Much Ado About Nothing
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Ebook; my copy
Set in a courtly world of masked revels and dances, this play turns on the archetypal story of a lady falsely accused of unfaithfulness, spurned by her bridegroom, and finally vindicated and reunited with him. Villainy, schemes, and deceit threatens to darken the brilliant humor and sparkling wordplay but the hilarious counterplot of a warring couple, Beatrice and Benedick, steals the scene as the two are finally tricked into admitting their love for each other in Shakespeare’s superb comedy of manners.
Continuing along in my journey this year to read more of Shakespeare’s works, I’ve decided to read this title next. Given that February is the month of Valentine’s Day, it seemed fiting. Plus, it’s a comedy, which is always fun, and I’ve heard good things about this play.
This book is part of the William Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy of the sexes, filled with misunderstandings, schemes and revelry all around. It was easy to get into the story as the play starts with the arrival of Don Pedro and his officers, Claudio and Benedick, to Messina. Characters are already previously acquainted but the audience is brought up to speed by the exchange. What really struck me right away was the tension between Beatrice and Benedick, and the verbal sparring that they engage in. It’s probably my favourite part of the play because some of the stuff they say about each other and to each other are pretty sharp and snappy. I wish I had jotted down the acts and scenes but for example:
“’I can see he’s not in your good books,’ said the messenger.
‘No, and if he were I would burn my library.’”
Like, lol. Beatrice in general is quite a fierce character who stands her ground and doesn’t hold back. I haven’t quite encountered a character quite like her so far in any of Shakespeare’s plays and in some ways I felt rather startled by her character because you can transplant her to our day and age and she’d fit right in.
In fact, there’s quite some interesting dialogue throughout the play. Dogberry, who’s a pretty amusing character, had some really interesting lines here and there. And then there’s this crazy bit from Act IV:
Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou not suspect my years? O that he were here to write me down an ass! But masters, remember that I am an ass. Though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow, and which is more, an officer, and which is more, a householder, and which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina, and one that knows the law, go to . . . and one that hath two gowns, and everything handsome about him. Bring him away. O that I had been writ down an ass!
The bit “which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina” got a chuckle out of me–he just had to add that in, didn’t he?
I was pretty appalled however at Claudio, in…I believe it was the beginning of Act IV, when they were at Claudio and Hero’s wedding ceremony. (Rather surprising too because he seemed fairly harmless personality-wise for the most part throughout the play) I think I understand why Claudio was easily persuaded to believe that Hero was unfaithful but c’mon, how could you doubt sweet and calm Hero? And Leonato too, at first, way to go, father of the year /sarcasm. I wanted to throttle the lot of them. I’m glad that Beatrice was there though and that at that point Benedick was also helping out; I had no doubt in my mind that had Beatrice been a man, she could have challenged Claudio and the others for such slander. Grr that Don John for being the catalyst to all of that drama at the latter half of the play =P
Much Ado About Nothing felt rather similar to some of Shakespeare’s other plays (well, Romeo and Juliet comes to mind for me here) in that misunderstandings play a big role in the following drama. But unlike Romeo and Juliet, everything turned out well for everyone at the end and the miscommunication was eventually cleared. It was entertaining enough, with the verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedick a highlight.