The handkerchief

The handkerchief that Othello gives Desdemona is the most important symbol in William Shakespeare’s play Othello. The handkerchief is connected to the theme of appearances versus reality, as well as to that of love and hate.

The handkerchief is initially a symbol of Othello and Desdemona’s love for each other. It is not surprising, though, that the relationship between Othello and Desdemona shifts when the handkerchief is lost. Othello shows this with a story that he tells Desdemona about his parents. According to him, the handkerchief was a gift to Othello’s mother so that his father would love her. His father would stop loving her if she ever lost the handkerchief (3.4.65-74). The story seems to mirror exactly Othello’s change in attitude towards Desdemona, which frightens her.

The h...

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