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Objects of Interpretation in Othello


Nety, Suchita Patil (2017) Objects of Interpretation in Othello. Other, California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/CM2W-HD16.


The disintegration of female power is central to the progression of Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello . Iago’s rapid ascent and control is facilitated by subjugation of the women in the play. The promise of female power is contained in a seemingly inconsequential wisp of linen, Desdemona’s strawberry-patterned handkerchief. The handkerchief is a tangible symbol of female autonomy, both independently and in marriage. The loss of Desdemona’s handkerchief coincides with a rapid upset of the power dynamic between men and women. This results in the silencing of all three women in the play: Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca. The most powerful insults to women are in the form of men assigning interpretations to their bodies, particularly their blood, sweat and tears, ultimately stripping women of their bodily autonomy. A handkerchief’s everyday use is to heal or otherwise contain these physiological substances; thus, the removal of the handkerchief from Desdemona’s possession leaves her vulnerable to Othello’s violence, through misogynistic rhetoric, physical abuse and arbitrary interpretation of her body.

Item Type:Thesis (Other)
Subject Keywords:Prose ; Hallett Smith Prize ; Hallett Smith Prize for Essay Devoted to Shakespeare ; Hixon Writing Center
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Humanities
Awards:Hallett Smith Prize, 2017.
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Unknown, Unknown
Group:Hixon Writing Center, Hallett Smith Prize
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:4 November 2016
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05242017-141541276
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10198
Deposited By: Leslie Rico
Deposited On:25 May 2017 17:09
Last Modified:29 Sep 2020 18:48

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