Desdemona and the Handkerchief in Othello
At first glance, Shakespeare’s Desdemona may seem like woman remarkable for her beauty and not much else. In fact, Desdemona is a foil and a catalyst who wields power over men who desire her. The male characters in Othello want to control Desdemona because possession of a woman like Desdemona gives them status and a sense of power; she drives them to commit acts of rage, pride, and jealousy. This is best illustrated by Desdemona’s relationships with Othello, Brabantio, and Iago. It is also symbolized by Desdemona’s handkerchief, which comes to represent both desire and conflict.
Desdemona’s father, Brabantio, treats her as an object through which he defines himself. He is a Venetian senator and favors Othello, the Moorish general of the Venetian forces. But when his daughter, Desdemona, decides to marry Othello, he is outraged. Iago, Othello’s ensign, says “an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe” (1.1.85-86)”. Out of rage, Brabantio tries to stop the marriage from happening, blames Desdemona’s decision on Othello’s alleged use of witchcraft, and even goes to plea to the duke to stop the marriage, but realizes there is nothing he can do. He tells the duke Desdemona is dead to him and that she “Blushed at herself; and she-...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 905 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7161 literature essays, 2010 sample college application essays, 296 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in