are these things really proof of anything

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No, the handkerchief and Iago's incessant innuendos are proof of nothing. Othello hangs off Iago's words because he thinks in absolutes. Either Desdemona is a pure angel or she is a whore: there is no in-between. Othello's simple psyche makes fertile ground for Iago to plant his lies and water them with circumstantial evidence.