The Significance of the Handkerchief in Othello by Shakespeare

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The handkerchief is significant to the plot, mainly to Iago's manipulation of Othello and his convincing the latter of Desdemona's infidelity. Moreover, it sheds light over Iago, Desdemona, Othello and Emilia's characters, and is thus important to characterisation. The symbolic significance attached to the handkerchief reveals Othello's social background, his treatment of Desdemona and the latter's feelings towards her husband. Interestingly, Othello provides two sides of the story of how he got the handkerchief. In his second account he says that his father gave the handkerchief to his mother as a sign of love when beforehand he states that it was actually an Egyptian woman who provided it to his mother. This interpretation reveals …show more content…

The 'red strawberries' , which Othello states were hand stitched, symbolises the blood of loss of virginity, so Othello perceives that Desdemona is chaste if she is in possession of the handkerchief. Once she loses it, she loses her chastity. With regards to plot, the handkerchief provides the sole ocular proof of Desdemona's unfaithfulnes, which infact triggers Othello's madness. The fact that Othello insists on gathering proof suggests that he is somewhat hopeful, 'I'll have some proof.' It is worth noticing Desdemona's mistake in Act 3 Scene 4 when Othello demands to see the handkerchief, as she lies and says, 'It is not lost'. This further convinces Othello of her infidelity. Moreover, it makes Emilia aware of Othello's jealous nature and she tries, unsuccessfully to warn Desdmona about her husband's insecurity, 'They are never jealous for the cause,/ But jealous for they're jealous.; Iago further drives Othello into his raging madness by continously mentioning the handkerchief. The impact this leaves on him is evident in his repition of handkercief when Othello falls in a trance, 'Handkerchief-confessions-handkerchief? ' When Bianca walks in on Cassio and Iago's conversation, which Othello is spying on, she is holding the handkerchief, which thus causes Othello's ravenous thirst for revenge. Thus, it plays an important part in leading to the tragedy of the Moor and to Desdemona;s death. In Act 5 Emilia revelas that she stole the

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