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Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet - ENG 222

All image used (other than the stated cartoons under the "Plot & Structure" section) do not belong to me.

Olivia Lang

on 26 March 2015

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Transcript of Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet - ENG 222

The four main characters from
Romeo and Juliet
who are featured in
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)



In bed that night, Desdemona realizes Othello is planning on killing her and tells him she
is innocent, but he smothers her with a pillow nonetheless. Emilia, Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s lady-in-waiting, discovers what has happened and explains what Iago did and tells Othello that Desdemona was innocent. Cassio confirms Emilia’s story. Othello, distraught, stabs himself and dies on the bed beside his wife.

This advances Othello's plot by two scenes and saves Othello from killing Desdemona.
End of Act III, iii


Skipping ahead to Act IV, i
Iago convinces Othello to smother Desdemona with a pillow in their marriage bed.

a hopeless romantic
a hero
Constance Ledbelly

an assistant professor, student and vegetarian
a fighter
bitter to love
Act II, scene i
Act II, scene ii
Role reversal - Desdemona switches lines with Othello when she desires to
kill Constance
Act III, scene iii onward


a strong woman
an attempted murderer
Main Characters
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario
Othello's Citadel
Verona, Italy
Photo from italywithfriendstravel.wordpress.com
Map by Google
Map by Google
Map by Google
Photo from http://northcypruscastles.blogpost.ca/p/othello-castle-kalesi.html
Photo from http://vacay.ca/2012/07/top-5-4th-of-uly-sites-in-canada/

Act I, scene i
Plot &





Was that the Academic with you now?
It was.
And called in private haste unto my lord?
He makes of her his Delphic prophetess. Othello said she knows our secret selves.
Indeed? Ay, indeed? Discernt thou aught in that? Is she not honest?
What does thou think?
, my lady?
Think, my lady? By heaven thou echo'st me. Thou doest mean something. If though dost love me show me thy thought.
Beware my lady, of the mouse who eats the lion's cheese while sitting in his lap.
...cheese?...mouse? -lion? -in his lap? ...to eat there? -What?!
Thinkst thou I'd make a life of jealousy?
Act II, scene ii - Pages 39-40
Ann-Marie MacDonald


Indeed? Ay, indeed? Discern't thou aught in that?
Is he [Cassio] not honest?
Honest, my lord?
Honest, ay, honest.
My lord, for aught I know.
What does thou think?
Think, my lord?
"Think, my lord?" Alas, thou echo'st me
As if there were some monster in thy thought
Too hideous to be shown. Thou dost mean

Act III, scene iii
William Shakespeare

End of Act II
Constance begins to speak in blank verse.
Power dynamics
Constance's "crush"
the Shakespearean fool
clothing, crossdressing and gender ambiguity
Frame Story and Heroism
Discussion of selection
key passages, in relation
to the course topic
“Hence, scientific metaphor itself:
Divide the mind’s opposing archetypes
— if you possess the courage for the task—
Invite them for the shadows to light;
Unite these lurking shards of broken glass
Into a mirror that reflects one soul.” (Chorus: Act I, The Prologue)

“The alchemy of ancient hieroglyphs
Has permeated the unconscious mind
Of Constance L. and manifested form,
Where there was once unconscious dreamy thought.
The best of friends and foes exist within,
Where archetypal shadows come to light
And doff their monster masks when we say ‘boo’.
Where mingling and unmingling opposites
Performs a wondrous feat of alchemy
And spins grey matter, into precious gold.” (Chorus: Act III, the Epilogue)

Opening and closing lines are mirrors of each other. The diction of both passages are heavily reliant on uncovering the depths of identity, using words like “broken glass”, “archetypes”, “masks”, and “unconscious” to describe the disjunctions and alterations that make IDENTITY difficult to uncover.
“Suspend your disbelief. Be foolish wise.
For anything is possible, you’ll find,
Within the zone of the unconscious mind.”
(Chorus: Act II, Scene I)

