In European medieval and renaissance love poetry, the handkerchief is typically a symbol for a woman's romantic favor. For instance, there was a particular ritual in which a lady would drop her handkerchief for a knight to pick up and keep as a token of her regard. The handkerchief that Othello gives Desdemona is, similarly, a love-token and therefore a symbol of their love. But the handkerchief, which originally belonged to an Egyptian sorcerer, also comes to symbolize the illusions that Iago is "casting" through his plotting and subterfuge.
The Handkerchief Quotes in Othello
The Othello quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Handkerchief. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Othello published in 2015.).
Act 3, scene 3 Quotes
The Handkerchief Symbol Timeline in Othello
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Handkerchief appears in Othello. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, scene 3
Act 3, scene 4
Act 5, scene 2
...happened. Othello insists again that Desdemona was unfaithful and brings up the proof of the handkerchief. Now Emilia explodes in anger, and explains that she was the one who found the... (full context)