Symbols and Themes in Othello

Handkerchief The most dominant symbol circulates through the play since its Othello’s love token to Desdemona. this is why Iago convinces Emilia to steal it from Desdemona,it has a lots of sentimental value and once Othello finds out Desdemona’s lost it he will get mad at her. Desdemona’s Fidelity once Othello finds it in Cassio’s hand he is convinced that D is unfaithful so the handkerchief represents a wedding dress stained with Virgins Blood so when Desdemona Loses it she loses her chastity
Honesty The clearest example of this is how Iago uses personal dishonesty (lies and deceit) to convince Othello that his wife is sexually dishonest (cheating on her husband), all while pretending to be looking out for the best interests of his so-called friend. Check out how Iago plays the martyr when Othello warns him that he, Iago, better not be lying about Desdemona:IAGOO wretched fool.That livest to make thine honesty a vice!O monstrous world! Take note, take note, O world,To be direct and honest is not safe.I thank you for this profit; and from henceI’ll love no friend, sith love breeds such offence.OTHELLO Nay, stay: thou shouldst be honest.IAGO I should be wise, for honesty’s a foolAnd loses that it works for.OTHELLO By the world,I think my wife be honest and think she is not; (3.3.52)
War Every major character in the play packs up and heads for Cyprus, where we’ve been promised a bloody battle. And then, due to inclement weather, there is no war. We, the innocent and unknowing reader, accept this with a little confusion and move right into the sordid plot.We might forget about the whole war thing until Othello’s crucial monologue in Act 3, Scene 3, in which he describes the components of the battlefield – horses, troops, trumpets, banners, cannons – and how they are all lost to him now that he knows Desdemona is unfaithful. Here, these implements of war become symbols of Othello’s sexuality. Think about it – what’s more manly than a big collection of warlike objects? Desdemona has deflated him; he is un-manned by her betrayal.
The Willow Song As Desdemona is preparing for bed the night she will be murdered, she starts singing a song about willow trees. This song, supposedly sung originally by one of Desdemona’s mother’s servants who loved a crazy guy, reflects Desdemona’s own situation. She herself is worried that the man she married has gone crazy and will desert her. Willows at the edge of water are a traditional symbol of women deserted by their lovers.
Gardens Our bodies are our gardens, to the whichour wills are gardeners: so that if we will plantnettles, or sow lettuce […] either to have it sterilewith idleness, or manured with industry, why,the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. (1.3.5) This is a rather elaborate analogy between gardening and exercising free will. Basically, Iago is reminding us that he’s the ultimate master gardener, so to speak, because he has such great control over himself and his actions. We’re also reminded that, part of what makes Iago such a brilliant manipulator of Othello is his ability to plant the seeds of doubt and jealousy in Othello’s mind.
Candle The candle that Othello blows out just before he strangles Desdemona symbolizes Desdemona’s fragile life. Othello draws the comparison himself – as he stands over a sleeping Desdemona with a lit candle in his hand, he says he’s going to “Put out the light, and then put out the light” (blow out the candle and then strangle Desdemona). He also muses that the difference between Desdemona’s life and a candle’s light is that he can put out and relight the candle over and over if he so chooses, but he can kill Desdemona only once: “If I quench thee, thou flaming minister, / I can again thy former light restore, / should I repent me,” he says to the candle. “But,” he says to the sleeping Desdemona, “once put out thy light, / Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature, / I know not where is that Promethean heat / That can thy light relume”