Othello is a general in the army of Venice. He is a Moor, a dark-skinned man born in Africa, and has risen through the ranks of the Venetian army through hard work and success in battle. He is a respected general, but less respected as a person, because of his dark skin and foreign roots. He is an honest man, and believes that people are honest. This makes him naive in many ways. Othello is a passionate man, and deeply loves Desdemona, even when he kills her. Iago uses Othellos trust in him to manipulate him, and Othello stops trusting in Desdemona, and begins to rely exclusively on Iagos advice. Desdemona was Othellos passion, and when she dies, he must die soon after, especially after he learns that she was innocent.
Desdemona is loyal, faithful, and passionately loves Othello. She is shrewd and wise, but is very subtle about it. She dies because she keeps blindingly faithful to Othello, and cannot understand why he believes her to be an adulteress.She asks Cassio to help her cheer up Othello, but Iago manipulates facts to make Othello even more jealous. She is blameless, and she dies tragically, so selfless as to deny that Othello has killed her in her dying breath.
Iago is Othellos sword-bearer. He has been passed over for the position of Lieutenant, and this draws out his evil nature. He feels that he has been wronged and cannot accept the position that Othello gives him. Iago orchestrates Othellos downfall out of malice and revenge, and it is worse because Iago coats his poisonous words in the appearance of truth. Othello has no reason to doubt Iago, and Iago is able to completely manipulate Othello and to control his actions.Othello kills Desdemona, but Iago is responsible. Iago is only concerned about himself and his position, and will sacrifice anyone to save himself and his interests. This is shown when he kills his own wife when it is discovered that he has been treacherous.
Emilia is Desdemonas female servant. She is Iagos husband, and has a practical and shrewd sense about her that is more apparent than Desdemonas. Emilia urges Desdemona to confront Othello, and when she learns of Iagos treachery, she reveals him, even though it costs her her life. She is a good friend and companion to Desdemona, but unfortunately she puts into motion the events that lead Othello to believe that he has seen proof of Desdemonas unfaithfulness.
Cassio is Othellos choice for his new Lieutenant. Cassio travels from a different city, and his reputation is known in far lands. He is an up and coming soldier, and a good friend to Othello. Cassio and Desdemona try to help Othellos jealousy together in friendship, but due to Iagos clouding of Othellos perception, this leads him to think that they are having an affair.
Brabantio is Desdemonas father, and a senator in Venice. He is upset when he learns that his daughter has eloped with Othello. His main concern is not that she eloped, but that she eloped with a Moor. Brabantio looks down on Othello because of his foreign roots, and cannot believe that Desdemona willingly married him. Brabantio accepts his son-in-law tentatively after it is proven that Desdemona acted of her own will. He still has prejudices against Othello.
Roderigo is Iagos assistant in crime. Roderigo has been shunned as a suitor by Desdemona, and so is very angry with Othello for his success in marriage. Roderigo is willing to help Iago, but he is eventually double-crossed by him.