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Essay on The Significance of the Handkerchief in Othello

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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 Oth...


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...2013. .
"Othello." Shakespeare for Students: Critical Interpretations of Shakespeare's Plays and Poetry. Ed. Anne Marie Hacht. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2007. 649-87. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. .
Sofer, Andrew. "Felt Absences: The Stage Properties of Othello's Handkerchief." Comparative Drama Fall 1997: 367-93. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michael L. LaBlanc. Vol. 79. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 4 Nov. 2013. .



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