One of the most intriguing aspects of Shakespeare's play, Othello, is the vast use of symbolism throughout the play; it gives great value to seemingly insignificant things. Desdemona's handkerchief may seem to be just a piece of cloth, whereas in reality, it has an immense amount of sentimental value to Othello. The handkerchief belonged to his mother, who used it to make herself desirable and to help her "subdue" her husband. It is a symbol of Othello's parents' love and a symbol of the purity of Desdemona's love for Othello. Therefore, it is not just a mere piece of cloth anymore; it has now become sacred and later in the play, it will be responsible for Othello's demise. Many of the characters in Othello are also symbolic such as Iago who has been characterized as Shakespeare's perfect villain. He is responsible for the deaths of Othello, Desdemona, Roderigo, and Emilia, but appears to feel no remorse. Every action he takes is one of revenge, and the direction as well as the results of that revenge can only be defined as insanity. Therefore, Iago is not just a man; he is symbolic of the evil, jealousy, and hatred in all people. Desdemona and Othello are the complete opposite of Iago. They are symbolic of the goodness in all people. However, the outcome of the play makes them not only symbolic of this goodness, but also the frailty of the people that embody it. .
One of the other things that strike the reader's attention throughout the play is the extreme use of irony used throughout the entire story. Othello's most glaring irony is in the description of Iago as "honest," when in fact, Iago is the play's most dishonest character. The word "honest" repeats itself many times throughout the play, the majority of the instances referring to Iago. Another example of irony is in Brabantio's last words to Othello. He warns Othello that "She has deceiv'd her father, and may thee" (I, iii, 333-334).