Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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MacDonald's play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is a comedy that incorporates two times, two places, and two perspectives; the play contrasts Shakespeare's verse with modern prose and patriarchal England with a feminist North American present. Discuss how the tension between these competing perspectives generate humor.

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Constance is thrown into Othello, a play she is familiar with, and the comedy emerges as she tries to adapt her speech to fit in. When Constance arrives in Cyprus, Iago is telling Othello that Desdemona gave Cassio the handkerchief, and that Othello should murder Desdemona for her infidelity. Constance interrupts:

Um . . . You're about to make a terrible mistake . . . m'Lord.

Constance tries to sound like them as she adds in m'Lord. There is also comedy when Constance's native speech is up against Shakespeare's words:

Iago: My Lord, I can explain—

Constance: Omigod, what have I done?

This is comedic because Constance utters phrases that we would not expect to hear in Shakespearean plays.

MacDonald uses actual text from Othello and Romeo and Juliet in her play, but sometimes it appears in a different context. At the end of act 2, Desdemona says,

How shall I kill her Iago?

In Othello, this line is spoken by the title character, but now Desdemona says it of Constance.

In patriarchal England, there are societal standards and expectations that are broken in modern North America. MacDonald creates comedy by taking things that are normal to us and placing them in Shakespeare's time. For example, it is normal for women to wear pants. But in the classical Romeo and Juliet, women would only wear skirts. As Constance leaves Othello and journeys into the next play, Desdemona's sword catches her skirt. Thus, Constance enters Tybalt and Mercutio's sword fight

minus her skirt, now wearing just her longjohns, boots and tweed jacket.

As a result, the boys think that Constance is a boy. This creates comedy as she interacts with the characters.

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