Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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How does Ann-Marie MacDonald undermine gender stereotypes in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)?

Ann-Marie MacDonald undermines gender stereotypes in Goodnight Desdemona by depicting the originally pure and long-suffering Desdemona as a feisty, aggressive, foul-mouthed woman willing to take decisive action to get what she wants.

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Ann-Marie MacDonald turns Desdemona from the pure, virtuous, long-suffering wife of Othello into a feisty, fighting, assertive woman more typical of our own era.

In Shakespeare's depiction, although Desdemona is a woman of strong character who is clear in her own mind about her love for Othello, she also conforms to the gender stereotypes of the time regarding how a good wife should act. She is trusting and faithful, and even when Othello abuses her because he thinks she is lying to him about Cassio, she tolerates his behavior to the point of accepting death at his hands. Shakespeare is at pains to show her as an angelic emblem of matrimony, so that no blame will fall on her for Iago and Othello's actions.

MacDonald, in contrast, undermines gender stereotypes by turning Desdemona into a much more "bad-ass" woman, one as willing to fight and curse as a man might be. This Desdemona compares herself to warrior Amazon women and defends herself to Constance, saying:

Did I not flee my father ... Will I not dive into Sargasso Sea, to serve abreast the Amazons abroad? ... So raise I now the battle cry, Bullshit!

It is hard to see an audience of Shakespeare's day warming to such an aggressive woman. This Desdemona is ready to dive into action and even tries to kill Constance. This cursing Desdemona not only admires Othello for his warrior qualities—she wants to be like him, and regrets that her gender blocks this path.

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