Desdemona’s hanky was a gift from Othello as a love token in the beginning. It is then metaphorically transformed into Desdemona’s bedclothes, which she employs to show her innocence and loyalty to Othello; finally, Desdemona requests that the bedclothes be draped over her like a death shroud.
The handkerchief in Shakespeare’s Othello is Desdemona’s. This item is a great illustration of Shakespearean symbolism. It has a number of different meanings, some of which changed over the course of the drama. Throughout the play, it evolved from a symbol of loyalty to one representing betrayal, perplexity, conspiracy, and death.
Desdemona’s trembling and innocent spirit has been captivated by the Moor’s daring acts. Behind her uncouth appearance, Desdemona recognized Othello’s powerful will and bravery. Desdemona was the first to take a step forward by revealing her feelings to the rest of the company. Lovers marry secretly one another.
The Moor gives his young wife a present: it was given to him by his mother as a boy, and it is a handkerchief that once belonged to her father when he was still alive. According to legend, love and joy would be kept burning in the family hearth if something beautiful happened there. In act 3, scene 4, Othello states:
“…she, dying, gave it me;
And bid me, when my fate would have me wive,
To give it her. I did so: and take heed on’t;
Make it a darling like your precious eye;
To lose’t or give’t away were such perdition
As nothing else could match”.
The first cracks in the couple’s relationship appear after an innocent chat. Desdemona implores her husband to have compassion for Cassio (the general’s subordinate). The youngster is oblivious that the enemies have already laid a cunning scheme, and she easily falls into a trap.
Desdemona senses her spouse’s anxiety. She tries to convey both love and calm while also attempting to allay Othello’s fears. Desdemona bends down and wipes the sweat off of Othello’s forehead with the handkerchief. The worry is brushed aside by the guy.
Othello’s doubt and hesitation are depicted in this shot. He is still attempting to dispel the notion as he tosses away the handkerchief. To stay level, Desdemona clutches this handkerchief to demonstrate her affection for her spouse. Othello, on the other hand, is already too blind to reality, which means his wife’s love and devotion for him were meaningless.
Handkerchief as a symbol of manipulated lives Othello is influenced by Iago’s fears, and he is convinced of Desdemona’s betrayal. He snatches the present away from her in anger as she reaches for it with her handkerchief. Emilia, Iago’s wife, retrieves the kerchief. “I lost it!” exclaimed Desdemona as a result of losing the present.
“Sure, there’s some wonder in this handkerchief:
I am most unhappy in the loss of it.”
(Act 3, scene 4)
The handkerchief signifies all of the people who had their lives taken away from them by Iago’s machinations. Emilia gives Othello and Desdemona’s lives to Iago with this handkerchief. Handkerchief as a symbol of betrayal and death Iago takes the handkerchief from him. Then Iago comes up with a diabolical scheme to put it in Cassio’s pocket:
“I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin,
And let him find it. Trifles light as air
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ: this may do something.
The Moor already changes with my poison:
Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons.
Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
But with a little act upon the blood.
Burn like the mines of Sulphur.”
(Act 3, scene 3)
After Othello shows Cassio the handkerchief, it is taken by the latter since he does not recognize who it belongs to. Iago must provide proof of Desdemona’s infidelity, but Othello’s jealousy is barely contained. Iago tells how he heard Cassio murmuring the name “Desdemona” in his sleep and noticed Desdemona’s hankie at his house. As a result of this, Iago succeeds in fanning Othello into a jealous frenzy.
Desdemona tries to persuade Cassio in Act V, Scene 1, but Othello demands he shows the handkerchief. She is unable to do so, and Othello flies into furious scolding and abuse. The Moor is now certain that Desdemona is cheating on him. In a furious rage, he strangles Desdemona. Then, upon learning of his mistake, he stabs himself.