What's In a Name?

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When I read Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), by Ann-Marie MacDonald, I felt like the protagonist's name, Constance Ledbelly, was representative of the character.  True, authors normally put thought into their characters' names, so it wasn't that surprising, but it interested me nonetheless.  I'm still unsure if I've analyzed the character thoroughly enough, so if anyone has any feedback or further insight, I'd love to hear it!

The names Constance - and Constantine - both mean constant, which implies certainty since a constant is something that never changes.  However, our protagonist changes quite a bit throughout the play, or, rather, changes in her perspective of herself.  From the beginning of the play, MacDonald utilizes Constance's name to represent her development during her journey of self-discovery.  

In Act I, Scene I, the only time we see Constance in her reality, the characters never refer to her by her first name.  To the first student, she is "Miss Ledbelly"(8) - also a telling name.  At this point in the play, it is clear that Constance has low self-esteem and doubts her ability to reach her goals of being a professor and coming to terms with her lack of relationship with Claude Night.  The student doesn't refer to her as Constance at all, which could be just because she is a student, but the placement of their conversation says to me that the reason it happens here is to enforce the idea that Constance has not yet reached her point of self-discovery, her constant.

The name Ledbelly reflects her feelings of doubt.  Led is similar to lead, the metal.  Lead is a grey metal that is rather malleable, which is representative of Constance's current state of being at this time - she is metaphorically grey in her lack of self-esteem and she seems to bend to the pressure of those around her.  For example, she accepts a student's late paper even though she knows the student is lying about the reason it was late.

Next, Ramona comes to speak to Claude Night, but finds Constance instead and calls her simply "Professor" (11).  Again, the fact that someone refers to her as something other than her full designation symbolizes Constance's point in her journey of finding herself.  In fact, when Ramona calls her Professor, Constance corrects her and tells her she is "just an Assistant Professor" (12).  She does not tell Ramona her first name, and lowers Ramona's impression of Constance because she now knows she's not as far in her career as one would assume.

Claude Night, as well, calls her something else instead of Constance.  To him, she is "Connie" (15).  While this is closer to her actual name, it still doesn't imply that she's reached a constant point in her life yet.  

Once Constance enters the world of Shakespeare, though, everything changes.  She introduces herself to Desdemona as "Constance Ledbelly" (27), and since she still hasn't discovered herself, the fact that she tells Desdemona her first and last name suggests that at this point, she is constantly unsure of herself.  Desdemona, however, never calls Constance by her first and last name.  Instead, she calls her the "Queen of Academe" (28).  Also, Desdemona calls Constance "Con" (31), probably because Constance is not yet at her eventual stage of certainty.  She has only met one half of the archetypes that make her who she is.  Despite this variation of names, all of the characters in Shakespeare Land call her Constance - or Constantine - at some point, because this is her place of power.  She is the creator, she is Desdemona, and she is Juliet.  

In the last scene of the play, after Constance realizes that Desdemona and Juliet are aspects of herself, they tell her, "Happy Birthday Constance."  Her birthday is symbolic of being reborn.  She is now Constance, not Miss Ledbelly or Professor or Connie.  Constance has now established a certainty in who she is, and the use of her full name represents the completion of her journey to reach that certainty.  Even in the epilogue, the chorus refers to her not as Constance Ledbelly, but as "Constance L." (89). She is no longer made of lead, for she has spun that "grey matter, into precious gold" (89).


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