In Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), the audience is swept into the playful subconscious of the protagonist, Constance Ledbelly. Before she speaks, her imaginative nature is introduced by way of Act I, The Prologue. The chorus enters giving an intriguing monologue in which the first stages of an exciting transformation begin to unfold. The Prologue is so useful in that it gives indications of plot, theme, conflict and so on. All of which carry a heavy dramatic significance. However, Ann-Marie Macdonald suggests that the biggest use of The Prologue is in developing the character of Constance.
The chorus begins by asking “What’s alchemy? The hoax of charlatans?” (5) In other words, is alchemy a transformation of base metals into gold, or just the trick of a fraud or phony? Can such transformation exist, not just in the mind, but also in reality? Such a statement indicates that there shall be a changing of sorts. This change is seen literally as Constance’s fountain pen is later transformed to solid gold. But this change is also seen as a transformation of character. From something plain, to something miraculous. Constance begins as a flighty, insecure, and somewhat foolish daydreamer. Some might call her a push-over. She is full of eccentricities and is not taken too seriously, dressed in her frumpy clothes. However, later after her encounters with Desdemona and Juliet, she becomes strong and opinionated. She opens herself to the possibility of embarrassment and mochary by speaking her mind, and interfering where she deems fit. The Prologue gives the audience a clue of the changes Constance will endure. Thus setting up her character.
In The Prologue the chorus speaks of opposites coming together. He mentions the ‘merging of unconscious selves’ and the ‘marriage of true minds.'(6) These unconscious selves perhaps are actually Desdemona and Juliet living within Constance’s unconscious. They are parts of her. Desdemona represents the driven and somewhat violent side, and Juliet is the hopeless romantic side of Constance. These two selves are about to be brought together and made aware to Constance for the first time. “Unite these lurking shards of broken glass into a mirror that reflects one soul.” (6) The chorus says to bring together these two sides of Constance in a way that she will see they are her own within herself.
Two references are made to the Philosopher’s Stone in The Prologue. This is yet another indication of change. The Philosopher’s Stone was once believed to turn other metals into gold. The chorus announces the Gustav Manuscript as the key to Constance’s Philosopher’s Stone. “Here is the key to her Philosopher’s Stone – the psychic altar that will alter fate.” (6) Constance uses the manuscript, and her forced exploration of two of Shakespeare’s plays, (Othello, Romeo and Juliet), to discover herself. The manuscript and the events in it lead to Constance’s journey of self discovery. She accepts her likeness to the characters of Desdemona and Juliet. She realizes that the three of them are all one in the same.
Gemini is the sign of twins and is often associated with split personalities. Also having two different sides to one. After removing the discard items from the wastebasket and replacing them on Constance’s desk, the chorus says, “Swift Mercury, that changing element, portrayed as Gemini, hermaphrodite and twin, now steers the stars of Constance Ledbelly, and offers her a double-edged re-birthday.” (6) Another tease that Constance’s two sides that will soon come together, and be revealed to her.
Act I, The Prologue is full of dramatic significance. However it seems to be directly related to the characterization of Constance Ledbelly. By toying with the use of metaphors and clever wit, Ann-Marie MacDonald fully succeeds in her use of The Prologue to set up the main character of her play.