Swordplay is used in both Othello and Goodnight Desdemona (Good morning Juliet). Discuss how this device is used to different ends in each play.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Swordplay in Shakespeare's original is shown to be the province of men alone. In Macdonald's reinvented version of the play, she deliberately challenges the presentation of Desdemona as a passive female victim who is weak and unable to do anything about her fate. In the newer version, Desdemona is presented as a bloodthirsty woman who herself shows considerable strength and violence, and is the equal of the men around her. This causes Constance to reflect on her own weak and passive nature:

Boy, Shakespeare really watered her down, eh?...

I wish I were more like Desdemona.

Next to her I'm just a little wimp.

A rodent. Road-kill...

Just as Desdemona's assertive and powerful nature is shown through her confident handling of arms, so too is Constance's change from passive female victim to author of her own destiny indicated when she picks up a sword and defeats Iago in a duel to "save" Desdemona. Swordplay therefore is used as a symbol of female strength and dominance, whereas in Shakespeare's original it is a product of patriarchal society alone, reinforcing the lack of assertiveness of women. 

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