, since Iago sent her to steal it for him. He puts it into Cassio's room as "evidence" of him falling in love with Desdemona.

Othello demands proof that his wife is unfaithful, and Iago tricks him into believing that Cassio "wiped his beard" with it. The handkerchief was the first gift that Othello gave Desdemona, and the Moor vows revenge on her and Cassio. Iago convinces Othello that he'll help him. Othello demands tha handkerchief from Desdemona, but she tells him she does not have it, and Othello flies into a blind rage. Cassio, wondering about the handkerchief, is greeted by a prostitute named Bianca and asks her to take it and copy its embroidery for him.

Falling for Iago's sinister treachery, Othello becomes consumed by jealousy and falls into a trance and a fit of epilepsy. As soon as he recovers, Iago tells him of a meeting he has planned out with Cassio. He convinces Othello to hide and pumps Cassio for information about Bianca, who enters with Desdemona's handkerchief. Bianca reprimands Cassio for tricking him. When Desdemona enters with Lodovico and he gives Othello a letter from Venice calling him home and establishing Cassio as his replacement, Othello strikes Desdemona in a fit of anger.

Later that night, Othello accuses Desdemona of unfaithfulness, ignoring her protestations of innocence. Othello tells Desdemona to wait for him in her bed and send Emilia away. Iago assures the concerned Roderigo that his plan is coming to fruition: Roderigo must kill Cassio and win back Desdemona's heart.

Iago tells Roderigo to ambush Cassio, but Roderigo misses his mark and Cassio inflicts a wound on him. Iago mutilates Cassio and escapes. Othello hears Cassio's cry and assumes that Iago has murdered him. Lodovico and Graziano arrive to help; Iago, enraged, murders Roderigo and Cassio is taken to have his wound tended.

Under Iago's influence, Othello strangles Desdemona in her bed despite her pleas for mercy. Before drawing her last breath, Desdemona changes her story and claims that she committed suicide. Emilia asks Othello what happened, and he tells her he killed Desdemona because she cheated on him.

Iago, Montano, and Graziano come into Desdemona's chambers and the wicked man attempts to silence Emilia, who realizes the truth about his treachery. Othello insists that Iago had told them the truth, citing the handkerchief as evidence. After Emilia tells him how she found it and gave it to her evil husband, Othello cries over Desdemona's body. He tries to kill Iago, who callously murders Emilia. Iago makes a getaway but is captured by Lodovico and Montano, who bring in the wounded Cassio. Othello demands that Iago tell him why he plotted against him, but Iago refuses to give a reason for his treachery, and is hauled away. Lodovico tells Othello that he must return with them to Venice to be tried. Othello makes a speech about how he should be remembered, then commits suicide with a hidden sword.

Portrayals

Othello has been played by an assortment of actors, including:

  • Laurence Olivier, who also portrayed many other Shakespearean heroes, including Prince Hamlet in the 1948 film adaptation of Hamlet, in the 1965 film adaptation
  • Anthony Hopkins, who also portrayed Odin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Zorro in The Mark of Zorro, in the 1981 film adaptation
  • Laurence Fishburne, who also portrayed Morpheus in the Matrix Trilogy, in the 1995 film adaptation
  • Eamonn Walker, who also portrayed Kareem Saïd in Oz, portrayed the character twice, once in a 2001 modernized retelling for the BBC and again onstage in 2009 at the Globe Theatre
  • In the 2001 film O, an adaptation of Othello set in a contemporary high school, protagonist Odin James - the analog to Othello - is portrayed by Mekhi Phifer.

Gallery

Navigation

           Green-shakespeare.jpg Shakespeare Heroes

Books
Romeo and Juliet: Romeo Montague | Juliet Capulet | Mercutio
Hamlet: Prince Hamlet | Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Queen Titania | King Oberon | Puck
Macbeth: Macduff | King Malcolm
Othello: Othello | Desdemona | Cassio
The Tempest: Prospero | Ariel | Miranda | Gonzalo

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.