Much Ado About Nothing

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Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Published: 1623

I’d like to read at least one Shakespeare play a year until I’ve gone through the lot of them, and I thought since Joss Whedon’s movie adaptation was coming out soon I’d read Much Ado About Nothing for my latest. This is one of the comedies, and the humour ranges from witty banter to near-slapstick malapropisms.

The story begins as a prince, Don Pedro, arrives back in Messina with his officers after a victory at war. One of the officers, Claudio, has the hots for the governer’s daughter Hero and plans to marry her. The governer’s niece Beatrice is also there to greet the party and proceeds to mock Benedick, another of the returned officers. They have a long-lived rivalry and seem to enjoy bickering with one another.

Beatrice is really the highlight of the play. She’s no pushover fair maiden. She’s feisty, intelligent, and hilarious. She reminds me of Katherine from The Taming of the Shrew before she’s brainwashed, except without the irrational anger. The interactions between her and Benedick also reflect the initial banter of Katherine and Petruchio, but with less of a sinister undertone.

Leonato, the governer, wants Beatrice to marry, but she’s sure there’s no man out there right for her.

[…] I could not endure a husband with a
beard on his face: I had rather lie in the woollen.

You may light on a husband that hath no beard.

What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel
and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He that hath a
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: therefore, I will even take
sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his
apes into hell.

I’m choosing to ignore that in this metaphor having a beard means you’re too old, so that’s one for us beardies!

Anyway, I’m not sure what else to say without spoiling the plot. I will say that the wedding night does not go as smoothly as Hero would like. It goes slightly better than the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire, but it’s up there on the list of less than ideal wedding nights.

I’m not sure how Joss Whedon is going to pull off Hero’s fake dying scene in a modern day setting. People don’t just literally die of embarrassment. And if they do, doctors are usually called in.

I really enjoyed this, though not quite as much as Shrew, but I might have just been more in the mood when I read that. I love Shakespeare’s bickering couples, apparently, so I’ll have to seek out any other similar plays. In the meantine, while I wait for the Whedon version, I will have to rewatch the Kenneth Branagh adaptation, as it’s been over 15 years since I saw it.

5 thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing

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  3. Lady Disdain

    Ahhhhh, I LOVE this play. So much. I have such a soft spot for it. (As might be obvious from my username).

    And I never thought of it, but you’re right – Benedick and Beatrice do resemble Petruchio and Katherine, though I prefer the former couple a thousand times more.

    You know, I always thought that comment about bearded men was Beatrice just taking a jab at Benedick while unintentionally revealing that she actually likes his beard. Although I can’t actually remember if it specifies that he has one – the copy I own has a gorgeous illustration where he does. And Branagh’s adaptation (which is really good! You should watch it if you can) also has Benedick with a beard. Emma Thompson plays Beatrice. And yeah – it’s utter perfection.

    You know, the one character who got on my nerves in this play was Claudio. He’s pretty much a wet rag – aside from the great warrior bit.

    And I can’t wait to see Whedon’s take on it. You know, people give romantic comedies a lot of slack at present, but this has pretty much all the ingredients of one – the humor, some drama, tears, lust and love. It’s all there. But I guess no one minds when it’s Shakespeare.

    Ok, overly long comment. Sorry – I just love this play a lot. And kudos on reading a WS play a year.

    1. Rob Post author

      I love overly long comments!

      I’m hoping I’ll read more than one play a year, but that’s the absolute minimum I’ve set for myself.

      I also prefer Beatrice and Benedict over Katherine and Petruchio, as Shrew turns quite dark after that first bit of banter. Emma Thompson seems perfect for the role. We watched it in my high school class in the mid-nineties, but I didn’t know who she was back then.

      I think the only character that I remember actually have their beard pointed out was Leonato, when Benedict refers to him as white-bearded. I only really remember that because Clark Gregg plays him in the Whedon version and he didn’t have a beard in the trailer.

      There’s a lot of terrible romantic comedies, and I think the good ones (like from Woody Allen, Whedon, Love Actually, etc) tend to be thought of as in a different category at times, whether that’s fair or not I guess.


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