Othello Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does the handkerchief function in act 4? Keeping track of its movements from here to the end of the play.

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The handkerchief, which belonged to Othello's mother and was given to Desdemona as a love token, becomes extremely important in the second half of the play when Iago decides to use it to serve his scheme. When Desdemona drops the handkerchief after trying to mop Othello's forehead with it, it is Emilia who picks it up. She gives it to Iago, knowing that he has often "woo'd" her to steal it. She does not know what he plans to do with it, but she wants to "please his fantasy." Iago will not explain what use he has for the handkerchief to Emilia, but he then explains to the audience that he "will in Cassio's lodging lose this napkin / And let him find it." He knows that he will be able to use Cassio's possession of the handkerchief to stoke Othello's jealousy.

Cassio gives the handkerchief to his lover, Bianca, to "take out the work," but she takes it to be "some minx's token" and is offended. Othello witnesses this argument between the two lovers and notes that it is his handkerchief over...

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