Ann-Marie MacDonald’s widely produced play, and winner of the 1990 Governor General’s Award for Drama, presents Constance Ledbelly, an academic who is sucked into and disrupts the story-worlds of two Shakespearean plays, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. MacDonald, through Constance, re-writes the interactions between the plays’ male and female characters, in the process both revealing and disrupting the gender and sexual norms and expectations that drive both stories. Furthermore, the play also offers a playful illustration of how critical analysis disrupts and re-constitutes the stories it engages with. This two-fold illustration offers a parodic critique/revision of the gender roles propagated within literature and through its analysis.
Questions to Keep in Mind While Reading
- Parody: This play is playful, using dramatic irony, juxtaposition, innuendo, and re-presentation (through appropriated Shakespearean lines in italics) to suggest humorous undertones to the dialogue, actions, and other facets of the source plays and contemporary society. Note these moments of irony and alteration and consider how their playfulness might contribute to the play’s thematic content.
- Frame: Consider how the play (in both its staged and written forms) frames stories and characters. For instance, how are the original stories represented in Act 1? How does this frame the active interruptions of Acts 2 and 3 and the final moments of return to the office? Also, consider how the repetition of Shakespearean forms, such as the Act/Scene divisions, adds to the development of this contemporary play.
- Language: The play emphasizes the misrecognition and misunderstanding of dialogue, characters, features, and objects. Often a double or triple understanding of a word, person, event, or object is revealed. How does this highlighting of the ambiguity of language contribute to the exploration of various facets of identity and autonomy in the play? Consider especially identity-revealing or constraining descriptions and actions related to gender and sexuality, professional and personal inclinations, critical inquiry and ignorance, and villainy, witchery, and heroism.
- MacDonald, Ann-Marie. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1990. Print.