365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

Posts Tagged ‘Much Ado About Nothing

361. My top five Shakespeare plays: number 5

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As you all know, I just looooove me some lists. I guess it’s from all the repeated viewings of High Fidelity my freshman year. Well, now that 365 Days of Shakespeare is winding to a close (holy crow, I actually retroactively achieved this since I’m technically posting this in late October even though I changed the date to be September so it looks like I was totally on top of things? Go me and my run-on sentences!), I thought it would be good for me to talk about the plays I personally consider to be Shakespeare’s five best. So here we go, beginning with number five!

NUMBER 5: Much Ado About Nothing

This play is so utterly charming right from the get-go that it is my go-to for depressing, rainy days. It cheers me up better than a hot cup of cider, and that’s saying something, because I love me some cider. What’s nice about this play is that is also comes with a pretty universally loved film, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating when I watch it instead of reading it. Keanu aside, it is a really well-cast and hilarious movie. Though the play takes an insanely dark turn – as most of Shakespeare’s comedies are wont to do – Dogberry is always there at the ready to lighten the mood and crack us up with his malapropisms (or, as I think they ought to be called, Mistress Quicklyisms, but it doesn’t seem to want to catch on). For justice towards bad guys, romance, comedy, and a happily ever after, the number five spot goes to Much Ado About Nothing.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

September 27, 2010 at 10:06 AM

354. Top 11 Shakespearean badasses: number 3

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NUMBER 3: Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing

This girl is the master at the battle of the wits. She always seems to best Benedick, her rival-slash-love, and is definitely the heart of the play. She is one of Shakespeare’s most well-written characters, female or no, and never fails to bring the humor. She has a beautiful inner strength, which shows most especially when she is fiercely defending her cousin against the terrible accusations thrown toward her and whenever she has to face a male character – she is generally treated as an equal in many respects. 

Written by Caroline Mincks

September 20, 2010 at 11:18 PM

312. Klingon Shakespeare. No, I’m serious.

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Not that I know anything about Star Trek apart from the most recent movie (which was awesome, by the way), but it seems that the hardcore fans could out-fan the nerds for Harry Potter on a good day. And that’s really saying something.

So even though I am not a Trekkie or a Trekker or whatever it is that the fans like to be called (I’m a Potterite, myself), I can appreciate the sheer level of geeky fandom necessary to create the production of selections from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing performed entirely in Klingon.

This level of geekery is to be praised, admired, and feared by all who witness it. It is a true feat to be that geeky. I mean, Trekkies/ers are one thing, Shakespeare nerds are another thing, but to combine the two? That, my friends, is a perfect storm of dorkishness. And I love it.

Written by Caroline Mincks

August 9, 2010 at 11:18 AM

287. The balance of comedy and tension in “Much Ado About Nothing”

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In Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, he has managed to strike a perfect balance between lightness and darkness, between comedy and tension. Though the play is indeed a comedy, and undoubtedly one at that, there is still a dark subplot that helps to push the play in the direction of a black comedy while not quite achieving that distinction (saved for the play “Measure for Measure”, it seems). This one is more of a “gray comedy” in that sense.

The darker story occurs when Hero is accused of being unfaithful to her betrothed, Claudio. Claudio is enraged and publicly shames Hero, slandering her at their wedding, then storming off when she swoons and falls down presumably dead of shame. Of course, she is not actually dead, but Claudio does not know this. The innocent Hero ends up exploiting Claudio’s belief in her death by pretending she is dead indeed, so that when her innocence is proven, Claudio will remember her fondly and feel guilt over her “death”. The plan works perfectly, and it ends up that Claudio and Hero will be married in the end, all the bad air between them cleared. All this mayhem is caused by the prince’s brother, Don John, who is a bitter bastard bent on destroying happiness wherever it lies.

However, the lightness far outweighs the darkness in this play. There are verbal sparring sessions, hilarious malapropisms via Dogberry, merrymaking and masked balls, and, of course, romantic encounters. There is no doubt that this play is a comedy, however dark the undertones may be. Shakespeare frequently injected dark themes into his subplots – the abuse of Malvolio in “Twelfth Night”, the disturbing properties of the magical flower in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and the prejudice present in “The Merchant of Venice”, to name a few – but his comedies were always comedies.

It is true that there is quite a bit of tension amidst the humor in “Much Ado About Nothing”, and that the balance between the two, at times, can be found to be hanging by a thread. However, Shakespeare seemed to recognize that the greatest work could be achieved just before the thread snapped, and he frequently toyed with the boundaries of that line between comedy and tension. “Much Ado About Nothing” provides a wonderful balance between laughter and stress, and it is probably the best example of Shakespeare’s ability to combine the two in the canon.

Written by Caroline Mincks

July 15, 2010 at 12:04 AM

282. Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing”

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From a startlingly young age, Kenneth Branagh has managed to help bring to life the great works of Shakespeare, both by directing and by playing many of the most coveted leading male roles in the canon. One of his most memorable achievements in this area is in the wonderfully-adapted film version of the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing”, which has remained a popular movie among fans of the play ever since it came out.

