The Significance Of The Handkerchief In Othello

1079 words - 4 pages

How can one small piece of fabric manifest so much havoc? In William Shakespeare’s Othello, there is great significance of a powerful symbol that completely alters the fate of the story. “In the case of the handkerchief, it stands for several things, things that cannot be seen” (Hacht 663). This symbol, the handkerchief, is given to Desdemona by Othello, as a token of his love, and to their new beginnings as husband and wife. However, the meaning of the handkerchief is viewed differently in various characters perspectives. Reaching the hands of most of the characters, this item results in a sense of irony. What was anticipated to be the start of a new beginning, ultimately turns that vision into an abrupt end.
Already there is a high importance to the handkerchief in the start of the story. This being due to the fact that it originally came from Othello’s mother. The reason it is also seem to be placed on a pedestal is because it is believed by Othello to possess magical powers. He had been told that it was woven by a 200-year-old sibyl also known as an Egyptian charmer. The process was done by using the silk from sacred worms, and the dye from mummified virgin hearts. Later being given to his mother; who he claims used it to keep his father from being unfaithful to her. This further illustrates Othello’s fixed perspective of the handkerchief, and the value of fidelity that it holds within it. When he presents Desdemona with the handkerchief, he expects nothing but love and faithfulness in return. The handkerchief, as mentioned, does give a variety of meanings to each of the characters as it falls into each of their hands throughout the entire story. So for Desdemona, the strawberry embroidered handkerchief, means nothing but Othello’s undying love for her. Considering the fact that it was the first gift she had received from him. As for Cassio, the handkerchief is seen as nothing more than a lovely piece of woven fabric. Bianca, the slight love interest of Cassio, portrays it as a signal of him not caring about her; considering she obtains the reputation of being the local strumpet. Even though it reaches many of the characters hands, Iago seems to be the only one that possesses an uncanny control over the handkerchief.
The handkerchief missing only stirs the pot for upcoming chaos. According to the magical powers of the handkerchief, to lose it, Othello claims is to lose his love for her. Upon discovering it to be suddenly misplaced, this only continues to benefit Iago, and the revenge he sets to pursue. With the loss of the handkerchief, it only adds more strain onto the marriage of Desdemona and Othello. Throughout the story, the handkerchief is observed to be Iago’s secret weapon for his revenge. With it, Iago is able to double-cross the people that seem to get in his way of his plan (Ardolino 1). However, most is achieved with some unintended help. Many of his set intentions are accomplished with the aid of his charm and, with the help of...

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