Figures of authority


Lodovico is Desdemona’s cousin, the son of her father’s brother Gratiano. He represents the kind of man she might have married, confidently wielding power and moral authority. Desdemona relies upon him to re-establish harmony between Othello and herself and Cassio.
He is sent by the Duke’s council to give Othello important letters, commanding him to return to Venice, leaving Cassio governor of Cyprus in his place. (Act 4 Scene 1). During this scene, he is shocked by Othello’s abuse of Desdemona and rebukes him severely for hitting her. Lodovico cannot believe that Othello would act so badly and reminds him that his friends in Venice would be appalled at his behaviour. He is a reminder to the audience of an ordered moral universe, in which women are treated with courtesy – a stark contrast to the perverted moral world into which Iago has drawn Othello. 
After Othello leaves, Iago deceives him into thinking that Othello has greatly changed and has done still worse things to Desdemona. This may help fuel Lodovico’s anxiety during the night-time murder scene and later decisive upholding of justice in Act 5 Scene 2. Having himself been duped by Iago, he voices the audience’s sense of outrage at Iago’s treachery.
At the very end of the play, Lodovico takes charge, sentencing Iago to be tortured and Othello to be arrested and taken away, leaving Cassio to govern Cyprus. When Othello then kills himself, he authorises Gratiano to take possession of Othello’s estate as his only heir. Rather like Young Fortinbras at the end of Hamlet, Lodovico is the figure who re-establishes control and hierarchy after the chaos of human carnage.


Othello, Desdemona and BrabantioBrabantio is Desdemona’s father, and as such a stock character of Elizabethan plays – the controlling older man who is ‘robbed’ of his prize possession (either young wife or daughter). Like Shylock and Old Capulet, he expects to control the fate of his daughter, and part of his outrage at her bid for freedom is due to his offended pride. We learn that he had already rejected Roderigo’s suit to marry Desdemona but is even more opposed to her marrying Othello, the black man, about which prospect he has had disturbing dreams. 
In Act 1 Scene 2 he speaks to Othello in racist terms and even accuses him of bewitching his daughter with the evil arts of witchcraft to persuade her to marry him. He cannot comprehend the reality of his daughter’s love, believing she must have taken leave of her senses.
Having less power than the general, he applies to the Duke of Venice for justice. In front of the Duke’s council he confronts Othello, accusing him of using underhand devices to win his daughter, but Othello persuades the duke that he gained Desdemona’s love by fair means. When Desdemona agrees, Brabantio resigns himself to the situation, and the audience may feel for his ‘bruis’d heart’. However, when he bitterly warns Othello that, if his daughter could deceive her father, she could do the same to Othello (Act 1 Scene 3), he plants a seed that will have tragic consequences. 
Brabantio does not appear again but his death is reported to everyone in the final scene, in terms that may make the audience reassess their attitude towards him:
I am glad thy father’s dead.
Thy match was mortal to him, and pure grief
Shore his old thread in twain: did he live now,
This sight would make him do a desperate turn,     
Brabantio truly did desire to protect the daughter he loved.


Gratiano is Brabantio’s brother and, as such, takes over as the ‘father-figure’ in the second half of the play. He sails to Venice with his son Lodovico and others, who are on the Duke’s business (Act 4 Scene 1), perhaps to break the news to his niece of her father’s death. As a newcomer to the murderous deeds in Sicily, he is astounded that young gallants he knew socially (Cassio, Roderigo) are in such a desperate, bloodied state. 
Gratiano only speaks in Act 5 where he is the voice of compassion for Desdemona, for his dead brother and for Emilia. It is to him that Othello admits his private feelings and breaks down in grief and Gratiano is clearly moved – now ‘All that’s spoke is marr’d’ and he wishes torments on Iago. We discover at the end that, as the uncle of Othello’s wife, Gratiano will inherit his house and fortune.

Duke of Venice

The Duke is the ruler of Venice, which was at the time an autonomous state with the Duke as supreme governor. There was no democracy, so the Duke answered to no one. However, he wisely ruled with the advice and counsel of his trusted advisors, two of whom were Brabantio and Othello. It was therefore very embarrassing that these two should meet in Act 1 Scene 3 to discuss the vital matter of the attempted invasion of Cyprus by the Turks, when Brabantio has just learned that his daughter has eloped with Othello, much against Brabantio’s wishes. The Duke has to judge the argument between the two men so that his council can still function smoothly and so that Othello will still lead the Venetian army against the Turks, a vital part of the Duke’s plan for the defense of his territories. The fact that he achieves this speaks well of his leadership capabilities.

Montano, governor of Cyprus

As ruler of the island ruled by Venice, Montano has considerable authority as the leading citizen of Cyprus. Although young, he already has a reputation for wisdom. Othello is therefore rightly angry that Cassio wounds Montano in a drunken rage, because Venice can only rule an island so far away with the respect and cooperation of its citizens. Othello has to use all his diplomatic skills to mollify him and orders that he be given the utmost care. He survives and is seen during the last scene, as horrified as anyone else at the multiple deaths they witness.
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