The handkerchief in Othello is arguably the most dominant symbol in the play. Othello gives his handkerchief to Desdemona as a gift to show his love for her. The handkerchief had been passed down by Othello’s parents, giving it importance to Othello and Desdemona. The actual handkerchief itself is a white napkin with strawberries sewn into it. The first time we see the handkerchief is in Act Four, scene three, lines 326-331 when Othello has a pain in his forehead and Desdemona offers her handkerchief: “Let me but bind it hard; within this hour it will be well." and "Your napkin is too little.” Othello rejects the handkerchief because it would be too small to bind his head. As soon as he says this, Desdemona drops it unnoticed, and Emilia picks it up, which is how it gets into Iago's hands. This handkerchief is very important to both Othello and Desdemona. Othello says that the handkerchief was woven by an old prophet. It was used by Othello's mother to keep his father faithful so to Othello it symbolizes faithfulness.
When the handkerchief is mistakenly dropped, Emilia gives it to Iago who just sees it as a way to destroy Desdemona and Othello's relationship. Once the handkerchief gets into Iago's hands, it goes from being a symbol of love to a tool in an evil plan. Iago was already working on getting Othello and Desdemona to fight, but nothing he did compared to his plan with the handkerchief. If Othello found the handkerchief to be in Cassio's possession, then it would seem that there was infidelity occurring which would drive Othello crazy. Once Iago's idea goes as planned, Othello goes mad with jealousy and rage. Desdemona, having no idea why Othello is angry, is just confused about his rage. This one small item completely swings Othello's mood and belief that Desdemona is still faithful. Once Othello is in this rage, he decides that he needs to kill Desdemona. In the end of the play, Othello does just that; he strangles her. Once she is dead, others come in, the truth is revealed, and everyone realizes that Iago is to blame. This leads Othello to kill himself because he wants to be with his bride. Iago gets taken away and is going to be tortured for his part in the two deaths.
Overall this simple, white handkerchief leads to two deaths and to Iago's despair. This just goes to show that simple objects that are not thought much of can do very big things and cause a lot of commotion.