Who is the main character in Shakespeare's Othello? Othello or Iago?

Essay by dwkim85High School, 11th grade January 2003

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In William Shakespeare's Othello, the complex relationship and roles of Iago and Othello confuse the audience of who the main character of the play really is. Although Iago certainly plays a major role in the play as the villain, the main plot of the play emanates around Othello as changes occur. The audiences sympathize with Othello throughout his heroic rise and tragic fall, thus proving him as the main character of the play.

Othello overcomes numerous hardships and disadvantages especially resulting from the color of his skin to obtain his respect and power in the beginning of the play. The opening scene begins with Iago and Roderigo's planning of bringing an end to Othello. Up to the point where the Duke acknowledges the validity of Desdemona's love towards Othello, Shakespeare portrays Othello as a complete outsider of the society. He is the Moor, the man from nowhere, the "Barbary Horse,"(Othello 1,1,110.)

and as Brabantino puts it, he has taken away his daughter with "spells and medicines bought of mountebanks."(Othello 1,3,62.) The Renaissance notion of darkness as ugly and evil brings prejudice stereotypes for Othello's dark skin. Othello's barbaric qualities remain in him even after his rise as general. Then how is it that he gains power? How is it that he wins the love of Desdemona? It can only be logically explained as due to his bravery, strength, and ability as a soldier. "Of moving accidents by flood and field, of hair-breadth scapes ith' imminent deadly breach, of being taken by the insolent foe and sold to slavery,"(1,3,136.) Othello prove himself worthy to the inner members of the Venetian society. This escalation to power, however, also implies that when he loses these abilities that has brought him up to his current status, there will be no use for him...