And, a full plot
After a prologue from our one-man Greek chorus, the curtain opens on Constance Ledbelly, a mousy English professor whose ghostwriting for the man she loves, Professor Claude Knight, hinders her work towards her PhD thesis. Constance has become quite the laughingstock of her university because of her obsession with an off the wall literary theory; Constance, having noticed the plots of both Othello and Romeo and Juliet twist around the sort of coincidence most often found in Shakespeare’s comedies, has decided that the plays originally were comedies, and that an old Renaissance alchemist’s manuscript she has will prove her right by introducing the character of a Wise Fool (so prevalent in Shakespeare’s comedies) into both plays, and hold the answer to the mystery of authorship. Soon after the play opens, Constance – and the audience – find Professor Claude Knight being whisked away by his star graduate student, leaving poor Constance alone, desperate, and depressed.
With a twist of fate mirroring Alice’s fall through the rabbit hole, or Dorothy’s trip to Oz, Constance Ledbelly finds herself having fallen – literally – into the world of her manuscript to alter the lives of these Shakespearean prototypes as she believes the Bard originally wanted. First we enter into the world of Othello, where Constance exposes Iago and earns the thanks of the leading couple. But wait, Desdemona is no damsel in distress; far from it is this aggressive domineering, almost Amazonian warrior, thirsty for revenge.
A sudden change of location drops Constance then in the middle of the most famed street fight – and she settles things! Sorta. Disguised as a boy, Constance saves Romeo and Tybalt by making them aware of their new kinship. Everything is solved until Juliet enters the picture. Juliet is not the virginal flower of youth and picture of pure innocence; she is a lustful thirteen year old who bores of Romeo once she has tamed him, and falls in love instead with our own dear Constance, making a cross dressed love story not unlike Twelfth Night or many of Shakespeare’s others.
As Constance is torn between these two strong female characters, we learn the true meaning of the play. Not unlike Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole, Constance’s journey is truly one of self-discovery. The prologue promises, “mingling and unmingling opposites/transform base metal into precious gold,” and MacDonald does not disappoint. Constance learns that only she is the true author of her life, and that she is her own Wise Fool. The alchemist’s manuscript truly belonged to an alchemist, for at the end, it is Constance’s own mettle we find transformed.