Alchemy

Goodnight Desdemona and Ancient Chemistry

What do Alchemy and Goodnight Desdemona have in common?

The Philosopher's Stone

PAGES 5-6

What's alchemy? The hoax of charlatans?

Or mystic quest for stuff of life itself:

eternal search for the Philosopher's Stone,

where mingling and unmingling opposites,

transforms base metal into precious gold.

Hence, scientific metaphor of self:

divide the mind's opposing archetypes

- if you possess the courage for the task -

invite them from the shadows to the light;

unite these lurking shards of broken glass

into a mirror that reflects one soul.

And in this merging of unconscious selves,

there lies the mystic "marriage of true minds."

PAGE 21-22

"You who possess the eyes to see

this strange and wondrous alchemy,

where words transform to vision'ry,

where one plus two mkes one, not three;

open this book if you agree

to be illusion's refugee,

and of return no guarantee -

unless you find your true identity.

And discover who the Author be."

PAGE 37

...I was labelled 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!"

PAGE 45

I wish I were more like Desdemona.

Next to her I'm just a little wimp.

PAGE 46

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.

...To think, I helped him use me: a gull, a stooge,

swine adorned with mine own pearls,

a sous-chef, nay! a scull'ry maid that slaved

to heat hell's kitchen with the baking stench

of forty-thousand scalding humble-pies,

O Vengeance!!!

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A short and funny comic strip that shows the transformation of lead to gold, which leads to a change in their market values.

History of Alchemy Secondary Source

Alchemy is the art of magical transformation by attempting to convert base metals into gold or attaining enlightenment. The art dates back to 35 A.D. to Chinese alchemy and in search to finding the elixir of life or immortality. Many cultures have acquired the skill throughout the times such as Egypt, Arabia, and Europe. It was not until the 14th century rumours surfaced about the philosopher stone. The philosopher stone was a substance that was able to convert inexpensive metals into gold and also believed to give immortality. Alchemists sometimes spent their whole lives trying to figure out the process to create the stone. In Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), the philosopher stone plays an important symbol in the transformation of Constance Ledbelly. In the beginning the Chorus foreshadows the story of Constance:


“ What’s alchemy? The hoax of charlatans? Or mystic quest for stuff of life itself: eternal search for the Philosopher’s Stone where mingling and unmingling opposites, transforms base metal into precious gold. Hence, scientific metaphor of self: divide the mind’s opposing archetypes- if you possess the courage for the task – invite them from the shadows to the light; unite these lurking shards of broken glass into a mirror that reflects one soul.” (Macdonald 5-6)


This foreshadow, shows the transformation of Constance Ledbelly, (ironic because her name has “lead” in it) an invaluable metal, into a beautiful piece of gold. In the story, she portrays a mouse-persona, a woman whom allows people to walk over her and is very passive. As the story progresses, the catalyst of her transformation seems to be Juliet and Desdemona, which are the “opposing archetypes” (Macdonald 6) of herself. These two characters are the recipe for her philosopher stone and through this she was able to acquire enlightenment within herself.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The title of J.K. Rowling's first novel in the Harry Potter series is very reflective not only of the main character, Harry, but also Constance Ledbelly, as well as the science of Alchemy. The connecting factor between all of these topics is evolution or change. In the science of Alchemy, the Philosopher’s Stone is a mythical object of great magical power which supposedly has the ability to turn the lowly element, Lead, into the highly valued element, Gold. This transformation from lacking greatness to achieving greatness is seen in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter as well as Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Constance Ledbelly.



In the beginning of J.K. Rowling’s The Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter is the equivalent of a muggle, being neglected and mistreated by his Aunt’s family, all while he dreams of a better life. After Hogwarts’ Headmaster Albus Dumbledore calls Harry to Hogwarts, his life changes as the young wizard progresses to learn about the Wizarding World and his destiny to defeat Lord Voldemort.



Constance Ledbelly progresses much the same way. The English professor at Queen’s University is constantly ill-treated and deceived by her colleague Professor Claude Night for whom she writes many papers. After she is sucked into her wastebasket – seemingly by the magic hidden within the Gustav Manuscript – she is thrown into the plays of Othello then Romeo and Juliet on a search for the author of the manuscript. Throughout her many escapades during which Constance effectively turns both plays from tragedies into comedies, she realizes that she herself is indeed the author and is returned to her office at Queen’s University. Upon her return she notices that her ordinary fountain pen has now turned into Gold. This physical transformation seen in her pen is a reflection of the internal change within the English Professor as seen through her new-found confidence and insight that she gained on her search through Shakespeare’s Othello and Romeo and Juliet.

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The Philosopher's Stone is most commonly known in J.K. Rowling's, Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone.

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One of the main goals of alchemy was to transform inexpensive metals into gold. The Chorus discusses this in the beginning of the play

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A butterfly can be a symbol of change, just as Constance Ledbelly changed in the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).