Symbols in Othello

Symbols Examples in Othello:

Act III - Scene III 1

"I am glad I have found this napkin: This was her first remembrance from the Moor:..."   (Act III - Scene III)

Emilia explains the significance of the napkin, giving meaning to the previous exchange between Desdemona and Othello. Desdemona tries to heal Othello’s ache with this symbol of their love, but he refuses it, and it falls to the floor. This small moment foreshadows the breaking down of their relationship.

"Had all his hairs been lives, my great revenge Had stomach for them all...."   (Act V - Scene II)

Othello claims that he would take Cassio’s life as many times as Cassio’s number of hairs. On one level, this serves as an exaggerated metaphor for Othello’s anger; on another, the symbolism of hair is important. Hair is often a symbol for virility and vitality. Considering Cassio’s crime of adultery, it makes sense that Othello targets the man’s hair as he imagines his revenge.