Othello, being a tragedy, it is almost certain that Othello and Desdemona’s love for each other will be challenged, and maybe even broken and this will quite possibly lead to the death of the protagonist, Othello and perhaps many other characters, as this is a common trait of most tragedy’s. Many different things challenge Othello and Desdemona’s love, whether it is different characteristic flaws and qualities that each character possesses, outside influences from other characters, fate and the subtle workings of the text or the incompatibility between military heroism and love.
It isn’t until Act III, when Iago starts to implement his plan that Cassio is sleeping with Desdemona, that Othello and Desdemona’s love for each other starts to get profusely challenged. This is when the audience gets a greater insight into the character of Othello and learns of his strengths and weaknesses. The flaws that that the audience sees in Othello are generally not characteristics that he has always possessed, rather they are forced onto him by the machinations of Iago, we can say that Othello is a good and noble character just being played upon by the deceitful Iago.
When Othello starts to believe Iago about Cassio and Desdemona, the crumbling of his character begins. Othello lacks in self knowledge because he trusts Desdemona so much, when the idea that she is unfaithful pops up and he starts to challenge, his whole world starts falling apart in front of his eyes. Othello being a military man, it can easily be assumed that when he is in a foul mood, which he certainly is at this time of the play, resorting to violence and murder will be a natural solution for him to take, he even says, “I’ll tear her all to pieces. Another flaw that leads to the detriment of Othello and Desdemona’s love is the way that Othello has a distrustful view on people; we not only see this between him and Desdemona, but with women in general and white people as well, when Iago tells Othello that his wife has been sleeping with another man Othello wont believe it, that is until he hears or sees proof of the matter.
Iago does not directly give Othello any proof, only circumstantial evidence and for Othello these few words are enough to make him distrust Desdemona, this weakness in character can possibly be linked back to the fact that Othello is a social and racial outsider in the society in which he lives, for if almost everyone around Othello doesn’t trust him then how can he trust them. The degradation of Othello’s character and the implementation of ideas from Iago into his mind leading to the development of more characteristic flaws are a major influence into the dismantling of Othello and Desdemona’s romantic relationship.
Othello is doomed, due to the fact that he is bound to the genre of play known as a tragedy and the audience can make and educated guess based on other Shakespeare works, like Romeo and Juliet that Othello and Desdemona’s love is also doomed. In typical Shakespeare way the breaking up of Othello and Desdemona’s love is subtly hinted at throughout the play, through different means, be it ironic phrases that a character may say, symbols or other literary devices.
The handkerchief is a major symbol throughout Othello and can be considered as the most major symbol in the play. The handkerchief is a symbol of different things to different people, for Othello and Desdemona the handkerchief is a symbol of their love. Othello gave the handkerchief as a gift to Desdemona and told her that As long as the bride maintained the gift, then the marriage would be a happy and successful one, but if it were to ever be lost, then the marriage would end in tragedy.
As it happens the hanky is stolen and so starts the downfall of their relationship. The idea of the handkerchief is introduced to the audience in act III, straight after Iago’s conversation with Othello and Iago plants the seed in Othello’s mind that Desdemona is unfaithful. Othello tells Desdemona, “Your napkin (handkerchief) is too little. ” this can be taken as Othello saying that your love is too little, straight after this they are about to exit, she then drops the handkerchief and Othello tells her to leave it on the floor.
Othello knows the significance of the handkerchief as he is the one who bought it yet he doesn’t care that she has dropped it and basically tells her to leave their “love” on the ground. Iago steals the handkerchief. Othello that the strawberry’s on the handkerchief were dyed with the blood of virgins and the pattern is on a whit background, this strongly represents the blood left on the sheets of a virgin’s wedding night, so the handkerchief can suggest a guarantee of virginity as well as fidelity.
Losing the handkerchief is detrimental to the relationship of Othello and Desdemona in a symbolic sense. From the beginning an attentive audience member will know that almost any sexual relationship in Othello will be challenged, due to its genre and seems almost guaranteed that the relationship of the protagonist will definitely be challenged if not completely broken up. Later into the novel this becomes apparent and their relationship is strongly challenged through a variety of means and methods. Othello’s relationship is doomed to be broken up.