Humanities, period: 4th
May 10th, 2015
4 Paragraph Essay
Prompt 3: Handkerchief
Helen Fisher once said, “
Once you fall for someone, their smell can be a powerful thing. Women will wear their boyfriend's' T-shirts, and throughout tales in history men have held on to their lover's handkerchief.” Items are given symbolism even something as insignificant as what wipes one’s nose.
Things can become tokens of love, remembrance, tests, fidelity and much more. In
, written by
Shakespeare, Iago is angry with Othello for not giving him a job and possibly sleeping with his wife. He is determined to destroy Othello by using his new bride Desdemona and the man who took his job. In the end, many die due to his lies. The handkerchief is the perfect weapon, or prop for Iago to use against Othello, Cassio and Desdemona; which then morphs into a character itself.
The handkerchief is a perfect weapon for Iago to use because it’s a symbol of Othello’s love and trust in Desdemona. Othello was speaking to Desdemona when he was talking to her about what his mother’s handkerchief meant and that if she lost it or give it away, it would be an unspeakable loss, a loss nothing else could match (Act 3, Scene 4, Page 4). Othello gave Desdemona his mother’s handkerchief as a token of his love for her to hold onto. The handkerchief can also be viewed as being a test of their love and devotion for each other. If Desdemona were to lose the handkerchief, misplace it or give it away, the result would be unspeakable - which may lead to huge problems with their marriage, and possibly one or both of their lives. Later on in the storyline, Iago asks Emily, his wife, to steal Desdemona’s handkerchief, “I am glad I found this napkin, this was her first remembrance of the
Moor” (Act 3, Scene 3, Pg. 13) and she continues to talk about how her husband wanted her to take,
“My wayward husband hath a hundred times wooed me to steal it, but she loves the token (for he
conjured her she should ever keep it) that she reserves it evermore about her to kiss and talk to” (Act
3, Scene 3, Pg, 14). Emily is saying that she’ll take it to please her husband’s needs for the handkerchief but she doesn’t approve of what she’s doing for him. She also knows how much the
‘kerchief means to Desdemona so she’ll only take the cloth and copy the embroidering onto another, so she can give it back to her as fast as possible. Emily has no clue what Iago wants to do with the
‘kerchief but she doesn’t want to know either. However, after she takes the ‘kerchief from
Desdemona, the handkerchief slowly becomes a character all in itself.
The handkerchief is more than a hand-me-down snot rag - it’s a symbol of love, devotion and a test of responsibility between two lovers. Othello and Iago are discussing how Iago has “proof” of
Desdemona cheating on Othello because he saw Cassio with the handkerchief and in bed with her, “Lie with her? lie on her? We say “lie on her” when they belie her! Lie with her--that’s fulsome.
Handkerchief--confessions--handkerchief!” (Act 4, Scene 1, Pg. 3). He’s so distraught at the fact that
Desdemona may have cheated on him. What’s even worse about this situation is that Iago never really found proof of anything, he’s just twisting what he says to make the Moor (Othello) go mad. He’s acting as if the handkerchief would tell him the truth--as if the handkerchief is going to confess what exactly happened, as if it were a human being. After Othello kills Desdemona, Emilia confronts Iago and questions him of his actions, as well as accusations and Othello states, “It’s…