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Author: William Shakespeare Genre: Drama/Play Written: Between 1588 and 1593 Pages: 161 (In Cambridge School edition, with play on one side of the page and additional information on the opposite page and between the acts.) Much Ado about Nothing is a play about misunderstandings. Claudio falls in love with the beautiful Hero, who returns her love, and they plan to marry. Meanwhile, the bickering Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into believing the other loves them by the use of gossip, and each decides to return the other's love. The evening before Claudio and Hero's wedding, the jealous Don John tricks Claudio into believing that Hero is unfaithful to him, so Claudio leave Hero at the alter, where she faints and appears to have died. On the evening before the wedding however, Don John's two henchmen were arrested after the scheme was overheard, but all could not be revealed in time to save the wedding. Believing his daughter to be unchaste, Hero's father takes vengeance on Claudio, who still believes Hero to be dead. Just as the threat of a fight is imminent, the blundering constable brings in the villains and all is revealed. Claudio mourns the death of Hero, only to be united to her at the alter the next day, unaware that he is really marrying his true love. Benedick and Beatrice discover that they have been set up, but decide to go ahead with a marriage also. This is the first of Shakespeare's comedies that I have read and I was pleasantly surprised. I had always enjoyed his tragedies, so I didn't know what to expect from this play, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! The relatively complex plot was surprisingly easy to follow, and the frequent misunderstandings that often define Shakespeare's plays were incredibly believable. I found myself being drawn in and wanting to discover the outcome of the play. I also found that this play was somewhat easier to understand than some of the more complex tragedies like Othello, as the scheming was less complex and easier to comprehend - this also meant that it was easy to read it in a day! After reading this comedy, I am looking forward to exploring more! Favourite Quote: Beatrice - Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face, I had rather lie in the woollen! Leonato - You may light on a husband that hath no beard. Beatrice - What should I do with him - dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath no beard is more than a youth: and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth, is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him... (Act 2, Scene 1) Rating: 8/10
Written by William Shakespeare in 1598-99, Much Ado About nothing is one of his 17 comedies. Much Ado About Nothing tells the tale of an Italian village and the stories which happened when soldier returned from a victorious battle. MAIN CHARACTERS Benedick~ a witty intelligent man who is a sworn bachelour. However he is tricked into falling in love with Beatrice Beatrice~ A loud, argumentative, orphaned niece of Leonato. She too has sworn not to marry, but is tricked to fall in love with Benedick Don Pedro~ Prince of Arragorn, helps Claudio marry, Benedick fall in love and is there when the see supposidly Hero with another man Don John~ A bastard brother of Don Pedro, is a sinister man who claims he has no time for love, and he ruins Claudio's wedding Hero~ Daughter of Leonato and heir to his belongings a beautiful young woman, who is wrongly accused of sleeping woth other men and is disgraced at her wedding. Claudio~ A brave, young soldier, who false in love with Hero, but is tricked into thinking she was cheating on her, and he help Benedick fall in love Leonato~Governor of Messina, father of Hero and Uncle of Beatrice, was willing to let Hero die when she was said she was no longer a virgin ACT 1 As this scene opens, the Governor of Messina, Leonato, his niece Beatrice and his daughter Hero are speaking with a messenger. The messenger has come to tell Leonato that Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon, is visiting Messina following some sort of battle. The Prince will be coming with a brave young soldier, Claudio and Benedick, a witty man and a sworn bachelor. Beatrice asks the messenger about Benedick, a lord of Padua (these 2 have obviously had a history together) Benedick greets her by saying, 'my dear lady distain are you yet living?' The next scene Antonio tells his Brother Leonato that he overheard Claudio admitting he loves Hero and wants to marry her. The 3rd scene has Don John, the bastard brother of Don Pedro, with his 2 companions Borachio and Conrade, saying that he feels unwelcome in Messina and plans to cause unrest. ACT 2 Hero, Leonato, Beatrice and Antonio are discussing Don John, Beatrice says he is a bitter man who never talks and makes her feel uneasy. Then all the other characters arrive in masks, Don Pedro who agreed to chat up Hero for Claudio, talks to Hero while Borachio and Margaret, Hero's servant, about their sexual desires, so to speak and Beatrice and Benedick talk about love, and say they will never say they love anyone. Don John and Borachio approach Claudio and ask him if he was Benedick, knowing fine well he was Claudio. Claudio said he was and Don John told him that Don Pedro was chatting up Hero for himself, so Claudio left in anger. Claudio returns with Beatrice, Leonato and Hero to question Don Pedro, he denied he was chatting her up for himself, and Hero and Claudio kiss and are a