‘All accounts of dramatic characters and their relationships, including those given here,
should be received with caution. It is not possible to give a definite account of any character or
relationship in Othello or any other Shakespearean play. For a start, all such interpretations are culturally conditioned.
It is important to recognise that Shakespeare’s first audiences would have responded to some of the characters and events of Othello in ways that differ fundamentally from what might be expected from a modern audience. For example, the conventions of the time would have deemed Desdemona’s elopement and her treatment of Brabantio to be a serious violation of social propriety and parental rights.
A brief consideration of the differing ways in which the characters and their relationships have been seen over the centuries shows how strongly interpretations are influenced by prejudices of many kinds: cultural, social and racial, for example, as well as differing world-views. There are almost as many interpretations of Othello, Iago, Desdemona and other characters as there are readers.’