Lodovico in Othello: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

Lodovico has a small but important role in William Shakespeare's Othello. He doesn't do much and he doesn't say much, but his character serves as a witness of and a voice for the tragedy and death which befall the other characters.

Who Is Lodovico?

We don't actually learn much about Lodovico in Shakespeare's Othello. He doesn't show up until Act 4 of the play, and even then he doesn't do or say much. We know that Lodovico is related to Desdemona's father, Brabantio, which makes him Desdemona's cousin or something like that. We also know that he is a nobleman from Venice. If he's such a minor character, why do we need to know about him? Because he is the survivor--the witness. He is the one who observes and gives voice to the horrors that happen in the play.

An Objective Opinion

When Lodovico shows up at the beginning of Act 4, Othello is already completely overtaken by Iago's influence. Othello can think of nothing but his jealousy and Desdemona's supposed adultery. The audience has been watching Othello slowly deteriorate and is likely pretty convinced of his insanity at this point, but Lodovico shows up just in case to give us a second opinion.

As he delivers to Othello the official orders from Venice, Lodovico watches as Othello hits Desdemona, is rude to her, and then orders her to bed like a servant or a child. Lodovico expresses the surprise and dismay we all feel when he says in disbelief, 'What! Strike his wife!' He also gives voice to what we are all wondering about Othello's sanity when he asks, 'Are his wits safe? Is he not light of brain?' (which, in ordinary English, means 'Is this guy nuts?!')

A Spokesman for Tragedy

From this point on, Lodovico shows up at all the worst places in the play. He arrives on the scene after Cassio and Roderigo have had their fight. Cassio is wounded and Iago has killed Roderigo. 'It is a heavy night,' Lodovico says of this tragedy. Next, Lodovico enters the room after Othello has been discovered to have killed Desdemona. 'O, thou Othello, that wert once so good,' Lodovico laments, 'Fallen in the practice of a damned slave, what shall be said to thee?'

In each case, Lodovico's function is to provide a verbal assessment of the situation. Shakespeare likes to do that. He can't just show us something that is bad, he needs to have a character come in afterward to say, 'This is bad, and here is why...' all in lovely couplets and iambic pentameter.

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