happy couple. Then Don Pedro asks Beatrice to marry him, but she says no and leaves, thats when Don Pedro says Benedick and Beatrice will be a great couple, so they all agree to try and get them to fall in love with each other. The next scene, which occurs in a room at Leonato's house, begins with Don John and Borachio talking. Borachio proposes a new to stop the marriage of Hero and Claudio, which Don John embraces with enthusiasm. The Plan was that Don John will get Claudio and the prince to Hero's chamber window where Borachio will be makin love with Margaret, but Don John will say to Claudio that Margaret is Hero. While Margaret is none the wiser about this. In the next scene, Benedick hides from Leonato, Claudio and Don Pedro, knowing he his hiding they lie about Beatrice's love for Benedick, in order to get them to fall in love. ACT 3 A lot like the past scene but this time, Beatrice is hiding, while Hero, and her 2 servants, Ursula and Margaret, talk about Benedick's love for Beatrice, and how intelligent and witty he is. The next scene however is a much less light hearted one, although it starts off with Claudio and Don Pedro joking about Benedicks change in personality, because he is in love, eg. He shaved his beared and wearing perfume. But the towards the end of the scene Don John leads, Claudio and Don Pedro to Hero's chamber window, where they see Margaret and Borachio together, and Claudio leaves in disgust belieing it was Hero. The next scene is located in the street where Dogberry, the funny watchman, and his deputy Verges, are patroling the streets of Messina. They over hear Borachio boasting to Conrade about the event that has just happened. Overhearing this Dogberry places them under arrest. The next scene is in the morning of the wedding day, in Hero's bedroom, where she is having a discussion with her servants about what to wear for the wedding. Then Beatrice enters and they mock her because she is in love and her change of personality. The 5th scene was when Leonato was about to enter the church, Dogberry and Verges confront him and congradulate him about the wedding and tell him about what happened last night. ACT 4 Everyone gathers inside the church to celebrate the wedding of Claudio and Hero. But when Friar Francis asks Claudio whether he wishes to marry Hero, Claudio breaks into an outraged speech. He tells Leonato that he sends Hero back to Leonato again. After Claudio finished calling her, Leonato, her own father, shouts at her, calling her slanderous names. Hero collapses and Claudio and Don Pedro leave. Benedick and Beatrice rush to offer her their assistance, while Leonato says she can die, for what she has done. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the friar comes out with a long speech saying Hero is innocent and they should pretend she is dead until they've found out what really happened. Then Benedick and a sobbing Beatrice are left in the church, Benedick questions her love for him but she is too sad to say she loves him. He asks what he has to do to get her to love him, she replies, 'Kill Claudio.' The next scene starts with Dogberry and Verges questioning Borahio and Conrade. Borachio confesses that he received money from Don John for pretending to make love to Hero and then lying about it to. ACT 5 Leonato and Antonio are discussing their outrage about the wedding, until Claudio and Don Pedro enter. Leonato shouts at Claudio and accuses him of causing his daughters death, and Antonio says he will challenge them for what they have done. But then Benedick enters he says that Don John has fled Messina and he will challenge Claudio. This is the only time in the book when Benedick is serious, he is not making witty remarks or jokes. Suddenly Dogberry and Verges enter, dragging behind them the captured villains Conrad and Borachio. Dogberry tells Claudio and Don Pedro that Borachio has confessed to treachery and lying, and Borachio admits his crime again. Shocked Claudio and Don Pedro realized Hero was innocent when she died. Leonato offered a chance for Claudio to undo what he has done, Claudio had to write an epitaph on her tomb and sing it, then marry his niece. (it's actually Hero, but he'll only find out after they are married) Meanwhile, near Leonato's estate, Benedick asks Margaret to bring Beatrice to speak to him. He tries to write a poem, but finds it hard to rhyme now he is in love. When she arrives they flirt and joke until Ursula arrives telling them the news, that Hero has been proved to be innocent. The next scene at the tomb where Hero supposedly lies buried, Claudio carries out the first part of the punishment that Leonato has ordered him to perform Claudio wrote an epitaph and then sung it. The next scene was the second wedding, Leonato had Hero masked and was only allowed to be unmasked after she has been married. When she is married Claudio unmasks her and to his delight he saw Hero. Benedick stopped the celebrations to ask Beatrice to marry him, she agrees and the party continues after a messenger reported that Don John has been arrested. Although i enjoyed the play it left a lot of loose ends, like what happened with Don John? and Don Pedro sees himself as a ladies man, but why is he still single by the end? etc. Nevertheless it was a great play. Another down part in the play is the racism and predjudice they all have. I know it was a long time ago and Jews were banned from Britain at the time, i still don't think a writer should write racist opinions about them, also Claudio states 'i would marry her