Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is a three-act play written by Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald in 1988. Constance is an assistant professor to Claude Night at Queen’s University, and she uses her thesis writing to understand her life. She has a fountain pen with green ink that she uses to write this thesis. In MacDonald’s play, her green ink and the pen symbolize alchemy, fertility, naivety, youth, and regeneration, while the eventual gold pen stands for her transition into a more valuable self.
The fountain pen’s green ink represents Constance’s beginning, which is naïve, fertile, and youthful. She writes for Night, who treats her miserably and rejects her thesis idea. Constance fails to stand against Night because she does not value herself as she responds, “I’m not the least bit special… I’m just one flawed and isolated fragment of a perfect infinite mind” (MacDonald, 1998, p. 16). The green ink runs out when Night enters to symbolize his negative influence on Constance’s fertility. Night’s wiping of the green ink from his hands reveals his mocking and patronizing of her. Therefore, the green ink and pen symbolize Constance’s naïve nature that is rejected by Night and transformed through life experiences.
The pen undergoes alchemy when it becomes gold to represent Constance’s regeneration into her valuable self. Alchemy is the transmuting of common things into those of great value in speculative philosophy. When her two archetypes, Desdemona and Juliet, are conflicting, she finally speaks up, saying, “Nay nay!! – Nay. Just…nay…both of you. I’ve had it with all the tragic tunnel vision around here “(MacDonald, 1998, p. 86). The confidence and courage she masters to control her fate are indicated by the eventual gold pen. Constance is finally ready to please herself before everyone else.
As a literature concept, Geography plays a central role in most of Shakespeare’s plays, including Othello. The play is set in Venice but moves to Cyprus from the second act to the final one. Othello‘s beginning in Venice is significant, as the city was perceived to be culturally sophisticated than other major cities of the time, and Italians were associated with power, wealth, and order. After the first act, the characters move to Cyprus, which is nothing close to Venice. Cyprus is threatened by war, lies between a heathen and civilized world, and represents lurking danger and unfamiliar territory for the characters. When Othello‘s characters move from Venice’s organized and powerful city into warring Cyprus, their passions, anger, and lack of order are unleashed.
Venice was a commerce center and home to incredible art, such as painting, music, and literature. The play’s beginning in the city was important because Venice also symbolized moral depravity, political intrigue, and decadence of the period. Many social vices, including prostitution and political treachery, also polluted the city. Unlike Venice, Cyprus is more brutal and mainly dominated by male power. Therefore, the contrast between Venice and Cyprus supported character and plot development in Othello.
In Cyprus, Desdemona has no support but is isolated and alone. This lack of Venetian backing leaves her vulnerable to Iago’s maneuverings and manipulation. The Venetian charms in her led to the depiction of Desdemona as the “cunning whore of Venice” (Shakespeare, 2021, 4.2.87). She portrayed herself in Cyprus with an innocent level of sophistication, away from the prating Brabantio’s condemnation. Therefore, Desdemona weakens upon moving to Cyprus due to a lack of support, protection, and guidance from his father and family in Venice.
Iago’s jealousy grows in Cyprus, and the unrestrained and warlike environment in the city enhances his manipulation skills. Unlike in the capital city, Venice, Iago has several opportunities to interact with Othello personally while in Cyprus. The new setting also values certain military virtues like an inflated sense of honor and fast decision-making, which places Othello at a disadvantage while advantaging Iago. Iago poisons everyone in Cyprus with the jealousy he feels against Cassio and hatred towards Othello. Considering that the goddess of love, Venus Aphrodite, was born in Cyprus, it provided Iago with a suitable location for convincing Othello that Desdemona was cheating on him. The claustrophobic environment in Cyprus further strengthens Iago’s psychological attacks on Othello.
While in the new setting, Othello forgets or disregards Desdemona’s charm as a Venetian woman, a naivety that works against their marriage. Being away from Venice also gives the soldiers courage and freedom to hurt each other violently. Iaogo uses such an environment to instigate violence between Rederigo and Cassio. For instance, Othello could not have mastered the courage to murder the daughter of an influential man like Brabantio while in Venice. His soul struggle between Desdemona’s goodness and Iago’s evil leads to a degeneration of his mind, creating a murderous individual. When a storm destroys the Turkish fleet, Othello calls for celebration, where Iago gets all the soldiers and important men drunk, ready for violence.
MacDonald, A. M. (1998). Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Grove Press.
Shakespeare, W. (2021). Othello. In A. Schmidt & H. Ulrici (Ed.), Othello (pp. 1-162). De Gruyter.