Wiliam Shakespeare
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Act 3 Scene 4

Desdemona has sent for Cassio. She wants to tell him that she has talked with Othello and that all the plans are under to reinstate him. However, Desdemona has realized that she cannot find her handkerchief. Othello enters and says that he is feeling as if he is suffering from a headache. He requests specifically for the strawberry-embroidered handkerchief to tie around his head. However, Desdemona deflects this question and continues to ask about Cassio. Othello gets agitated and leaves.

Cassio has found the handkerchief in his lodgings, but he does not know the owner. He presents it to his mistress, Bianca, to make a copy of it. Just them, Bianca realizes that the handkerchief belongs to a woman and she accuses him of having another affair. Iago had placed the handkerchief in his lodgings.


The exchange between Othello and Desdemona starts firmly and formally: "Well, my good lady" (30), and she, taking her prompt from him, answers formally. They talk experiencing some miscommunication, Othello asserts that Desdemona's moist hand demonstrates lust, she replies that it implies youth and honesty. The old upbeat love all of a sudden hit him once more, and he recognizes: "is a good hand, A frank one." (39). The bond between them is restored, and he calls her by a pet name, chuck. However, the bond breaks when she mentions Cassio. Othello requests for the handkerchief, which she can't deliver.

Othello recounts the account of the cloth: it is a treasure in his family, given by an Egyptian witch to his mom as an appeal to keep her husband's love. If by any chance the cloth was lost, the love would go. It is this line of thought that Othello has adopted with Desdemona. The handkerchief symbolizes his love for her, and thus, she needs to have it all the time. On hearing these statements, Desdemona jittery and she decides to lie. She says that "It is not lost, but what and if it were?" (82). Unknowingly, again, Desdemona brings back the story of Cassio. Othello has stood his ground demands for the handkerchief. He has just confirmed that the handkerchief is missing and he cannot stop thinking of Cassio using it to wipe his face. What was a sign of love has now become a sign of betrayal?

There is a significant difference between Othello and Desdemona in this scene. Othello sulky and suspicious while Desdemona is straightforward and loving. Othello's mood has changed, and all the people around him have taken note of it. Emilia and Desdemona are discussing what could have been the cause of the problem. Emilia says that jealousy is a natural characteristic of men who are irrational. However, the events in the previous scene indicate that Othello has serious personal sufferings.

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