In Shakespeare’s Othello, a strawberry embroidered handkerchief is used as a multilayered symbol—a sign of love, a symbol of Desdemona’s position in her marriage, a symbol of Christianity, and so on.
Shakespeare frequently uses symbols, foreshadowing, allusions, and imagery in his plays. In this post, our specialists looked at several aspects of Othello, including symbolism.
There are several significant symbols and events in Othello. The most important ones include the handkerchief – love and betrayal, green color – jealousy, and the Willow Song – grief and death.
Othello is a renowned play by William Shakespeare that has been produced many times. The theme of character, love, and trust remain relevant today. The narrative’s employment of symbolism and figurative language, on the other hand, is one of its most distinctive elements.
The handkerchief, for example, is a symbol that aids in the entire message of the play and helps to fill out some of its more subtle ideas. One such symbol is the handkerchief, which has several meanings for each character.
The handkerchief, which was originally Desdemona’s father’s, was a priceless keepsake. As the Moor explains: “Handkerchief, originally belonging to Othello’s mother, was an important memento.”
Did an Egyptian to my mother give;
She was a charmer, and could almost read
The thoughts of people: she told her, while
she kept it,
‘Twould make her amiable and subdue my father
Entirely to her love, but if she lost it
Or made gift of it, my father’s eye
Should hold her loathed and his spirits should hunt
After new fancies: she, dying, gave it me.”
(Act 3, scene 4)
It was a treasured gift for Desdemona since it represented her mother’s unwavering support. Othello regarded the handkerchief as proof of his wife’s loyalty. The handkerchief was a symbol of love for the man Iago believed for her, and of closeness. To deceive Otheacho, Iago exploited the loss of the handkerchief. For Iago, who saw it as an opportunity to achieve his goals, the handkerchief signified power.
The use of green as a color is another unique aspect. Green is a frequent symbol in both writing and art. Colors are frequently color-coded in literature and art. Some hues have a strong emotional link for people, based on instinct and tradition. Color language enhances the narrative and makes the information look more appealing.
Jealousy is associated with the color green. During the story, Iago refers to it as a “green-eyed monster.” In this situation, the hue helps to illustrate the emotion. Envy is used by Iago to persuade Othello to question his love and destroy his and Desdemona’s lives. After Othello believes his wife has betrayed him, he kills her. The jealousy plays an essential role in Othello’s tale and serves as the protagonist’s downfall at the conclusion.
The final significant symbol is the Willow Song, which Desdemona sings. Willows are associated with sadness and grief in most societies. A willow tree appears in many of Shakespeare’s plays, suggesting the death of a woman. In Othello, the tree represents memories from other Shakespeare works, when Desdemona is devastated and grief-stricken over her husband:
“The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow:
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing willow, willow, willow:
The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur’d her moans;
Sing willow, willow, willow;
Her salt tears fell from her, and soften’d the stones.”
(Act 4, scene 3)
The use of figurative language enhances the song’s mystique and has a greater impact on the audience. Desdemona’s feelings of sadness, grief, and perplexity are expressed in song. This motif may also indicate Desdemona’s terrible fate early on since it is used in this manner. Willow stands for both Desdemona’s lost love and her own mortality.