even if she were an Ethiope,' this shows Africans at the time were seen as second class citizens alot like the women of the time. The characters i thought were the best thing in the play each wit their own history and plots, eg. Don John, like most illegitimate people of the time, they were treated as second class, so that could have provoked him to become sinister and his role in the play is just to cause unrest and havack ampng the people in Messina, whereas Beatrice is an orphan, and is incredibly loud and argumentative for a woman of the times, never mind an orphan. Before i read this play i've only read 'The Tempest' & 'Hamlet', and because of those plays i disliked Shakespeare's plays, probably because they are so farfetched, but after reading this play, i prefer Shakespeare's plays. I am currently studying it for my SATs in May and i had to play as Claudio when we performed the play. So that has given me a different perspective on the play but i still intend on seeing actors perform it live in Theatre. I have also seen 2 films of it, the one with Shakespearean language and original plots, starring Denzel Washington and Kenneth Branagh and the modern version, when they are newsreaders. Of course like all Shakespeare plays, Much Ado is avalible from a number of publishers including New Folgers Library & arkangel and cost anything from £3-£10. I strongly recommend you buy or at least read this play, no matter if you've read a Shakespeare or not, it is a very good play and quite easy going in comparison to his other Plays
***** The Production That Changed My Life ***** At the tender age of 16, I was to see a piece of theatre that would change my life and my tastes, and plant in me the seeds of a lifelong love of literature. On a school trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, I was lucky enough to go to a remarkable production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of that trip, and it seems fitting that the play, and the memories of that incredible production, should be the topic for my “Favourite Things” opinion for Jill. I know that Jill is a bit of a reader (we have Omar Khayam in common anyway), so it feels right. It was opening night, 20 April 1982. I remember almost shaking with excitement as the house lights went down. It was my first taste of theatre. We had been studying the play for my A Level in English Literature and I adored it on the printed page. But seeing it brought to life on the stage was a magical experience that I will never forget as long as I live. It was a particularly fine production, enchanting, the best I have ever seen. The Director Terry Hands had the lightest, finest touch, coaxing performances from the cast that were so great, I don’t think I’ve seen their equal in all the years since. The set design, by Ralph Koltai, was almost like art in its own right. In keeping with the themes of the play (deception, misdirection, misunderstanding), the set was composed entirely of glass panels, finely painted to resemble gardens and bowers, chapels and balconies. The beauty of those panels bathed in golden light (the lighting design was awesome too, and also done by Terry Hands, with Clive Morris), beautifully framing Alexander Reid’s lush but monotone costumes, provides one of sharpest visual memories of my teenage years. I can still close my eyes, after all these years, and visualis e the stage exactly as it looked twenty years ago. The music was provided by Nigel Hess and was light and glorious, almost like wind chimes, which fitted just beautifully with the sets. The roles of Beatrice and Benedick were played by Sinead Cusack (wife of Jeremy Irons) and Derek Jacobi, while Claudio and Hero were played by Robert O’Mahoney and Joanna Foster. Seeing this remarkable play on the stage made me realise how witty it was, and how tragic. For whilst it is perceived as a comedy, Much Ado has finely balanced moments of bleak tragedy and drama. ***** The Story ***** And so, to the play itself. It tells the story of romances between two couples - Hero and Claudio, and Beatrice and Benedick. Whilst the main plot deals with the relationship trials of Hero and Claudio, the sub-plot of the courtship of Beatrice by Benedick is by far the more engrossing. It seems that Shakespeare rather liked these two characters, and ran away with himself, giving them all the best dialogue and action! So, following a very successful battle, a house party convenes at the home of nobleman Leonato, including Leonato’s daughter, Hero and niece Beatrice, his elder brother Antonio, brave returning soldiers Benedick and Claudio, and Prince Don Pedro and his brooding and sullen illegitimate brother Don John. Beatrice and Benedick fight like cat and dog, but their barbed and witty attacks on one another obviously hide an enormous attraction. Their friends all contrive, using various ruses, to bring the bickering couple together by persuading each that the other is infatuated with them. Hero and Claudio, a bit of an insipid couple I have to say, soon fall in love and decide to marry, but Don John decides to disrupt everyone’s happiness by scuppering the marriage. He has his companion Borachio make love to Margaret, Hero's serving-woman, at Hero's window u nder cover of darkness, and he brings Don Pedro and Claudio to watch. Believing that he has seen Hero being unfaithful, Claudio humiliates Hero by accusing her of wanton behaviour on the day of their wedding, abandoning her at the altar. Hero's family decides to pretend that she died suddenly of shock and