Othello’s character during the play is first shown as a hero of war and a man of great pride and courage. The other main characters in the play all form their own opinions of him and as the play continues, his character begins to deteriorate and become less noble. Chronologically through the play Othello’s character changes from a flawless military leader, to become a murderer. Also as the play progresses, the other characters in the play change their opinions of Othello which causes the plot to happen the way it did.
Throughout the first act of the play, Othello was shown as many different characters depending on who was speaking. Iago complains of Othello’s pride and “bombast circumstance” and is angered by the appointment of Cassio, and educated military theoretician of Florence to lieutenant, instead of himself. Although he knows Othello is a proud man, his open and trusting nature in the beginning of the play will be eroded by the conclusion of the plot. As Iago is speaking to Brabantio about Othello, he uses the term “white ewe” to represent Desdemona, and “black ram” when referring to Othello. By using these terms, it shows that he is trying to give a bad impression of Othello when he is speaking to the royal family in Venice, because Othello is a Moor or a Negro. Iago shows his black hatred for the Moor, and his jealousy of Cassio in his first soliloquy and also reveals his evil intentions. As the act continues and Othello is being searched for by a group of people, Iago attempts to incite Othello into anger against Brabantio, but Othello does not take the bait. He feels that he (Brabantio) may do his worst because Othello is assured that his military services to the government will outweigh Brabantio’s complaints of him marrying Desdemona. These answers to Iago’s persistence show that he is still a character of calmness and dignity, and he still has the self-assurance suitable to command armies of men.
When Othello is found by Cassio, he seems to be relieved because he does not like personal conflict, which would have occurred if Brabantio had found him instead. After he is found, Othello is taken to Brabantio where he is interrogated on how he possessed Desdemona enough in order to make her run off with him. Brabantio damns Othello and calls him an enchanter, saying that the “tender, fair, and happy” Desdemona was too shy of marriage, which is why she shunned all of the suitors sent to her. This entire scene helps to establish Othello as an alert and composed leader. Later in this act, Othello offers to explain how he won Desdemona. He chooses not to contradict or deny that he has used “magic” but when the true meaning of the “magic” comes to light it is shown that he used the magic of love and not a conjured magic. Iago also suspects Othello of having some kind of relationship with his own wife, although he doesn’t know or even seem to care whether or not his suspicions have any foundation at all. Again, according to Iago, Othello is an “ass” because he has a “free and open nature.” This act works as an introduction to the Othello character and shows how other characters react to his presence in different ways.
The remaining acts of the play continue to show how the characters react to Othello’s lifestyle changes. Even though he must rid Cassio of his lieutenant responsibilities forever, Othello explains how he still loves him. If it were up to him Othello would have reinstated Cassio at the first opportunity, but this would be bad political practice. He wishes to appease Desdemona by doing this but he realizes that he can’t. These practices show that he is a good governor and does not wish to arouse hostilities in the city, with an untimely pardon of Cassio. Desdemona tells Emilia that Othello is not the jealous type, which Othello believes to be true himself. However, as the play progresses through Act 3, Othello talks to Iago telling him that their prior conversation gave him reason to suspect Desdemona’s motives. As a reader, you can see that Othello’s capacity for judgement has deteriorated up to this point, not only is his state of mind changing due to Iago’s constant prodding, but his morals have also deteriorated along with his character.
As the play winds to a close, the characters continue to show their own opinions on Othello. Many of the characters have changed their initial opinions because of Othello’s obvious attitude change, but Iago is one of the only characters that has kept the same mindscape, besides Desdemona. Othello continues to disrespect Desdemona by acting as if she was a prostitute, Emilia was her owner, and he was a visiting buyer. This is blatant disrespect for his wife but she does not sway her love and devotion from him. She does however feel that she is at the lowest point she could possibly be at and the only way to go is up, because her lover has turned into a “beast.” The last act of the play allows the characters to express their last views of Othello, and how he has affected them. The night where he plans on killing Desdemona is an important scene because he is still knowing enough to ask if she has prayed to allow her to have a clean soul when she dies. After hearing this question, she realizes what he is about to do and pleads with him asking why he is doing it. Desdemona always had faith in her husband until the bitter end and this gave no help to her life. She died because Othello was a pawn in Iago’s game, and she had nothing to do with it.
The conclusion of the play signifies the end of the frustration for many characters. Each of them has a different view of Othello’s character and through the duration of the play, many of these ideas change, however Iago and Desdemona are the only main characters that do not change. They continue to have the same outlook upon Othello’s unchanging character changes. Each character looks upon Othello in his/her own way and that is how much of the plot unravels as the play moves on.