Discusses the power of storytelling to transcend the limits of possibility. Questions what draws the lines between fiction and non-fiction. Are the works of the unconscious mind fiction or non-fiction? Are realities only defined by what come to consciousness?
“I’d join these ranks of spiked and fighting shes:
To camp upon the deserts vast and sing
Our songs of conquest, and a dirge or two
For sisters slain on honour’s gory field.” (Desdemona: Act II, Scene I)

“I’ve slaved for years to get my doctorate,
But in a field like mine that’s so well-trod,
You run the risk of contradicting men
Who’ve risen to the rank of sacred cow,
And dying on the horns of those who rule
And pasture with an iron cud.
Not that I’m some kind of feminist.” (Constance: Act II, Scene II)

Depicts the “masking” of characteristics, whereas Desdemona openly proclaims her desire to be an Amazonian warrior, Constance denies being a “feminist” despite her initial comments of inequality within her time period’s patriarchal society. Also opens up the discussion on what a feminist is—its stereotypes, classifications, and reality.

“I must find out my true identity,
And then discover who the author be.” (Constance: Act II, Scene I)

“‘The fool and the Author one and the same’” (Constance: Act III, the Epilogue)

In the first passage, Constance searches for the fool, believing he has the whereabouts of the Author. Note that she also is in search of her “true identity”; these quests are mutually exclusive. The second passage is upon Constance’s realization that she, being the fool of the tale, and “the Author [are] one and the same”, thus blurring the lines of who could be who—a Fool could be an Author, and an Author a Fool.
“O, what would Desdemona do to Claude,
Had she the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? She would drown all Queen’s with blood,
And cleave Claude Night’s two typing fingers from
his guilty hands. She’d wrap them in a box
of choc’lates and present them to Ramona.
She’d kill him in cold blood and in blank verse,
Then smear the ivied walls in scarlet letters spelling ‘thief’! […]
O Vengeance!!!” (Constance: Act II, Scene II)

Constance’s “What would Desdemona do?” moment. The passage depicts the displacement of emotions and qualities that do not fit our self-stereotype unto others. Constance sees herself as a harmless, awkward, gullible “mouse” who could never do such a violent deed.
“Be thou the mirror pool of my desire:
Reflect my love as thou dost ape my form”
(Juliet: Act III, Scene VII)

Discusses the notion of love/desire as a mirror. Is one better reflected in the eyes of a lover, or is it desire itself that deludes and manipulates one’s true identity?
Did my heart love till now?

Forswear it,
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this day!
Act III, scene i - Page 51
Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
Act I, Scene v, 42-51
Now by the stock and honour of my kin,
To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin.
Act I, scene v
OR Act III, scene iv Page 65
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and
is the sun!
I know not how to tell thee who I am.
My sex, dear boy,
is hateful to myself,
because it is an enemy to thee;
therefore I wear tonight, this boyish hose.
Act III, scene v
Romeo's speech - Act II, scene ii
themes and symbols
gender &
gender constructs
Dr. Night
the stereotypical masculine figure
domineering, cunning
gullible, non-confrontational
the passive "feminine" role
Authorship and Power
Constance's search for the original author and fool - does the original author matter so much?
Manipulation of Shakespeare's text to show derive new interpretations and create new dialogue - rebellion against the "uneditable source"
Freedom of action
self-determination of the heroines
freedom to make personal choice
Romeo and Juliet, no longer the archetypal love story
Familial love - ends the swordfight between the two families
Given ability for free speech.

