From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Othello is a character in Shakespeare's Othello (c.1601-1604). The character's origin is traced to the tale, "Un Capitano Moro" in Gli Hecatommithi by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio. There, he is simply referred to as the Moor.
Othello is a brave and competent soldier of advanced years and Moorish background in the service of the Venetian Republic. He elopes with Desdemona, the beautiful daughter of a respected Venetian senator. After being deployed to Cyprus, Othello is manipulated by his Ancient (pronounced Ensign) Iago, into believing Desdemona is an adultress. Othello murders her before killing himself.
Othello was first mentioned in a Revels account of 1604 when the play was performed on 1 November at Whitehall Palace with Richard Burbage almost certainly Othello's first interpreter. Modern notable performers of the role include Paul Robeson, Orson Welles, Richard Burton, James Earl Jones, and Laurence Olivier.