Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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The dramatic and thematic purposes of Iago carrying two buckets of filth in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

Summary:

The dramatic and thematic purposes of Iago carrying two buckets of filth in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) symbolize his role as a corrupter and manipulator. The filth represents the moral decay and chaos he spreads, aligning with his character in Shakespeare's Othello. This act underscores the themes of deception and moral corruption central to the play.

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What are the dramatic and thematic purposes of Iago carrying two buckets of filth in Act II, scene ii of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)?

The significance of the two buckets of filth that Iago carries lies in the connection that he himself makes between his former state and his present condition, which of course represents a massive fall in society from being a loyal and trusted officer of one of the most important generals of the time to being a character who is only allowed to carry excrement in buckets. Note what Iago himself says:

Othello seeks to hide the grisly news

that he did almost kill his guiltless wife,

so dares not gut me openly in law,

but decorates my service with a mean and stinking

yoke.

From Iago's perspective, his present condition relates to Othello's inability to face up to his own homicidal feelings, and he blames what has happened to him entirely on the character of "the pedant," or Constance, who is of course largely responsible for his fall from grace. However, at the same time, symbolically it is possible to identify further significance in Iago's condition. He is bearing these two buckets of filth "on a yoke," and a "yoke" is something that is a well-known symbol of enslavement and servitude. The fact that he is carrying "two buckets of filth" could represent his own jealousy and hatred, that enslave him to his present course of trying to gain revenge. Macdonald therefore presents Iago in a way that strongly suggests he is an enslaved character by his own thoughts and feelings. 

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In Act II, scene ii of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), MacDonald's Iago enters carrying two buckets of filth. Discuss the dramatic and thematic purpose of this device.

In one sense, there is real poetic justice in describing Iago in this way. He is a character who seeks to profit from peddling filth and reporting it to others, so it is only fitting that, as punishment for his crimes, he has to carry it. Iago himself ironically describes this punishment as a kind of reward:

Othello seeks to hide the grisly news

That he did almost kill his guiltless wife,

So dares not gut me openly in law,

But decorates my service with a mean and stinking

Yoke.

This "decoration" is a just reward for Iago's role in both plays, the original and this rewritten version of the original, as Iago in both seeks to spread filth and poisonous lies to advance his own purposes. In one sense, therefore, this device only makes explicit the role of Iago. However, it also serves the function of making Iago turn against Constance. He sees her as the cause of his present misfortune, and thus begins to think of how he can turn his machinations against her. This is something that has serious implications for the plot of the play.

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What are the dramatic and thematic purposes of Iago carrying two buckets of filth in Act 2, Scene 2 of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)?

McDonald's Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet is filled with clever commentary for those who know Shakespeare's plays. She adds a twist as well to many of the more conventional readings of both classic tragedies.

In this scene, Iago is forced to carry buckets of waste—foul-smelling intestines, for instance—that mark him visually and odiferously as a foul contaminator of the marriage. With Constance, Desdemona is better able to act on her desire to be strong and adventurous, and she can deflect the insinuations that Iago throws in her direction.

An audience who knows Shakespeare's play can take comfort that Iago will not be able to destroy the leading characters. This offers a release from the deterministic tragedy one might expect and also adds to Constance's idea that a fool might have been part of these stories initially.

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What are the dramatic and thematic purposes of Iago carrying two buckets of filth in Act 2, Scene 2 of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)?

I think that Iago carrying buckets of filth holds a few levels of importance.  In terms of the dramatic purposes, it reflects how Iago still wishes to conspire and create havoc between the characters.  In Shakespeare's original drama, his target is Othello.  In Constance's revisionism, his target is Desdemona.  In both cases, the buckets of filth he carries is representative of his malevolence.  Regardless of individual, Iago's constant nature of brutal destruction through deception seems to be universal.  In a more symbolic manner, the buckets of filth might represent the propensity for tragedy.  One of the overriding themes in Macdonald's work is how individuals who fail to acknowledge the complexity and intricacy of human relationships are doomed to tragedy.  Part of this sense of strength and resolve is embodied in Constance herself, who must go back to the Shakespearean dramas and convince women like Desdemona and Juliet not to succumb to the tragic standards that male writers bring to their female subjects.  In the "buckets of filth," one sees a potential symbol to highlight how the predisposition for tragedy is not realistic and holds a tendency for personal destruction.  Another symbolic significance of the buckets of filth might be the sexism that women have to endure both in the real world and in the dramatic one.  The "buckets of filth" that Desdemona has to endure both exists in the tragedy and in the academic world where she is seen as a silent victim.  In Iago's carrying this, one sees a symbol of sexism that women like Constance and Desdemona share in having to address and battle through in order to find their own "Wise Fool."

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