Would this be necessary if characters such as the heroines already have a degree of autonomy in action?
of the Text

The fool addresses contemporary problems of morality, and speaks his perceptions on wide subject matter.
Primarily an entertainer, to provide laughs.
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
of course explicitly discusses two of Shakespeare’s most well known tragedies:
The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice
Romeo and Juliet

ease of gender change through clothing
common in theatre
Glorification of androgynous characteristics
rather than M/F
Scene I and ending acting as a Frame Story

Bleeding effect from frame stories through the passages
Constance embarks on a heroic "quest" to find the author and the missing fool; a metaphor for her unexcavated identity
Story archetype: the Heroic Quest
in this case, a heroine
typically, a character rising from a position of weakness to accomplish a great deed
usually success as a result of "masculine" characteristics such as bravery and courage
Constance's quest is not world-changing but rather a quest for self-exploration.
has four major characters, all of whom feature or are referred to in
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)


female empowerment
Constance turning the pen into gold
Othello is a general of the Venetian army. He is a “moor” (there is a lack of consensus on the meaning of this term in this context, but it seems to suggest that he was of either African or Arab descent), and is very well respected despite the fact that he neither racially nor culturally Venetian. He is known for being courageous in battle, but he is quick-tempered and jealous.
Desdemona is a noble Venetian lady who has just married Othello at the start of the play. She is very sweet and loyal to her husband and is often seen as being submissive.
Iago is Othello’s captain in the Venetian army and is the antagonist of the play. He seems to hate Othello throughout the play, but has him believe that he is completely loyal to him. After losing an opportunity for a promotion to Cassio, Iago vows revenge on both him and Othello. Iago is very manipulative and generally seems to hate women, even going so far as to kill his own wife.
Cassio is Othello’s young lieutenant. He is genuinely devoted to Othello and is popular, trusting and lively, qualities that help Iago convince Othello that Cassio is in a secret relationship with Desdemona.

The four main characters travel from
Venice to Cyprus, where Othello has been called to defend against the Turks. Upset about being passed over for promotion in favour of Cassio, Iago plots revenge against him an Othello. Over the course of the play, Iago manipulates the characters and slowly convinces Othello that his new bride Desdemona may be cheating on him with Cassio. In Act III Scene iii- the scene that is referenced in Act I Scene i of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), and the scene that Constance is ultimately thrown into- Othello confronts Iago and demands proof that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona gave Cassio the same handkerchief he gave her and this proves to him that she is disloyal.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo is the son of the Montague family and is well liked within the city of Verona, where the play takes place. He is very passionate, sensitive and impulsive. His family is in a feud with the Capulet family but Romeo is disinterested in violence.
Juliet is the daughter of the Capulet family; she is portrayed as young, innocent and naïve. As the daughter of a very wealthy, aristocratic family she has little freedom or experience with the outside world. Her main friend and confidant is her nurse.
Mercutio is Romeo’s close friend. He is quick tempered, hotheaded and witty. He becomes annoyed with Romeo’s tendency to fall so passionately in love so quickly.
Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin. He is violent and easily angered, with a strong sense of loyalty and pride towards the Capulet family name.

Romeo and Juliet takes place over the course of 5 days. On the first night, Sunday, the Capulet family holds a masked ball, intended to encourage a relationship between Juliet and Paris, a friend of the Prince of Verona. Romeo and a friend sneak into the ball, and he and Juliet fall in love at first sight. He climbs into her orchard that night and they vow to marry the next day, which they do. After the ceremony Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel, but Romeo refuses because they are now family. Mercutio however accepts the challenge on Romeo’s behalf in Act III Scene i, the scene that Constance references in Act I Scene i of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), and the one she eventually falls into in Act III Scene i. Romeo tries to stop the two from fighting, which inadvertently helps Tybalt to kill Mercutio under his arm. Romeo avenges his friend’s death by killing Tybalt, and flees.


The Prince banishes Romeo for the murder of Tybalt and he leaves for Mantua at dawn on Tuesday morning. Shortly after he leaves Juliet discovers that she is to marry Paris on Thursday. Distraught, she seeks the advice of Friar Lawrence, who gives her a sleeping potion that will allow her to fake her own death for 2 days. The Friar plans to message Romeo in Mantua so that he returns to Verona in time for her reawakening. Excited that she has agreed to marry Paris, Juliet’s parents move the wedding from Thursday to Wednesday, which forces Juliet to take the potion that night and which doesn’t give the message enough time to reach Romeo. Romeo receives news of Juliet’s apparent death before he receives news of the Friar’s plan, and he buys poison and returns to Verona, killing himself in Juliet’s tomb. Juliet awakens, sees his body and stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger.

