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Galef, D. (1998). Impertinent Trifling: Desdemona's Handkerchief. Harry Berger, Jr. Shakespeare Quarterly. XLVII, iii, 1996. Pp. 235-250. Psychoanal Q., 67(1):184-185.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Impertinent Trifling: Desdemona's Handkerchief. Harry Berger, Jr. Shakespeare Quarterly. XLVII, iii, 1996. Pp. 235-250

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(1):184-185

Impertinent Trifling: Desdemona's Handkerchief. Harry Berger, Jr. Shakespeare Quarterly. XLVII, iii, 1996. Pp. 235-250

David Galef

Nowhere in Shakespeare's plays is the contested object of desire waved more as a flag than in Othello, where Desdemona's handkerchief comes to symbolize a world of love, pain, and betrayal. As Berger points out, the source of all this controversy begins as a modest “napkin,” offered to dab at Othello's head (Act III, Scene iii). Later fetishized by Othello as a token of Desdemona's love and used as a pawn by Iago, the piece of fabric achieves a rich psychological existence of its own. Particularly significant, therefore, is its loss, which Berger terms a psychic collaboration between Desdemona and Othello, including its “disremembering.” Given Othello's tortured relations, his condemning her for the loss grants “the apotropaic power to ward off the contamination of their coupling by

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moderating the sexuality she arouses.” Othello thus becomes a drama of selective recall, fetishism, loss, and castration.

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Article Citation

Galef, D. (1998). Impertinent Trifling: Desdemona's Handkerchief. Harry Berger, Jr.. Psychoanal. Q., 67(1):184-185

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