Othello Character’s MBTI (Project 2)

For my second project, I wanted to do something other than a traditional essay. One of the questions I had after finishing Othello, was that I still felt like I didn’t fully understand why Iago had such a hatred for Othello. There were several reasons listed like Othello giving Cassio the job Iago wanted. Iago also suspected that Emilia, his wife, had cheated on him with Ohello. He also mentions loving Desdemona. So, since I felt like I truly didn’t understand Iago’s character and his motives, I decided to look at him (and all the other Othello characters) through their MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). 

If you don’t know what this is, it is basically a questionnaire that anyone can take to figure out which of the 16 personality types they belong to. They are separated into four categories: analysts, diplomats, sentinels, and explorers. The analysts include: INTJ (The Architect), INTP (The Logician), ENTJ (The Commander), and ENTP (The Debater). The next category, diplomats, includes: INFJ (The Advocate), INFP (The Mediator), ENFJ (The Protagonist), and ENFP (The Campaigner). The third category, sentinels, includes: ISTJ (The Logistician), ISFJ (The Defender), ESTJ (The Executive), and ESFJ (The Consul). The last category, explorers, includes: ISTP (The Virtuoso), ISFP (The Adventurer), ESTP (The Entrepreneur), and ESFP (The Entertainer). Each of these 16 types is composed of letters that mean different things about their personality. The letters stand for the following: Introverted (I), Extroverted (E), Intuitive (N), Thinking (T), Feeling (F), Observant (S), Judging (J), and Prospecting (P). 

After reading about what each of the types mean and their letters, I was able to say which Othello characters fit into which type. Obviously, the characters are fictional and not here to take this questionnaire themselves, so I used this source, The Personality Database, where fans of this play have voted on which type they think each character belongs to. I looked at which type had the most votes, and then whether I agreed with it or not. For the most part, I did end up agreeing, but some I did think a different type matched a character better. Let’s start! Also, if this interests you and you want to find your type (I’m an INFJ!), you can take it here: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

I researched and used the website, https://www.personality-database.com/profile?pid=2&cid=12&sub_cat_id=1584, and found which personality type was most voted for each character. With my knowledge of the different types, I was able to say whether I agreed or disagreed with the most voted type, and assign a new one, if applicable.

I’ll start with Othello, the protagonist of the play. He has the most powerful position of anyone else in the play, but he doesn’t exude the same presence over other people. He has many traits of ISTJ (The Logistician). People with this type are reserved, honest, strong-willed, and responsible. They can also be stubborn, insensitive, judgemental, and self-blame. They are also the type most dedicated to their work and are very reliable. I think Othello matches this type extremely well. Othello shows his intuition by being the person the Duke comes to for help, but in social situations, seems very insecure. This could be attributed to the fact that many of those around him make racist remarks about him. He knows he is smart and can help to fight in a war, but he can’t help notice people treating him differently. He also is very insecure in his relationship with Desdemona. When Iago tries to mess up their relationship and say that Desdemona is cheating on Othello with Cassio, he eventually believes him when Iago shows him planted evidence of a bandana in his room. He ends up trusting Iago, someone he didn’t even promote over a woman he was planning to marry. This could mean he was insecure with Desdemona, believing she would leave him. It could also mean that he’s just gullible to believe Iago’s lies.

Let’s look at Desdemona next. Desdemona has a lot of the traits that most women had in texts of this time period. She doesn’t really have a purpose in this play, besides being Othello’s wife and a peacekeeper. When Iago suggests to Othello that Desdemona has cheated on him, and he eventually believes him, Desdemona is not really ever given a chance to say anything to defend herself. It is only after her death that Emilia finally defends her reputation and tells the truth of the situation. Desdemona is treated as an object by every man in this play. Roderigo wants Iago to “get” Desdemona for him. This gives her pretty much no say in the matter. Everyone in this play seems to have a thing for her, but the one person she loves truly, doesn’t trust and believe her. Desdemona is a truly tragic character. Desdemona matches most with INFP (The Mediator). This type is empathetic, open-minded, creative, and passionate. They can also be unrealistic, self-isolating, emotionally vulnerable, people-pleaser, and self-critical. Women of this time had to keep the peace while their husbands were off at war, so I think “The Mediator” matches Desdemona very well. 

