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Venice, 1895: The people look modern, but everything else in the photo above looks like it did in the 1590's. The house on the near left side is very much like Brabantio's house, and the large building just to the right of that house is an old palace such as the Duke of Venice would have lived in.
Roderigo: the Fool in Shakespeare's Othello

Someone once wrote that "Iago may be the wickedest character in all of English Literature." In the opening scene of Othello, that supreme villain is paired off with Roderigo, who may be the biggest fool in English Lit. Indeed, each scene in which Roderigo appears reveals that he is too much of a fool to realize that Iago is using him as a pawn, that Iago is ruining him financially, and that Iago is a threat to everyone who comes near him. Therefore, it is really no surprise to the attentive reader of the play when Iago murders Roderigo in Act Five. After all, Roderigo is literally "too dumb to live."

The very first scene of the play reveals that Roderigo is an unwitting tool being used by Iago. Urged on by Iago, Roderigo rudely awakens Senator Brabantio, Desdemona's father, in the middle of the night to tell him in very racist and profane terms that his daughter has eloped with Othello:

Arise, arise!
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you.
Arise, I say.(I,i, 89-91)
It is clear that Roderigo is foolish when he assists Iago in disturbing Brabantio with such shocking news and when he, not Iago, is the one who remains to face the wrath of Brabantio, a father who has told Roderigo in the past to stay away from his daughter. Of course, it suits Iago's purposes to anger Brabantio; but it is Roderigo whom he persuades to create such an uproar in the middle of the night, and it is Roderigo who will be blamed for the rude way in which Brabantio receives the news of his daughter's elopement.

Even clearer evidence of Roderigo's weak mind emerges in the third scene of Act I. In that scene Roderigo is depicted as so love-sick over seeing Desdemona married to the Moor that he is threatening to drown himself. Iago, however advises him a half-dozen times in the scene to "put money in thy purse." Roderigo's naivete immediately allows him to believe that he can give money, jewels, and other gifts to Iago who will use the gifts to win Desdemona's affection for Roderigo. Only a fool would try to buy love; and, at the end of that scene, Iago soliloquizes to the audience: "Thus do I ever make my fool my purse." (I, iii, 382) Actually, by Act IV of the play, Iago has extorted so much of Roderigo's money that the foolish young man says: "I have wasted myself out of my means." (IV,ii, 86-87) Well, as the proverb says, "a fool and his money are soon parted."

The worst of Roderigo's folly, however, is that he is in danger of death when he gets involved in Iago's schemes, and he doesn't even seem to realize it. In the third scene of Act III, for example, Roderigo allows Iago to maneuver him into an argument with Cassio. Iago has cleverly gotten both Roderigo and Cassio drunk, and -- even worse -- silly Roderigo is described as the "sick fool Roderigo,/Whom love hath turn'd almost the wrong side out." (II,ii, 51-52) Whatever Iago tells him to do he does, but only a very foolish civilian like the idiotic Roderigo would challenge a professional soldier like Cassio. In that day of ready swords and sudden duels, Roderigo is playing with his life by getting involved in Iago's schemes.

It is often said that someone who does evil must be either a knave or a fool. In Othello, then, it seems we have the team of Iago and Roderigo -- the perfect villain assisted in his schemes by the perfect fool, so when Iago finally murders Roderigo in Act Five, we are not really surprised. Roderigo has so thoroughly acted the parts of the unwitting pawn or tool, the financial fool, and the love-sick, drunken fool that readers are ready to view him as one of the bigggest fools in literature. He is so foolish that he almost deserves to die.