Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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What is the purpose of the mouse imagery in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)?

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Constance is described as a mouse, and in fact this is the nickname that her students gave to her. It reflects her timid and unassertive style before she embarks on her Shakespearean adventure. The playwright is clearly making a comment about the position of women in a patriarchal society. Just as Constance is mouselike in regards to her position in 20th century Canada, so critics through the ages have regarded Juliet and Desdemona as victims of a patriarchal society. However, during the course of the play, Macdonald reinterprets such views, presenting both this heroines as very assertive and strong characters. Their characters allow Constance to challenge her nickname and to see that she is not mouselike and that in fact she is very strong and assertive herself. Note how she takes on Iago in a swordfight in Act II scene 2 and wins:

Dear God, I could have murdered that poor man.

I saw a flash of red before my eyes.

I felt a rush of power through my veins.

I tasted iron blood inside my mouth.

I loved it!

The animal imagery with regards to Constance thus helps focus the audience on one of the themes of the play, which is the extent to which Constance successfully reinvents herself as a strong and assertive woman who no longer needs to be the prey of characters such as Claude Night.

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