grief, and to hide her away while they wait for the truth to come to light. In a moment of high drama, Beatrice and Benedick finally confess their love for one another. It is the bleakest and most dramatic part of the play, for as they admit their love, Beatrice demands that Benedick offer her the ultimate proof of his love – to kill Claudio for her in revenge for his treatment of Hero. Benedick eventually agrees, swayed by his love for Beatrice, even though Claudio is his friend. Fortunately, though, the night watchmen have overheard Borachio bragging about his crime. Hero is cleared and Claudio, who believes her dead, grieves for her. As punishment, Claudio must proclaim Hero’s innocence to the entire city, and marry Leonato’s “niece”, who apparently looks very much like the dead Hero. He agrees and when Hero reveals herself as the masked bride, Claudio is overwhelmed with joy. Then Benedick asks Beatrice if she will marry him, and after some arguing they agree. The joyful lovers celebrate a double wedding. ***** Themes ***** Deception – The theme of deception (either malevolent or benign) is tightly woven throughout the plot. Don John’s deception almost causes Hero’s downfall. The deception of Hero’s death paves the way for her ultimate redemption and reconciliation with Claudio. In a lighter vein, the deception of the band of friends against Beatrice and Benedick, making each think that the other is in love with them, ultimately brings them together. Much Ado shows that deceit itself is not evil, but depends on the intenti ons of those who employ it. At times, though, the line between benign and evil deception becomes so blurred that the protagonists are unsure whether their deceptions are rooted in the desire to do good or evil. Courtliness - Much Ado is very much a comedy of manners and courtliness. The language is flowery and complex, full of metaphor and rhetoric. The play pokes fun at the social graces, affected speech and mannerisms of the time. Loss of Honour - In Shakespeare’s time, a woman’s honour was based on virginity. In accusing Hero of unfaithfulness, Claudio takes away her honour. Sexual relations before marriage would have destroyed a woman, hence Hero’s swoon and the decision to pretend she has died – better that than bear the humiliation of dishonour. A man’s honour depended more on his bonds with his fellow soldiers and friends. While a woman could not fight to defend her honour, a man could do it on her behalf, and Beatrice beseeches Benedick to duel with Claudio in defence of Hero’s honour. ***** Language ***** Much Ado has some of the most glorious dialogue Shakespeare ever wrote. The skirmishes between Beatrice and Benedick are rapier sharp and terribly clever. Scathingly, Beatrice says of Benedick: “In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.” On being told of Benedick’s friendship with Claudio, Beatrice remarks: “O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost h im a thousand pound ere a' be cured.” Benedick replies: “What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?” And the following dialogue ensues: BEATRICE Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence. BENEDICK Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none. BEATRICE A dear happiness to women: they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me. BENEDICK God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face. BEATRICE Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were. BENEDICK Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher. BEATRICE A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours. BENEDICK I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer. But keep your way, i' God's name; I have done. BEATRICE You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old. **************** There is such fire and passion in their exchanges, it is obvious that they will fall in love – to everyone except themselves, that is. And while they both protest that they will never marry, and that they have no time for the opposite sex, the reader always knows there can be no other outcome for them than marriage. They are wonderfully evenly matched in temperament and intellect. I think they are probably my favourite Shakespearean characters, and to my mind, much more romantic than Romeo and Juliet, particularly because they are quite a mature couple 211; well past marriageable age, in this time period. Beatrice is a feisty woman, obviously well educated and intelligent, and Benedick truly values these qualities in her. ***** Conclusion ***** So, why should you read Much Ado About Nothing? Well, it has something for everyone, really – drama, romance, humour, tragedy, good guys in white hats and pantomime baddies in black hats. This play shows you just how beautiful the English language can be, and how both love and hatred can push people to carry out unspeakable acts upon one another. Please, please read the play. Don’t let Shakespearean English put you off. If you read it carefully, you soon get used to it and start to get the gist more easily. A good set of notes will help you with the harder parts and the historical references. If you can’t bring yourself to read the play right away, try renting the film with Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson – they were good enough to whet your appetite and maybe make you want to read the play yourself. Honestly, it is wonderful. You’ll be glad you did! Thanks for the read. Allie xx alliechuckle/ajools 2002 "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."