Ann-Marie MacDonald
Born on October 29, 1958
Canadian playwright, novelist, and actor
She lives in Toronto and Montreal
Attended Carleton University before moving to Montreal to pursue acting at the National Theatre School of Canada.
Moved to Toronto to pursue a career in acting and theatre.
Has acted in many Canadian plays as well as appearing in films.
She is actively involved in political movements and has been huge contributor to second wave feminism and post-Stonewall LGBT liberation struggles movement.
Much of her work reflects her involvement in these movements.
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
, Constance Ledbelly enters and alters the patriarchal world of two of Shakespeare's tragedies.
Other Notable Works
Fall on Your Knees
The Way the Crow Flies
Adult Onset


Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
First solo authored play.
Premiered at the Nightwood Theatre in Toronto, Ontario.
Received the Governor General’s Award for Literary Merit, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award, and the Canadian Authors Association Award.
“I think [
Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
] ended up as a tribute to Shakespeare. It’s a testimonial. Because it was done in the spirit of ransacking –and that’s what Shakespeare did. And I think the greatest thing you can do for an author is to make free with them, ultimately, or they won’t survive. If they’re going to survive, they have to survive all kinds of things.”

Ann-Marie MacDonald

Background of Author
Goodnight Desdemona
(Good Morning Juliet)
-Heavy focus on dialogue and in-scene, rather than expository, writing

-The text is both blank verse and prose - it changes depending on who is speaking, and the setting they are in.

-Constance uses modern, everyday speech while the Shakespearean characters talk in iambic pentameter and blank verse

-Direct quotes from Shakespeare are integrated into the play and clearly set in a different font

-Additionally, MacDonald incorporates her own form of blank verse to expand on the Shakespearean characters' words

-This is contrasted with the way Constance speaks to highlight the difference between past and present
Professional Interpretations
-Hart House Theatre located at the University of Toronto

-Carly Chamberlain directed the performance

-Lorraine Wells & Company Talent Management Inc.

Interpretations of the Novel
Critical analysis through literal translation
Journey of self discovery
The journey of finding the author is a journey to finding the self
Perception of the Tone of Language
Interactions with other characters

The search for the fool
-Functional in a literature sense, while also bringing in lower intellectual level

-Derived from Shakespearean allusions and puns

-Denis Johnston quoted "Beyond the story of our plucky heroine, and beyond some indigenous Shakespearean burlesque, lies a feminist allegory accessible to even the most porcine of male chauvinists"
Connection to Shakespeare
-MacDonald's poor view of Romeo and Juliet shows her true desires

-Includes all forms of intertextuality

-"The third warp effect brings us full circle when Desdemona bursts into Juliet's bedroom (in which the young girl is courting Constance), and tries to smother Constance with a pillow" - Marta Dvorak

-"A hero from one Shakespearean tragedy courting the heroine of another one amounts to a leap in the practice of intertextuality" - Marta Dvorak
"Constance: "Boy, Shakespeare really watered her down, eh?... I wish I were more like Desdemona. Next to her I'm just a little wimp. Arodent. Road-kill. Furry tragedy all squashed and steaming on the 401 with "Michelin" stamped all over me. It's true: people've always made a fool of me without my even knowing. Gullible. That's me Old Connie. Good sport. Big joke. ha. [...] O, what would Desdemona do to Claude, had she the motive and the cue for passion that I have? She would drown drown all Queen's with blood, and cleave Claude Night's two typing fingers from his guilty hands. She'd wrap them in a box of choc'lates and present them to Romana. She'd kill him in cold blood and in blank verse, then smear the ivied walls in scarlet letters spelling "thief"! To think, I help him use me: gull, a stooge, a swine adorned with mine own pearls, sous-chef, nay! a scull'ry maid that slaved to heat hell's kitchen with the baking stench of forty-thousands scalding humble-pies, O Vengeance!!!" p.45-46

