The Handkerchief In Othello Essay Question

The Significance of the Handkerchief in Othello by Shakespeare

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The handkerchief is significant to the plot, mainly to Iago's manipulation of Othello and his convincing the latter of Desdemona's infidelity. Moreover, it sheds light over Iago, Desdemona, Othello and Emilia's characters, and is thus important to characterisation. The symbolic significance attached to the handkerchief reveals Othello's social background, his treatment of Desdemona and the latter's feelings towards her husband. Interestingly, Othello provides two sides of the story of how he got the handkerchief. In his second account he says that his father gave the handkerchief to his mother as a sign of love when beforehand he states that it was actually an Egyptian woman who provided it to his mother. This interpretation reveals…show more content…

The handkerchief is significant to the plot, mainly to Iago's manipulation of Othello and his convincing the latter of Desdemona's infidelity. Moreover, it sheds light over Iago, Desdemona, Othello and Emilia's characters, and is thus important to characterisation. The symbolic significance attached to the handkerchief reveals Othello's social background, his treatment of Desdemona and the latter's feelings towards her husband. Interestingly, Othello provides two sides of the story of how he got the handkerchief. In his second account he says that his father gave the handkerchief to his mother as a sign of love when beforehand he states that it was actually an Egyptian woman who provided it to his mother. This interpretation reveals Othello's superstitious nature and his believe in magic, casting him as an outsider to the Venetian society. His exotic background almost makes the audience doubt whether Othello's elopment with Desdemona was truly based on love and makes one reflect on Brabantio's accusations of his daughter being taken away by 'spells and medicines bought of Mountbanks.' Desdemona attaches great value to the handkerchief since it stands as a symbol of Othello's love for her and she communicated with it and substitutes it as if it is Othello. Despite the fact that this act displays her love for Othello, it unfurls a certain immaturirty and childishness on her behalf. Othello mirrors Desdemona's attitude towards the handkerchief, giving it the utmost

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Sample essay questions on Othello

1. In another play by Shakespeare a tragic hero described himself as ‘more sinned against than sinning.’ In your opinion, could this also be true of Othello? In the course of your answer:

  • Explain clearly in what ways Othello might seem to be a victim
  • Comment on what the play suggests about Shakespeare’s view of tragedy. (OCR 2002)

2. ‘The tragedy of a handkerchief.’ Is the play Othello as trivial as this comment implies?  (OCR 1999)

3. How far are you convinced by Iago’s reasons for the causes of action that he pursues in the play?  (UCLES 1998)

 

4. Othello can be regarded as a foolishly gullible man; yet early on Iago acknowledges his ‘constant, loving, noble nature’ and at the end of the play Cassio describes him as ‘great of heart.’ Discuss your own response to Othello in the light of these judgements. (UCLES 1998)

 

5. How convincing does Shakespeare make Iago’s ability to trick Othello with such apparent ease? (UCLES 1998)

 

6. Othello, Iago and Cassio are soldiers. How important are military values and attitudes in the play? (UCLES 1998)

 

7. The relationship between Iago and Roderigo offers an ironic parallel to the main action of Othello.’ By considering the dramatic presentation of their relationship, evaluate this view. (OCR 2011)

 

8. ‘The women in Othello are articulate, but frustratingly unable to save themselves from the cruelty of men.’ Evaluate this view by exploring the presentation of women and their situations in the play.  (OCR 2011)

 

9. ‘Despite his apparent good nature, Cassio plays a significant part in Othello’s downfall.’ By exploring the presentation of Cassio in Othello, evaluate this view. (OCR 2011)

 

10. By considering the dramatic presentation of Othello, evaluate the view that ‘the power of the play lies in its central paradox: that Othello is shown to be both a hero and a fool.’  (OCR 2013)

 

11. ‘For a hero, Othello is too easy to pity, too hard to like.’ By considering the dramatic presentation of Othello, evaluate this view.  (OCR 2012)

 

12. By considering the dramatic effects of the play, evaluate the view that ‘Iago does not destroy Othello; he provokes Othello to destroy himself.’  (OCR 2012)

 

13. How far do you agree that Desdemona is both ‘brave and touchingly naïve in her character and actions’? In the course of your answer:

Explain clearly your own understanding of Desdemona’s character

Comment on what the play suggests about her relationships with other characters.  (OCR 2004)

 

14. In what ways do you think reputation and honour are significant concerns in the play Othello? In the course of your answer:

  •  Explain clearly how characters in the play regard reputation and honour
  •  Comment on the importance of these concerns in the world of the play. (OCR 2004)

15. Is it adequate to say that Othello’s tragedy is caused by his jealousy? In the course of your answer:

  • Discuss the part played by jealousy in Othello’s downfall
  • Comment on other factors that you think contribute to his ruin.   (OCR 2004)

16. ‘Emilia’s character deserves to be considered as one of the major characters of the play.’ How far do you agree? In the course of your answer:

  • Explain clearly how Shakespeare presents the character of Emilia
  • Comment on Emilia’s contribution to the action and concerns of the play. (OCR 2003)

17. Read Act 2 Scene 3 from ‘Now, by heaven, / My blood begins my safer guides to rule’  to ‘But never more be officer of mine.’ What does the passage add to your understanding of the relationship between Othello and Iago? In the course of your answer:

  • Look closely at the language and tone of the speeches
  • Comment on what the play suggests about honesty. (OCR 2003)

18. Read Act 2 Scene 3 from ‘I remember a mass of things,’ to ‘I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness.’ What does the passage contribute to your understanding of Cassio and Iago in their relationship? In the course of your answer:

  • Look closely at the language, imagery and tone of the passage
  • Comment on what the passage suggests about the contrast between Cassio and Iago in the context of the whole play.  (OCR 2004)

19. Read Act 3 Scene 3 from Iago (returning) ‘My lord, I would I might entreat your honour’ to ‘I am very sorry that you are not well.’ In what ways does this passage help to prepare us for Othello’s turning against Desdemona? (OCR 1999)

 

20. Read Act 4 Scene 3 from ‘”The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree”’ to ‘their husbands’ faults/If wives do fall.’ How does this dialogue develop your response to Desdemona? In the course of your answer:

  • Look closely at the language, imagery and tone of the passage
  • Comment on what the passage suggests about the role of women in the play.  (OCR 2002)

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