Sunday, October 14, 2012

The path and significance of the Handkerchief

            The handkerchief is significant in Othello, because it holds special meaning to Othello, Desdemona , and Iago. For Othello, the significance of the handkerchief is that it belonged to his mother and it was "bewitched" with magic. The handkerchief held special magic and power. If the handkerchief was lost then the "magic" in the relationship of the one who is in possession of it is gone.  To Desdemona the handkerchief as a special meaning because it came from the one she loves, Othello.
            The significance of the handkerchief for Iago is that it becomes a tool or a prop for him when it comes to manipulating Othello and accusing Desdemona and Cassio. Emilia doesn't seem to realize the importance of the handkerchief when Iago woos her to get it. Cassio thinks that Desdemona has given it to him and he gives it to Bianca a Courtesan. When really Iago plants it in Cassio's chamber to cause more mischief.  In act 4.1 on page 2169 Bianca comes back and has the handkerchief and tells Cassio that it must be another woman's token and she will not copy it. Othello realizes it is his and he becomes enraged and wants to get revenge on Cassio for having and giving it to Bianca. Othello also becomes enraged when he speaks and questions Desdemona about the situation.

          It is interesting how a piece of cloth can mean such significance and have such power over the characters and cause such destruction over a relationship. If this play was not titled "The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice" it should be titled " The Path and Power of the Handkerchief"


Vanessa Pavelock said...

I really enjoyed how you mapped out the path of the handkerchief, and explored it’s significance. In the play, we see that Othello has an uncanny obsession with this piece of cloth, and comes to associate this object with fidelity, or infidelity, in his marriage. While Othello could easily communicate with his wife and get to the root of the suspicion, Othello sees the handkerchief as an object of the untainted truth. In reality, an object can easily be manipulated by a human being, and hold whatever “truth” a person attaches to it. For this reason, Othello falls right into Iago’s trap as he allows himself to trust the credibility of an object over the credibility of his own wife.

ssomer said...

I think exploring the importance of the hankerchief in the story is critical to understanding the play as a whole. The hankerchief does play numerous roles and is important to each person for a different reason. It is odd that such an insignificant object becomes so important to the play, but that is one of the great things about Shakespeare. His play gives meaning to something usually not associated with so much importance, and it can be quite entertaining to see it play out.

Erika Pumilia said...

It can be a little comfusing to just read in a book the path of the handkerchief. I wonder sometimes if the "magic" of the cloth was the black magic that Othello was accused of having in the very beginning of the play? Did it hold black magic? If it was lost or stolen is that the reason terrible things would happen to the lovers? Othello is one of my favorite plays and I always wonder if this is the case.

Cyrus Mulready said...

I may have mentioned in class that a writer once called the play (derisively) "the tragedy of a handkerchief," so you are certainly on the right path here, Hannah! I'd be curious to hear you say more about the reason this object has so much power in it. Is it enchanted, in a certain sense, even if not "magical"? Where does that enchantment come from? As we discussed in class, it seems that the object has the value that people place in it, which might be a kind of magic in itself.