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Shakespeare: Othello

15. Act 3, Scene 4: Where is the Handkerchief?

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore Act 3, Scene 4, in which Desdemona and Emilia discuss Othello’s sudden change of temperament, and the handkerchief passes from Cassio’s hands to his girlfriend, Bianca’s. In particular, we think about: (i) Othello’s description of the handkerchief to Desdemona and its mystical, erotic powers; (ii) the importance of ‘perdition’, or loss (“To lose’t or give’t away were such perdition | As nothing else could match”, 69-70); (iii) the ideas, once again, of harmony and disharmony (“My advocation is not now in tune”, 124); (iv) Emilia’s famous speech about jealousy (“Jealous souls will not be answered so”, 159); and (v) the character of Bianca, who is also appears dangerously prone to bouts of jealousy.


In this twenty-one part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s Othello. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, political and intellectual context of early 17th-century England, before going through the play scene-by-scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: We used the Arden edition of the play (Third Series, Revised Edition, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2019, January 27). Shakespeare: Othello - Act 3, Scene 4: Where is the Handkerchief? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Othello – Act 3, Scene 4: Where is the Handkerchief?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Jan 2019,

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