William Shakespeare seemed to have had a propensity for unlikable titular characters. Many of his plays, particularly the tragedies, were named for selfish, indecisive, vengeful, or otherwise just unpleasant men. It’s difficult to enjoy a work of literature or theater when the protagonist is unappealing, but plays like Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello have endured for centuries.
Othello (the Moor), while also unlikable, is very different from Hamlet. He begins the play as a relatively pleasant character; and a modern reader may be inclined to sympathize with him based on her distaste for any racism she may detect in the other characters. He seems like a strong solider, loving husband, good friend. But soon, his right-hand man Iago casts doubt into Othello’s mind about the very innocent friendship between his wife Desdemona and a young up-and-comer named Cassio. Othello’s unable to look past his jealousy and ultimately suffocates his wife in their own bed, just about eliminating any goodwill he had earned from the audience earlier in the play.
He only gets more unlikable from there. Apparently, once he realized he was capable of murder, he figured what’s the harm in killing a few more people? Eventually he becomes so obsessed with himself and his power that he can’t even be bothered to mourn his own wife, who was driven to suicide by her extreme guilt. He utters one of the most influential Macbeth quotes, “full of sound and fury; signifying nothing” as he’s essentially claiming that his wife’s suicide is coming at a really bad time for him, and while William Faulkner may have found those words inspiring, they fall a little flat for the average person.