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The True Meaning Of The Handkerchief

1194 words - 5 pages

Othello, the Moor of Venice is a drama that is solely built around many characters interpretation of symbolism. The handkerchief that is given to Desdemona from Othello plays a critical role in the play because of its symbolism. Along with the individual symbolism and significance of the handkerchief, it also plays a role in different interpretations made by many characters. The characters interpretation of the handkerchief in the drama plays a critical role in analyzing the meanings of the symbol. The handkerchief in the drama symbolizes many things to many different characters; Othello, Desdemona, and Iago have different interpretations on the meaning of the handkerchief, all of which are portrayed to the audience by Shakespeare.
The background of the handkerchief plays a critical role in analyzing the meaning of the symbol. In the drama, Othello describes the background of the handkerchief and how he received the handkerchief to the audience. In Othello’s description of the handkerchief, the audience learns that “there is magic in the web of it”, it being the handkerchief that he once received from his mother (3.4.65). Also, the audience is told that Othello’s mother received the handkerchief from an Egyptian gypsy who told her that if she kept it, it would “make her amiable and subdue my father Entirely to her love” (3.4.). However, if Othello’s mother was to lose the handkerchief or to make a gift of it, “my father’s eye Should hold her loathed and his spirits should hunt after new fancies” (3.4). From the description that Othello gave the audience, many can learn that the handkerchief was an important role in the family and that the woman who held it, or had possession of it, held it dearly. Othello’s mother held the handkerchief dearly so that her husband would stay faithful to her, this meaning that the handkerchief symbolized fidelity and faithfulness within a marriage. Othello’s mother later gave the handkerchief to Othello as she was dying, and told him that when he was to marry, he should give the handkerchief to his wife.
The meaning of the handkerchief is solely centered on the importance that is has to Othello. Othello was given the handkerchief from his mother, and was to give it to his wife. Othello giving the handkerchief to the woman he wished to marry, Desdemona, also symbolizes the meaning of fidelity that was to be held within a marriage, “Othello gives the handkerchief, a family heirloom with magical properties; to Desdemona as a token of his affection” (Ardolino). Also, Othello describes what the handkerchief looks like by stating “A sibyl, that had numb’red in the world The sun to course two hundred compases, In her prophetic fury sew’d the work; The worms were hallow’d that did breed the silk; And it was dy’d in mummy which the skilful Conserv’d of maidens’ hearts” (3.4.65-70). The description of the handkerchief’s beauty tells the audience of the magic and power in the handkerchief. By having Othello describe the...

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