Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) Critical Overview
by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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Critical Overview

(Drama for Students)

Tanja Jacobs as Constance Ledbelly in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald, Nightwood Theatre, 1988 Published by Gale Cengage

Goodnight Desdemona was a popular and critically acclaimed play that was vital to launching MacDonald's career. Critics writing for Canadian Literature, Canadian Theatre Review, Maclean, and Back Stage praised MacDonald for producing a witty and successful work. Mark Fortier, for example, writes in Canadian Theatre Review that the original production had its problems but that the play has great potential and that in one performance with "rare energy … I was given a wonderful sense of living, indigenous Shakespeare."

Most critics tend to concentrate their discussion of the play on its value as a work of feminism. Although MacDonald has resisted classifying the play as an exclusively feminist work, she is a selfproclaimed feminist, and critics argue that her analysis of Shakespearean culture and the academic world rests heavily on the feminist tradition. Shannon Hengen, for example, stresses in Canadian Literature that the play is a "feminist comedy" associated with "the potential for real social or political change." Similarly, Marta Dvorak writes in Canadian Theatre Review that the play "can be considered to exemplify contemporary 'female' artistic strategy" and that MacDonald "playfully challenges preconceptions and breaks every rule" with a "strategy of deviance" in order to realize feminist goals.

Some critics are more ambivalent about the success of Goodnight Desdemona as a work of feminism. In Commonweal, for example, Gerald Weales writes: "A feminist play, then, but it is primarily a literary game in which MacDonald makes comedies—farces, more like—out of the tragedies…. But the device finally defeats itself, dissolving into historical tedium." Weales is in the minority, however, with most critics praising the success and innovation of MacDonald's feminism.