Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

Start Free Trial

Characters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1544

Author

Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline

Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!

Start an Essay

See Constance Ledbelly

Chorus

The Chorus is the mysterious and riddling narrator of the play as well as the Ghost of act 3, scene 6. The choral tradition dates back to ancient Greece, where a group of people narrated and commented on the actions of a play. During Shakespeare's time, the chorus was often a single man who spoke during the prologue and epilogue. In the prologue of Goodnight Desdemona, the Chorus takes Constance's manuscript out of the wastebasket and talks mysteriously about alchemy, the mythical process of turning base metals into gold.

During the epilogue, the Chorus reveals that he played the part of the Ghost that appears to Constance in the graveyard. The Ghost tells Constance a number of jokes and riddles that hint at the solution to the play's mystery about the Wise Fool and the Author. Constance believes that the Ghost is Yorick, the family jester whom Hamlet finds dead upon his return to Denmark. As the Ghost, the Chorus serves to move along the plot and direct Constance to her discovery of herself.

Desdemona

Desdemona is Othello's wife and victim in Shakespeare's tragedy. She is generally considered a passive character who is devoted to her husband. Goodnight Desdemona challenges this view, however, and interprets Desdemona as a capable, headstrong, and even violent character who marries Othello because of her passion for war and conquest. In act 2, scene 2, Desdemona acknowledges that academia is wrong about her, when she shouts that the idea that she is a helpless victim is "[b―sh―t]!!"

Constance deeply admires Desdemona, claiming that she is "magnificent" and "capable of greatness." In fact, Desdemona serves as an inspiration for Constance to develop her own confidence and strength as well as her beliefs about feminism. The only major fault in Desdemona's character is her impulse toward tragedy. Like Othello, Desdemona is susceptible to manipulation, because she is gullible and has a tendency to become very angry and jealous. At the end of the play, however, Desdemona promises Constance that she will reform this impulse and acknowledge life's complexity.

Ghost

See Chorus

Iago

Iago is one of English literature's most famous villains. He is a bitter and crafty liar who manipulates Othello into killing his wife. In Goodnight Desdemona, Constance foils Iago's plans, although Iago later conspires to manipulate Desdemona into turning against Constance.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Juliet

Thirteen-year-old Juliet is known throughout the world as a symbol of young love. In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, she falls in love with the son of a rival family and then stabs herself when she finds him dead. Her lines beginning "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" are among the most famous in English literature. Constance describes her as "the essence of first love—/ of beauty that will never fade, / of passion that will never die."

In Goodnight Desdemona, Juliet is obsessed with passionate love. Her petty bickering with Romeo and the threats to tell their parents reveal that they are both immature adolescents who are inconstant in their desires. Juliet is strong and active about realizing what she wants, however. This is why she is willing to dress up as a man and vigorously woo Constance. Her views about love at first sight are idealistic and inspiring enough to persuade Constance to love her.

Juliet is also obsessed with death, and her over-dramatic desire to die is a consistent joke in the play. However much she is charmed by Juliet, Constance faults her tragic impulse toward death and destruction. At the end of the play, Juliet swears that she will reform this impulse and take Constance's advice.

Constance Ledbelly

The protagonist of the play, Constance is an assistant professor at Queen's University who finds her true identity by traveling through the worlds of Shakespeare's works. She is a somewhat clumsy and absent-minded person, but she has a great talent for teaching and literary analysis. At the beginning of the play, she is a frustrated doctoral candidate in love with Professor Night. By the end, she has discovered her sexual desire for women, uncovered her true potential as a scholar, and gained a broad and substantial confidence in herself.

At the center of Constance's struggle is her lack of confidence. Rejected and manipulated by Professor Night, she believes at the outset of the play that she is a failed scholar and lover. Like Desdemona and Juliet, she has an impulse toward self-destruction and tragedy. The fact that she is a woman is crucial to this lack of confidence; Constance tells Desdemona that she is not "some kind of feminist. / I shave my legs and I get nervous in a crowd."

It is by coming to terms with her femininity that Constance begins to uncover some of her best qualities and have faith in her mind and personality. She is inspired by the strength of Juliet and Desdemona, characters that have been misinterpreted by the male-dominated academic world. Constance recognizes that women have been lied about and oppressed, and she gains confidence because these women are actually admirable and inspiring figures.

