THE GYPSY “TEST OF THE HANDKERCHIEF” IN OTHELLO(12)

For someone who is surely aware of his abilities to persuade with speech – after all, his autobiographical stories have contributed to his reputation – his decision to allow his character to be judged through his actions seems, at the very least, noticeable if not outright suspicious. Othello is not simply affirming his obvious heroism; he is hiding his eloquence. His “bombast” has made him vulnerable; he may have spoken too much of himself in the past, but it continues to be a weakness, the temptation of his ego.

“My parts, my title, and my perfect soul/Shall manifest me rightly,” (I.2 59) Othello says, with either arrogant conceit or defensive self-assertion, knowing how Brabantio may suspect his origins and, perhaps, expose him. Iago, however, has the last word. “By Janus, I think no,” he says, and with the allusion to the Roman god with two faces, he rejects the presumption of the simple appearance of the truth and hints at the implications of his face. Othello’s face is so visible; and misleading because of it. Indeed, it is the colour of the Janus-faced Othello that has made it difficult (for us) to properly see him.