Post-structuralist critique
Various Approaches to and Interpretations of the Text
Interpretations of Constance
-Constance controls her whole life

-Understands her own miseries through laughter

-Goodnight Desdemona "requires energy and intelligence but little in the way theatrical pyrotechnics"

-Constance left everyday life and headed towards the worlds of Othello and Romeo
post-structral feminism?
"Constance: "Boy, Shakespeare really watered her down, eh?... I wish I were more like Desdemona. Next to her I'm just a little wimp. Arodent. Road-kill. Furry tragedy all squashed and steaming on the 401 with "Michelin" stamped all over me. It's true: people've always made a fool of me without my even knowing. Gullible. That's me Old Connie. Good sport. Big joke. ha. [...] O, what would Desdemona do to Claude, had she the motive and the cue for passion that I have? She would drown drown all Queen's with blood, and cleave Claude Night's two typing fingers from his guilty hands. She'd wrap them in a box of choc'lates and present them to Romana. She'd kill him in cold blood and in blank verse, then smear the ivied walls in scarlet letters spelling "thief"! To think, I help him use me: gull, a stooge, a swine adorned with mine own pearls, sous-chef, nay! a scull'ry maid that slaved to heat hell's kitchen with the baking stench of forty-thousands scalding humble-pies, O Vengeance!!!" p.45-46
I hate to see you turning into a laughing stock Connie. You know you'll never get your doctorate at this rate"
"Professor: Still harping on the Gustav Manuscript are you?

Wearing a mask
In each play/ reality she takes on different characters

In denial about aspects of her life

Juliet and Desdemona both act as opposites to her character, drawing more attention to her character faults

The Ending
Uses monologues to begin and end the dream sequence

The dream ending works in two ways
Carries a Shakespearean theme to it
Allows for the events to be interpreted as the subconscious mind, making the themes of self-discovery less abstract

"You've witnessed and impossible event: a teacher, spinster- "old maid", some would say
- whose definition of fun and excitement is a run of "ibids"
in an essay, disappears before your very eyes. Suspend your disbelief. Be foolish and wise.
For anything is possible, you'll find, within the zone of the unconscious mind. "

of Constance L. and manifested form where the once subconscious dreamy thought. The best of friends and foes exist within,
where archetypal shadows come to light and doff their
monster mass when we say "boo". Where mingling and
unmingling opposites performs a wondrous feat of alchemy,
and spins grey matter, into precious gold."
"The alchemy of ancient hieroglyphs has permeated
the unconscious mind

Constance Continued
-She "arrives in time to alter the course of history and, she admits "to destroy a masterpiece" - Irene Backalenick
-When Constance is working on her thesis, she uses formal, academic language. She is sure of what she is saying and confident in her ideas - she comes across as intelligent and focused
-When she is interrupted by students or Professor Night, she slips back into casual, everyday language
-She becomes unsure and lacks confidence in her speech, letting the other person dictate the conversation
-Her comfort level in the world of Shakespeare is greater than in her everyday life - she understands his characters more than the people around her, and this is shown in the language she uses, among other things
-After falling into the world of Othello, Constance begins speaking in iambic pentameter.

Constance: Not that I'm some kind of feminist.
I shave my legs and I get nervous in a crowd--
it's just that . . . I was labeled as a crackpot,
by the sacred herd of Academe;
and after years spent as a laughingstock,
I finally came to think that it was true.
But, Desdemona, now that I've met you,
I want to stand out in that field and cry, "Bullshit!"

However, her speech is still full of modern phrases, and her unexpected bluntness adds to the humour of the play, because the reader's expectation is that words arranged in this form will be archaic.
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