Constance's true identity, therefore, is a self-assured feminist. She remains somewhat clumsy and awkward, but this is part of her identity as the Wise Fool who is able to write and peacefully resolve comedic plays that Shakespeare turned into tragedies. She returns to the real world with a fuller knowledge of herself and an appreciation of the lessons she has learned from Juliet and Desdemona: namely, an understanding of her latent lesbian desires and a capability to practice violence.

Mercutio

Mercutio is Romeo's close friend and kinsman. In Romeo and Juliet, his death and dying words, "A plague a' both your houses!," set off the tragic events of the play. It is because Constance saves his life that Goodnight Desdemona can become a comedy.

Homework Help

Latest answer posted February 2, 2013, 7:45 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Professor Claude Night

Charming and manipulative, Professor Night is the object of Constance's affections until she finally gets over him. He has an Oxford accent, is "perfectly groomed," and "oozes confidence." He exploits Constance by asking her to do a great deal of his work for him and receive no credit in return. His attitude toward her is sexist and dismissive, and he frustrates the audience because he gets away with everything. Instead of recommending Constance for a lecturing post at Oxford University, he takes it himself and begins a relationship with Ramona, a young student.

Nurse

As in Shakespeare's play, Juliet's nurse is a pragmatic woman who is devoted to Juliet and indulgent of her.

Othello

Othello is the tragic hero of his self-titled play, famous for his courage and strength as well as his rampant jealousy. He is a war hero of the Venetian empire, engaged in battle with the Turks on the island of Cyprus. Constance arrives during the scene in which Iago tells Othello that his lieutenant Cassio is in possession of Desdemona's handkerchief. Othello signals his readiness to be fooled with his famous lines "Had Desdemona forty thousand lives! / One is too poor, too weak for my revenge." Constance exposes Iago's lies, however, and Othello is extremely grateful.

Ramona

A young female student who is "all business and very assertive," Ramona competes with Constance for Professor Night's affections. She wins a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University and travels there with the professor, who has bought her a diamond ring.

Romeo

Romeo is the famously passionate lover of Romeo and Juliet who upsets his family by marrying the daughter of their rivals. In the original play, Romeo becomes embroiled in conflict after Tybalt kills Mercutio, and he eventually kills himself, believing that Juliet is dead. Constance avoids these tragic events by telling Tybalt and Mercutio of the marriage.

In Goodnight Desdemona, Romeo is a figure of comic relief because of his inconstant and often ridiculous passions. He falls in love with Constance, thinking that she is a boy named Constantine, and quickly becomes unhappy with his marriage to Juliet. Romeo dresses as a woman in order to win "Constantine," but he ends up falling for Desdemona and then being whisked away by Tybalt. Romeo's various homosexual and heterosexual desires suggest that he is an adolescent with shifting passions but no firm convictions.

Soldier of Cyprus

The soldier of Cyprus acts as Othello's messenger to Desdemona in act 2, scene 2.

Servant

Capulet's servant is handing out invitations to Romeo and Juliet's marriage feast when Constance pounces on him, mistaking him for the Wise Fool.

Student

The student whose name Constance confuses between "Julie" and "Jill" turns in a late paper in act 1, scene 1.

Tybalt

Tybalt is Juliet's headstrong and violent cousin. He kills Mercutio, and Romeo kills him in Romeo and Juliet, but Constance avoids these murders in Goodnight Desdemona. Throughout act 3, however, Tybalt remains a dangerous presence, ready to kill Constance and turn the play into a tragedy.

Tybalt is somewhat self-obsessed, and his sexually explicit banter suggests that he is possibly homoerotic or gay. MacDonald satirizes Tybalt's manly posing, and she emphasizes that this is one of the great dangers to the comic resolution of the play. In order to ridicule Tybalt's character, the playwright places him and Romeo in a variety of comical situations that culminate when Tybalt whisks Romeo from the crypt, believing that he is a maiden.

Wise Fool

See Constance Ledbelly

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Previous

Themes

Next

Critical Essays