'Othello': Cassio and Roderigo

Character Analysis for Cassio and Roderigo

Desdemona and Othello, by Antonio Muñoz Degrain
Desdemona and Othello, by Antonio Muñoz Degrain. Public Domain

We take an analytical look at two of the key male characters from Othello: Cassio and Roderigo. Both are lured into the complex love plot engineered by the villainous Iago, one of Shakespeare's best-written villains.

Let us begin with Cassio.

Cassio Analysis

Cassio is described as the Moor’s ‘honourable lieutenant’, he is given the office of lieutenant over Iago. This appointment, undeserved in Iago’s eyes, justifies the villain’s cruel revenge towards him:

One Michael Cassio, a Florentine, …That never set a squadron in the field Nor the division of a battle knows.
(Iago, Act 1 Scene 1)

We know that Cassio is of good standing, due to Desdemona’s passionate defense of him. However, Othello is easily turned against him by Iago.

Cassio foolishly allows himself to be encouraged to go for a drink when he has already acknowledged it to be the wrong thing to do, he is easily led in this; “Come lieutenant. I have a stoup of wine…” (Iago, Act 2 Scene 3, line 26-27). “I’ll do’t but it dislikes me” (Cassio, Act 2 Scene 3, Line 43). Cassio is then drawn into a brawl and is quite out of control as he attacks Montano, badly wounding him.

Othello has to act quickly to appease the Cypriot officials and sacks Cassio on the spot:

Cassio I love thee, but never more be officer of mine.
(Othello, Act 2 Scene 3)

Othello is justified in this as one of his men has injured an ally but is demonstrates Othello’s impulsivity and his righteousness which is further demonstrated in his dealing with Desdemona.

In his desperation, Cassio falls into Iago’s trap once more as he implores Desdemona to help him get his job back. His office is the most important thing to him as he puts his relationships on hold to achieve his position back; sidelining Bianca.

At the end of the play Cassio is injured but redeemed. His name is cleared by Emilia and as Othello is striped of his duties, we are told that Cassio now rules in Cyprus; “Your power and your command is taken off, and Cassio now rules in Cyprus” ( Lodovico, Act 5 Scene 2, Line 340-1).

Cassio must be regarded highly in Venice to be given this role. He is also left to deal with Othello’s fate:

To you Lord Governor, Remains the censure of this hellish villain. The time, the place, the torture O enforce it!
(Lodovico, Act 5 Scene 2)

As a result, the audience is left to ponder whether Cassio will be cruel to Othello or more forgiving? This will depend on how he is played.

Roderigo Analysis

Roderigo is Iago’s dupe, his fool. In love with Desdemona and prepared to do anything to get her, Roderigo is easily led by the evil Iago. Roderigo does not feel any loyalty towards Othello, who he feels has stolen his love from him. Without Roderigo to do his ‘dirty’ work Iago would be a much less lethal weapon.

Roderigo goads Cassio into the fight that gets him laid off. He then escapes undetected. Iago tricks him into giving him money to convince Desdemona to be with him and then encourages him to kill Cassio.

Roderigo finally gets wise to Iago’s manipulation of him “Everyday thou daff’st me with some device Iago” (Roderigo, Act 4 Scene 2, Line 180) but he is again convinced by the villain to follow through the plan to kill Cassio despite his misgivings; “I have no great devotion to the deed, And yet he hath given me satisfying reasons. Tis but a man gone. Forth my sword – he dies” (Roderigo Act 5 Scene 1, Line 8-10)

Roderigo is stabbed by his only ‘friend’ Iago who does not want him to give the game away. However, Roderigo finally outsmarts him by writing a letter which he keeps in his pocket, pointing to Iago’s involvement in the plot and his guilt. Unfortunately he has been killed by this point but he is in some part redeemed by his letters:

Now here’s another discontented paper Found in his pocket too. And this it seems Roderigo meant to have sent this damned villain, But that belike, Iago in the interim Came in and satisfied him.
Lodovico, Act 5 Scene 2