The Weight Of A Hankerchief In Othello

1037 words - 5 pages

”The Weight of a Handkerchief”

The tragedy in the plot of Shakespeare’s Othello revolves around the title character’s mistrust of his own wife, Desdemona, his lieutenant Cassio and misplaced trust of Iago. Othello’s mistrust of Desdemona and Cassio stems from ideas planted by Iago, but these ideas are able to find a solid footing based on the timely absence and presence of Desdemona’s handkerchief. The handkerchief is able to have such an immense effect over Othello because of the importance it has for him. That importance stems from all the different ways that the handkerchief symbolically represents first love, fidelity, premarital virginity, but also what the handkerchief’s ...view middle of the document...

“Do not you chide; I have a thing for you [Iago]. / You [Emilia] have a thing for me? It is a common thing—/Hah? /To have a foolish wife. /O, is that all/ What will you give me now/For that same handkerchief? /What handkerchief? /What handkerchief? /Why, that the Moor first gave to Desdemona, /That which so often you did bid me steal” (1271).

This longtime want of Iago’s, shows that he knows how important the handkerchief is to Othello and to the relationship between him and Desdemona. Iago also knows that if he is able to acquire the handkerchief as he does he will be able to destroy Othello and Desdemona’s relationship with it. The first chance that Iago is alone right after he has procured the handkerchief he says, “As proofs of holy writ; this may do something. /The Moor already changes with my poison” (1271). He knows that he has already begun to get Othello to doubt Desdemona, but now he will be able to really drive it home with the handkerchief.
Othello himself explains the importance of the handkerchief to Desdemona in Act III, Scene IV. He explains to her that his mother had gotten the handkerchief from an Egyptian charmer (1274). That it was a sort of magical handkerchief because as long as his mother kept it, the handkerchief, “’Twould make her amiable, and subdue my father/Entirely to her love; but if she lost it, /Or made a gift of it, my father’s eye/Should hold her loathed, and his spirits should hunt/After new fancies” (1274). When Othello’s mother gave it to him she told him to give it to the one that he loved, and he should have the same fate with it has she did. This is why the handkerchief has such power over Othello. Because he believes, regardless of its truth that the handkerchief holds the power to keep a relationship faithful and thus keeping it together, but even more so he believes that without its presence the handkerchief will eventually cause infidelity. Othello also tells...

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