The next character to look at is Cassio. Iago’s jealousy of him is the driving force of this play, but Cassio doesn’t necessarily do anything to incite his anger. Iago ends up hating both Othello and Cassio after he’s chosen to be one of his chief lieutenants. Cassio was given ESFP (The Entertainer). This is the first one that I kind of disagree with a little bit. I can definitely see him as an extrovert, but don’t really agree that he’s an “entertainer.” I think Cassio fits a little better with ESFJ, “The Consul.” This type is very loyal, sensitive, has a strong sense of duty, and great at connecting with other people. They can also be too selfless and needy, reluctant to go outside their comfort zone, and worried about their social status. I think these traits fit Cassio very well. Cassio ends up trusting Iago and getting caught up in his lies, just like most of the characters in this play. Cassio is one of Othello’s chief lieutenants and he has a deep sense of honor and loyalty toward him. He is also respectful toward women while Iago displays his misogynistic attitudes. How other people see him and his reputation is very important to him. We see this when he is horrified at his drunken outburst, incited by Iago. At the end of the play, Cassio learns to not be so trustworthy as a result of Iago’s betrayals.

Speaking of Iago, let’s look at him next. As I said above, Iago’s intentions and motivations were the one thing I had a lot of questions about after finishing the play. I didn’t really see why he hated Othello so much, or rather, the reason he hated him wasn’t one of the reasons Shakespeare explicitly listed. Reasons are listed, but none of them seemed reason enough for the lengths that Iago goes to. I also thought of the racist tones around Othello, and this could be another reason for Iago’s hatred at him. Iago matches very well with the type, ENTJ (The Commander). Throughout the play, although Othello is in the highest position of power, Iago moves the story along the most, commanding his peers as a part of his plan. People with this personality type are efficient and energetic, strong-willed, strategic thinkers, and charismatic. They are also arrogant, impatient, dominant, and cold. Throughout Othello, Iago has the ability to trick everybody in this play to join along with his villainous plan. 

The character who helps Iago the most throughout the play is Roderigo. Let’s look at his personality type next. Roderigo matches very well with ISFP (The Adventurer). People with this type are charming, imaginative, passionate, and artistic. They can also be unpredictable, easily stressed, and overly competitive. In Othello, Rodeigo wishes to be with Desdemona, but is too shy to do it himself, so he puts his faith in Iago to do it for him. He goes along with Iago’s plan only because he wishes to be with Desdemona, so he likes that Iago wants to break up Othello and Desdemona. He is continuously blinded by his intense infatuation with Desdemona that he’s even willing to kill Cassio when Iago tells him that he’s another rival for her affection. Roderigo is overall a very cowardly character and blindly joins along in Iago’s plans if it just means he’ll have Desdemona for himself. Unfortunately, this blind faith in Iago contributes to his downfall at the end of the play.

Lastly, is Emilia. Emilia is a female character, but she is a female character who isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right even if it means her death. This is why I believe that she perfectly fits with being an ISFJ (The Defender). Emilia uses her last seconds of life defending Desdemona’s reputation. People with this personality type are supportive, reliable, imaginative, loyal, and hard-working. They can also be shy, reluctant to change, and repress their feelings. Emilia is very reserved at first, and goes along with Iago in whatever he’s doing, but later realizes what he’s doing and stands up for Desdemona in front of Iago and Othello when she can’t be there to defend herself. This later results in Iago killing her.

After looking at each character’s personality through this, it has helped me understand each character and their intentions a little more. Although the reader may never be given a reason for Iago’s intentions, I believe Shakespeare did this on purpose to make him more of a dangerous villain. Through the death of the author, we can look at so many reasons why Iago did what he did, and none of them are wrong.




3 thoughts on “Othello Character’s MBTI (Project 2)

  1. This is a great project! It is really creative to approach this piece in the way that you did. Exploring the characters’ personality types allows the reader to categorize, label, and relate to each of these characters individually. It also, as you pointed out in your post, provides insight into these characters’ motivations and reasonings. Iago is an excellent example. Even though I still don’t concretely know Iago’s reasoning, seeing him as a ‘commander’ personality type allows me to understand his manipulative and self-centered behavior as well as his methodical and intuitive scheming and planning. I really enjoyed reading this post, great work!

  2. This is such a cool project! As someone who has a lot of fun with MBTIs and likes to see what my friends and family get (I am also an INFJ!), I somehow never thought of applying the traits to characters that we have read in class. I found myself agreeing with the ones you chose, especially The Mediator for Desdemona and The Commander for Iago. It is so interesting how the MBTI traits can match up so well with their different personalities.

  3. This is such a creative project idea and I really enjoyed it. I’ve taken the test before but I don’t remember but I am but the fact that you tied personalities to characters from the play. Each one is so fitting, Desdemona definitely fits the mediator personality because she is so open-minded unlike her father. We see this when her father is upset that she is with Othello, where as she is very passionate about him, another attribute to the personality that you chose for her. This is awesome!!

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