Feminism and Shakespeare's Tragedies Collide
“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 scared cow, and dying on the horns of those who rule the pasture with an iron cud. 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 labelled as a crackpot, by the sacred herd if 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!”” (37).
Feminism in the book starts off by Constance being able to work as an assistant professor. The fact that she is able to work displays the improvement in women’s rights in modern society. Although she is able to work as an assistant professor, Constance is still overpowered and taken advantage of by Professor Claude Night. He abuses Constance’s loyal and gullible personality by making her do all his work. After meeting Desdemona she realizes that the importance of standing up to Claude and no longer degrading herself.
“For safety did I first secrete my sex. I mean! — I’ll have to trust you with the truth. My name is Constance. I’m a woman." (77)
Gender identity takes a big part in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Constance is seen crossing gender roles for her safety. This eventually adds a plot twist to the story as the switch of genders results in exposure of hidden love. As Romeo and Juliet both end up falling for Constance as she struggles to escape the trap of love. The fact that Constance feels she needed to change her gender to feel safe displays that she felt unsafe as a woman. Acting as a man gave her more protection than she would've gotten if she was a woman, which indicates the inequality present between gender roles.
"Love. Love! I love that shit, Claude Night! Amour - at-first-sight, in plain view, a coup de foudre, la vie en soir, amo, amas, amat!!!" (71)
Constance fights the stereotype that men should be the one expressing their love and feelings for the women. Juliet helps constance realize that she doesn’t need to hide her feelings just because they aren’t mutual or directed from Professor Claude Night. Constance realizes she is allowed to have and express her own feelings, and by stating that she loved Claude Night, Constance is able to understand how she feels and in a way move on from her heartbreak.
Situations surrounding women's rights are clearly evident in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Beginning with Constance's right to work as a professor, yet still being inferior to Professor Claude Night. This is comparable to how currently male's make somewhat more money than women due to the wage gap. Constance is also seen standing up for her rights when Desdemona brings her to the realization that Constance doing Claude Night's work for him is unfair and "bullshit" (38). This image simply displays the importance of women standing up for their rights together (hence them holding hands and standing tall together) which is similar to the image pictured when Constance and Desdemona cried out "bullshit".
This simple, yet effective image displays 2 sets of legs; one with stubble-like hair and the other hairless. With the captions "which is the man?" and "why", the picture can get the viewer thinking about gender stereotypes and expectations. Whether it be the Shakespearean Era or modern times, the expectations of women compared to men are thoughtless and biased. In the book, Constance is portrayed as being an unattractive nerd just because she's smart, timid, gullible and easily manipulated. Due to this she's taken advantage of by Claude Night. Constance even states "Not that I'm some kind of feminist. I shave my legs and I get nervous in a crowd" (37) in an anxious and unsure tone, as she's too afraid to stand up for herself and be labeled as a feminist, like its a bad thing.
Intelligence Is Attractive
As the feminist movement and women's rights progressed, women were finally able to school and get an education like all the men. This makes them equals right? Nope. Since women have started being educated and working for themselves, men have felt threatened. They somehow believe women gaining the rights men were already given is unfair, as its believed they're no longer superior. Men are often intimidated by intelligent women, causing them to resent and look down at them as "nerdy" or "unattractive". Girls may sometimes feel that a boy won't like them unless they act dumb, so instead of embracing their smart abilities they conceal them. Constance is portrayed as a modest, book-smart and intelligent yet timid and unattractive women. When Constance shows romantic interest in Claude Night and does tremendous favours for him, he doesn't return the feelings. Instead he chooses to propose to a more attractive, snobby girl. This beats Constance down as she feels she isn't good enough for Claude Night. Constance eventually learns to embrace her intelligence and be confident in the fact that it makes her attractive.
Intelligence Is Attractive
Desdemona, Juliet, and Constance Meet Third-Feminism
In this essay written by Shelly Scott, she conveys the meaning of feminism and its stages: particularly the second-wave and the third-wave. She states how Ann-Marie Macdonald broke boundaries in William Shakespeare's work by including third-wave feminism aspects such as the empowerment of women, gender bending, and sexual fluidity in her play. The social construct in both Romeo and Juliet and Othello dictated that women were not strong, and that they are easily manipulated. But in Goodnight Desdemona (Goodmorning Juliet), Constance defies such expectation. From being an introverted pushover, Constance is able to gain confidence in herself. She is able to prove that women do not have to be weak in the world of Shakespeare. Macdonald's use of gender bending and sexual fluidity broke the boundary of heteronormativity in Shakespeare's work. Romeo's wardrobe change and attraction to 'Constantine' agrees with the beliefs of third-wave feminism, by defying the universal assumption that a man should only like a woman. Goodnight Desdemona (Goodmorning Juliet) is a refreshing work of art with a twist of feministic beliefs that succeeds in both being comedic and educational.
Text to Text Connection
- MacDonald, Ann-Marie. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). , 1998. Print.