Red Handkerchief is a white silk handkerchief painted red by repetitive kissing with red lipstick. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, the handkerchief is a symbol of love and fidelity. Othello gifts a handkerchief to his love, Desdemona. However, when passed over for a promotion given to Othello, Iago vows to ruin his happiness. Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona gave her handkerchief to another man, Cassio. The handkerchief’s symbolism morphs from love and fidelity into mistrust and jealousy. His rage drives him to murder Desdemona before the truth of Iago’s manipulations is revealed.
Shakespeare’s story rings true over 400 years later as women are still berated, beat, disfigured and murdered over uncontrollable jealousy and mistrust. Whether true or not, the notion of disrespect and infidelity eats at some people’s mind like a disease. The kisses on this handkerchief symbolize the little doubts and mistrust that cloud someone’s ability to think clearly to the point of obsession and then violence. The handkerchief is bloodied with the thoughts of infidelity.