Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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How does MacDonald turn her antiheroine into a heroine in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)?

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Through the course of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald transforms protagonist Constance Ledbelly from an antiheroine into a heroine. An antiheroine lacks qualities traditionally expected in a heroine, like confidence, courage, physical prowess, and perseverance. At the beginning of the play, Constance is an insecure academic who cannot stand up to a student with an overdue paper or a higher-ranked colleague stealing her work to present it as his own. In fact, this colleague, Professor Claude Night, receives a position at Oxford that she wanted. He also takes along his Rhodes Scholar girlfriend whom Constance envies both romantically and professionally. She also lacks confidence in the theory of her doctoral thesis, which posits that the tragedies Othello and Romeo and Juliet are not actually tragedies, but comedies.

After saving Desdemona and altering the course of Othello, Constance gains some courage to stand up to Claude and her academic colleagues who call her “The Mouse” (II.i) Desdemona encourages Constance to fight for her self-respect and theory because “we be women; not mice” (II.i) Constance tries to pep-talk herself with

don’t be scared, it’s just a play and Desdemona is looking after you. Desdemona! I am verging on the greatest academic breakthrough of the twentieth century. (II.i)

After revealing that for years her colleagues labelled her a “crackpot” (II.ii) and “laughingstock” (II.ii) to the point where she actually believed them, Constance declares, “But Desdemona, now that I’ve met you, I want to stand out in the field and cry, ‘Bullshit’!” (II.ii) Her transformation is not completely linear as she has some doubts, admitting “I wish I were more like Desdemona. Next to her I’m just a little wimp. A rodent.” (II.ii)

Later, Constance does exhibit courage and physical prowess. At the end of her time in Othello, she fights and disarms Iago in order to save Desdemona (II.ii). When Constance enters Romeo and Juliet, she tackles and duels with Romeo in order to prevent him from stepping between Tybalt and Mercutio (III.i), thus altering the tragic course of the play. Constance later flirts with both Romeo and Juliet. By act 3, scene 5, Constance develops a swagger, lights a cigarette, and meets up with Juliet. After confessing that she is actually a woman (Juliet had mistaken Constance for a boy), she admits her love for Claude. Although Juliet encourages her to commit suicide as a result of her broken heart, Constance resolves instead to find the plays’ s“Author first; or else the Fool to lead me to the bard...and Self. It is my quest.” (III.v). Later, Constance courageously speaks with a ghost to seek the Manuscript and find its Author.

By the end, Constance has gained the confidence to admit her mistakes, yet remain passionately sure of and devoted to her theory. When she confronts both Desdemona and Juliet about their character flaws, she concedes that she was a “monumental fool to think I could save you from yourselves...Fool...” (III.ix) Nonetheless, she asserts, “I was right about your plays. They were comedies after all, not tragedies” (III.ix). Constance realizes that she is the Fool and that indeed “The Fool and the Author are one and the same.” (III.ix)

Finally confident in her intellectual, physical, and emotional abilities, Constance becomes a true heroine by the end of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).

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