Foolscap... Hankie... Whate'er It May Be.

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I LOVED this play...

However, I know that if I simply left it at that, many people would not be happy. So, here it goes. I LOVED this play BECAUSE:

1) It helped me to FINALLY understand Shakespeare: Folks, I was thrilled as I read this play because, near the middle, I actually began to understand Shakespearian language. I now want to go test my new understanding on other Shakespearian works. Something tells me that it just won't be that simple, but I just feel like trying anyway. I'm wondering something... how close has MacDonald come to actual Shakespearian language. I mean... if I of all people am actually understanding Shakespeare, how close could she have come??

2) Connie and Iago undergo role reversal: We read both "Romeo and Juliet" and "Othello" in high school, and frankly I'm glad. I enjoyed Othello much more than the first just because I can't stand the fact that two pre-pubescent, spoiled brats marry out of pure infatuation (MacDonald was VERY effective in emphasizing how annoyingly unpredictable both Romeo and Juliet are... Kudos). Anyhoo, I always enjoyed getting to know the character of Iago. He's so complex even though he is a total jerk. He's only a jerk, though, to pull himself ahead in his own career. Isn't that what Connie is doing, though? She barges in on two of the greatest works of all time in order to finish her work. Not only that, but other characters also go through role-reversal... Othello and Desdemona, for instance.

3) Three Words: Satirical beyond belief: This play was brilliantly written in that it fit actual Shakespearian language into the context of an absurd plotline. Do I really think that Romeo turned out to be homosexual? No... but MacDonald expertly plays on not only a satire of the "starcrossed lovers" theme, but also Shakespeare's use of language and humor, as well.


One question, though... What is the significance of Constance's fountatin pen being made of her dead pet bird?

10 Comments

Melissa Schwenk said:

Jess, I think the pen is significant in that the bird used to sing the song “Volare” which represents a bird flying with its lover. Maybe, the bird represents the only thing she ever loved that returned the feeling, and therefore the pen is too meaningful to lose. It doesn’t say in the play anywhere that she had other family or anything, so I assumed that this meant that she didn’t have anyone particularly special or meaningful in her life except for Claude who is now leaving her. The bird was probably just very important to her.

You can see the lyrics at http://www.diggiloo.net/?1958it

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

Thank you for looking up the lyrics for me! That's an interesting point... I was looking at the lyrics you found, and I found this part to be very interesting:

But all the dreams fade away at dawn, because
While setting, the moon takes them away

Maybe she didn't want to do her work alone, so she transformed her only companion into a writing implement with which she could either gain great glory or never accomplish anything. Laurel, the bird, "fell five stories. She died instantly" (21). I bet that has some significance, I just can't figure out what it is yet. Also, when Constance goes to throw the fountain pen away, she can't bear to do it and "She replaces it behind her ear where it stays for the rest of the play" (21). After returning from her epic journey, she "feels her pen behind her ear, removes it, and looks at it. It has turned to solid gold, feather and all" (88). This seems to be important... Laurel has been with her the whole time and now, the instrument of her line of work, her pen, has turned to gold. Could this signify the fact that she will become a stronger writer and that she has a future of wealth?

This totally reminded me of the title of the play "Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet." Any thoughts?

I was wondering the same. I'm not sure if MacDonald was completely accurate in her use of iambic pentameter. Yes, she had ten syllables in each line, but the stressed and unstressed syllables didn't seem to be accurately placed. Of course, I'm no Shakespeare expert, and I've never read Othello, so I can't say that I know Shakespeare kept to this pattern in all his plays or just Romeo and Juliet.

You know what? I could check the giant anthology of Shakespeare's plays that's sitting right next to me. That would be more effective than wondering. Okay, it seems MacDonald did a satisfactory job. Othello appears to be in blank verse without a specific meter, which MacDonald used while in the land of Othello. She then switched to free verse iambic pentameter when she was in Verona.

I just thought of something else I should have asked. Do you think it would decrease your appreciation of this play if you learned that it didn't follow Shakespearean language as well as she did?

Melissa Schwenk said:

Jess, I just thought of another reason why the song was important was probably because the lyrics are originally in Italian and both Othello and Romeo and Juliet were set in Italy. I’m pretty sure that the pen represents that she has a solid idea or something that she can really grasp onto. Gold may represent money, but having a green pen may represent money as well, so I think it’s more about the gold of an idea or the personal accomplishment that she has found within herself that is the true gold here.

As far as the title goes, I don’t think I’m following your train of thought, but I thought that the five story drop was probably pretty significant. However, maybe it was just one of those added details that doesn’t really represent anything, but the author just adds in to throw the reader off.

Karyssa, I think that even if MacDonald hadn’t used the same language as Shakespeare did the play still would have been affective, but not nearly as much. To me the language and different forms of presenting the lines don’t mean nearly as much as the actual dialogue and story do or represent.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I need to get one of those giant Shakespeare books for myself... it's just the right thing for an English major to do :)

Anyway, I never looked that far into the Shakespeare plays before. That's a great observation! So. What did you think about the portrayal of Iago in MacDonald's version? Is he meant to be a villain no matter what?

PS) If you haven't read Othello, I think you need to. It's SO good.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

That's tough to answer, actually. In the context of a Shakespearian parody, yes. I would have appreciated it less if it didn't follow the language quite so well. That's actually one of the main aspects of the humor of the play- that it's so tight with the original language. Now, I haven't read enough Shakespeare in my day to know how close MacDonald actually came to the language, but I assume she came pretty close. I'll look up some reviews and let you know for sure. What did you think?

Jessica Orlowski said:

Melissa- I agree that it could represent a solid gold idea, but also, I thought of it this way: the green of the pen could signify envy. She's envious of the woman that Claude marries. She's envious of the characters in Shakespeare's works.

"But all the dreams fade away at dawn because, while setting, the moon takes them away"

Goodnight Desdemona. Desdemona is the moon. Good Morning Juliet. Juliet is the sun (hah). The dreams in this case are Constance's childlike, silly romantic dreams (sort of like Juliet). These dreams are fading away because the strengh of Constance (reflected in Desdemona)takes them away.

That was probably a stretch, but it was what I was getting at.

Jess: No, I actually haven't read Othello yet. I definitely plan on it though. Sorry I can't give an opinion on Iago.

I also think that I would appreciate the play less if Macdonald hadn't stuck to the technique by which Shakespeare writes. I don't think she fully uses the language, but she has the format down. She did an adequate job in writing in the vernacular of the time, but that's such a difficult task for the writer to transport herself back in time in order to write that way. I don't blame her for not being 100% proficient in this task, but I would respect her even more if I felt like she nailed the lingo of Shakespeare's works. Then again, it is a parody, so maybe it doesn't matter too much.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

As you said, I think there is a certain format that lets everybody know that "This is Shakespeare." She nailed the format, so I don't think it matters all that much. The main concentration of the work is not that it's EXTREMELY close to Shakespeare, but that it's a parody of the work. Therefore, the languange isn't TOO integral.

As for Iago, he is one of my favorite villains (next to Cathy from East of Eden). He's the worst kind of villain- one that knows what he's doing and consciously connives those around him.

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