Handkerchief is the most central symbol in the play, Othello, it circulates throughout the play. As s a sexual virtual symbol, the handkerchief drives critical action in the play. The handkerchief represents several things which include: power, ocular proof, virginity, love, and many more. It’s evident that the handkerchief contains symbolic and physical interpretations which keep on varying with different characters. Initially, the handkerchief belonged to Othello’s mother; her husband gave it to her so that she could remain faithful to him. The color of the handkerchief is white. White symbolizes purity, the strawberries symbolizes beauty, fertility and faithfulness. The handkerchief was the first gift of Othello to Desdemona. He gave it to her as a symbol of love. The handkerchief symbolizes different things to different characters. For Desdemona and her husband Othello it was a symbol of love. The handkerchief is manipulated by Lago such that it represents Desdemona as not being faithful to her husband.
Othello allows the kerchief to fully assume its task as representative of his wife’s fidelity to him. This leads to Othello accepting circumstantial false evidence of the kerchief as a physical proof against his wife. Othello in the play states that now see this is true (“tis true”). For Othello the meaning of the handkerchief is completely divorced from the real physical reality. In the real sense the handkerchief does not prove anything. Othello imbues strong symbolic meaning to the kerchief that it inspires the play’s misfortune. According to Othello circumstantial evidence is capable of replacing ocular proof.
Lago describes the handkerchief as being “spotted with strawberries”. It can be argued that the strawberry symbolizes blood while on the other hand the kerchief represents wedding bed sheets. The missing handkerchief can be used as a visual proof of consummated marriage. Even though the physical reality strengthens Othello’s case of incidental interpretation it does not prove his conclusion. The missing kerchief cannot be used as an evidence of infidelity because Lago is manipulating the situation unfortunately Desdemona and Othello are not aware of it.
From the play its vivid clear that the handkerchief symbolizes power in a relationship. Emilia is a perfect example of this. She sees it as an object of power in two distinct relationships. She wants to have a copy of it so that she can give it to her husband. She states that her husband desires it. When the kerchief is misplaced Othello interprets it as abuse of the gift of power that he had bestowed on Desdemona. Othello’s wife has power over him through sex. In Act 1 Othello states that he would not allow sex to divert his actions. This statement clearly indicates that his wife has sexual power over him and that he should resist it. Lago is also aware of it and he laments about it. Lastly, it can be seen that the handkerchief has physical powers. When Othello complains that he had a headache, Desdemona tied the kerchief on his forehead. This was a symbol of handkerchief power ability to cure.
In conclusion, the kerchief itself matters very little if otherwise it could be any other object given to Desdemona and have the same value to Othello. However, the symbolic value of the kerchief is very strong to Othello such that it convinces him to kills his wife for supposedly infidelity. The play ends tragically after Othello kills his wife. Lago knew that Othello values the handkerchief a lot and that’s why he is in a position to manipulate him.