This is a rare thing A Shakespeare comedy with some laugh out loud moments. The more you know about it, the funnier it gets. Let's start with the title. Much Ado (fuss, bother, hassle) about nothing. Most modern readers take this to mean a whole lot of mess about nothing at all, which is a fair assesment. Back in Shakespeare's day, the word 'nothing' had slightly different connotations, and would be comparable to calling it "Much ado about pussy" ok, so it could be a play about a cat, but you get a sizeable suggestion of 'vagina' Please read it as "Much fuss about sex." The story - Don Pedro, having just finished a war with his evil half brother John, arrives at the the house of Leonato. Leonato has a daughter called Hero, who is courted by Claudio, one of Don Pedro's followers. Leonato has a brother, Antonio, who also has a daughter - Beatrice. Beatrice likes to spar with a chap called Benedick. With a wedding in the offing, evil brother John decides to cause some havoc - he sets Hero up making Claudio think she is shagging someone else - thus sabotagging the wedding. Hero pretends to die. Complex wranglings ensue, leading to several marriages and evil brother John getting caught. So, lots of fuss over nothing at all, from a certain perspective. The characters. Claudio - young, wet, easily led, doesn't really trust his betrothed. Evidence suggests that he needs glasses! Hero - an innocent lass much maligned, although why she ever agrees to take Claudio back after the way he treats her, I will never understand. Benedick - a confirmed bachelor, witty, capable of some depth of feeling, and sceptical about love. Beatrice - a bit of a man eater, likes verbal sparring, is not interested in marriage - a sort of prototype for femenism in the early stages of the play. (it will not shock you to learn that Benedick and Beatrice are duly paired off an d give up their scepticism in favour of being all mushy.) Leonato and Antonio - the brothers. Well meaning old chaps, both posesed of a sense of fun, both devestated when Hero's honour is questioned. Don Pedro - his one mistake is forgiving his evil brother at the start of the play and giving John a chance to have another go at trouble making. Otherwise a decent and well meaning bloke who clearly wouldn't mind having Beatrice as a wife. Don John. In Shakespeare, illegitimate sons tend to be worthy of the term 'bastard' and John is no exception. He likes to cause trouble, he likes to bring discomfort and misery to others, and he's a classic villan. Conrade and Dogberry - the clowns. They really are funny, utterly insane, and crucal to the solution of the plot. Some of the best use of clowns that you are going to find anywhere. A few thoughts: Key to this play is the notion of marriage and virginity - loss of virginity in a woman equates to loss of honour and renders her unmarriable. It's also very hard to prove one way or another, but mud sticks. Sex does not preclude marriage for lower class women, but for women of status its a real issue. Legitimacy - a common theme in Shakespeare, as with King Lear, it is the illegitimate son who causes all the trouble (another reason for no sex outside marriage.) Identity - as is often the case with these comedies, much hangs on the issue of identity and mistaken identity Claudio mistakes a serving woman for Hero, and then mistakes Beatrice for Hero (he soooo needs glasses) Don Pedro mistakes bastard John for a decent chap and thus the plot turns. Benedick and Beatrice are engineered into a love affair by false rumours - mistaken notions about each other, that then turn out to come true. Beatrice and Benedick have both staked a lot of who they are on their unmarried states, which leaves them in an odd position when they succumb to lov e. There is a very fine film version of this - inevitably pruned, but with most of the key plot features correct and present. Kenneth Branagh as Benedick with Emma Thompson as Beatrice, Denzil Washington as Don Pedro, with Keanu Reeves as John the bastard (this stretches the imagination a touch and reeve's accent sucks the big one.) Richard Briars and Brian Blessed as the fathers, Ben Elton and Micheal Keaton stealing the show as the clowns. Well worth watching if you want to get the jokes, as the humour really shines through in this production. This is a truly witty play, and well worth giving a chance - it is very silly, and quite trivial in some ways, but if you poke about a bit, it does have a few serious points to make as well.
This play is unusual in that it is almost entirely written in prose. It is the story of the reluctant love and sexual confrontation of Beatrice and Benedick on the one hand, and the classical love of Claudio for Hero on the other.