The handkerchief is an important symbol within the play. Othello gave it to Desdemona after he received it from his mother. It is the handkerchief that is used as evidence by Iago that Cassio has slept with Desdemona as he plants it within Cassio’s room and the very fact that Desdemona cannot find it seems evidence enough for Othello to be convinced of her guilt. The way Iago himself acquires the handkerchief is further evidence of his own manipulative skills as he has persuaded Emilia to give it to him and when Desdemona drops it Emilia takes that opportunity. Othello tells Desdemona that it was woven by a sibyl, or female prophet, using silk from sacred worms and dye extracted from the hearts of mummified virgins. Othello claims that his mother used it to keep his father faithful to her and therefore it represents loyalty and fidelity. The strawberries on the handkerchief are also seen as representing the blood of a virgin on the marriage sheets.
The melancholy song reflects the mood of the scene. At this point it is clear that Othello’s feeling for Desdemona have changed dramatically and Emilia certainly fears for Desdemona’s safety after hearing of Othello’s instructions. The song also symbolises the loss of love and the way that women suffer at the hands of men.
- What is the significance of the handkerchief?
- Your answer should include: Symbol / Love / Evidence / Iago / Manipulation / Desdemona / Infidelity
- What is the significance of the willlowsong?
- Your answer should include: Conveys / Sadness / Relates / Desdemona / Situation / Symbolises / Loss / Love