With only one real casting misstep – Keanu Reaves as Don John, in which he makes even fewer facial expressions than usual – the film is filled with a remarkable number of notable actors and actresses, including Emma Thompson, Brian Blessed,Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton, and Denzel Washington. This troupe has wonderful chemistry together and all fit quite well in their respective roles.

The film itself has a lush setting, as the play is set in the beautiful land of Messina, Italy, where apparently everyone is as merry as can possibly be. Combined with some wonderful music, the scenery alone could make a decent movie. The actors, however, are so capable in their roles that only the gratuitous “look how pretty Italy is!” shots are when most will even notice the surroundings.

Shakespeare’s tale of young love, a battle of the sexes (and wits), evil plots, dastardly deeds, and, of course, a happy ending – this is a comedy, after all. This is possibly one of Shakespeare’s best plays, as it features a wonderfully witty script, full of a good balance between joy and darkness. The characters are a rich cast, and no role is a bad role.

Branagh’s take on the film is mostly traditional, so don’t expect the same historical setting update that he gave to his “Hamlet” – he keeps the action pretty much when and where it was meant to be. He makes a charming Benedick, absolutely loveable and hilarious in his delivery of some of the funniest lines that Shakespeare ever penned for a leading man. What’s more, Emma Thompson, his then-wife, is more than capable of providing a worthy opponent, and looks perhaps her most beautiful ever in this movie.

The film is both mirth and matter, a delightful tale that will bring a smile to the face of every audience member for decades to come. See it now – it is a story of romance and laughter that you will never forget!

Written by Caroline Mincks

July 10, 2010 at 11:38 PM

277. “Much Ado About Nothing” summary

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One of Shakespeare’s best-crafted comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing” has been winning the hearts of audiences for centuries. It strikes a perfect balance between light and dark humor, and naturally employs plenty of that wily wit that Shakespeare is so known for.

The story begins in Messina, a merry town in Italy, at the house of Leonato. A group of soldiers will be returning triumphantly after the wars. Among these soldiers is the prince, Don Pedro, his bastard brother, Don John, the lovesick Claudio, and the hero of the story, Benedick. Claudio expresses his love for Leonato’s beautiful daughter, Hero, and Benedick meets his own match: the sharp-tongued Beatrice, with whom he engages in an epic battle of the wits.

Don John is bitter about the love between Claudio and Hero and intends to find a way to destroy it. He hatches a plan to make it look as though Hero is not the virtuous girl she really is. Meanwhile, Don Pedro hatches his own plan: to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love. They set up a ruse so that Beatrice is told that Benedick loves her and Benedick is told that Beatrice loves him, and both are finally able to admit their affection to themselves (if not each other quite yet).

Unfortunately, this fun is soon brought to a screeching halt when Claudio, enraged at the idea that Hero is unfaithful, shames her on their wedding day. Hero swoons, and the soldiers (save for Benedick, who alone was not privy to the false rumors) storm away, believing she has died of disgrace. When Hero comes around, the friar tells her to hide out and let the men believe that she is indeed dead. When her innocence is proven, surely Claudio will only remember her fondly and regret how he shamed her.

Beatrice and Benedick finally tell each other of their love, and Beatrice entreats him to challenge Claudio as revenge for how he treated her cousin. Benedick does so, and soon after, Claudio learns of Hero’s innocence. Leonato tells Claudio that he may make up for such a grievous offence by marrying his “niece”, whom he claims to be almost a copy of Hero (of course, the audience knows that it will, in fact, be Hero herself). Claudio agrees.

All the while this is happening, the most hilarious character Shakespeare ever wrote is getting plenty of stage time. He is Dogberry, the head of the night watchmen, responsible for catching the knaves who plotted against Hero and conducting their trial. There really are no words to describe the utter genius that is the character of Dogberry…so trust me when I say you have to read it to believe it.

The play ends with the wedding of Claudio to who he thinks is a cousin of Hero’s…but who reveals herself to be the true Hero. Much happiness ensues, and even more when Hero and Claudio show off letters that Benedick and Beatrice had written to each other. Benedick and Beatrice are to be married, and Don John will be brought to justice. The conclusion of the play is one of song and dance, and of the unrelenting joy that only the end of a Shakespearean comedy can bring!

Written by Caroline Mincks

July 5, 2010 at 11:22 PM

250. Much Ado About Nothing

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Want to laugh? Want to laugh really, really hard? Then you need to get yourself to a production of “Much Ado About Nothing”, stat. This show has all the best parts of Shakespeare’s comedies: gut-busting laughs, razor-sharp wit, a battle between the sexes, hilarious watchmen, devastating misunderstandings, romance, and, of course, at least one wedding. Though it is all in iambic pentameter with the trademark Shakespearean command of language, it is easy for an audience to understand and enjoy the wild ride that is “Much Ado About Nothing”.

Set in Italy in a merry household when the soldiers are returning victoriously, the play follows two relationships: that of Hero and Claudio, the innocent lovers, and that of Beatrice and Benedick, whose relationship is like a less abusive version of what is portrayed in “The Taming of the Shrew”. The two compliment each other well, and it is plain to see that there is genuine love throughout (no matter how much Beatrice and Benedick may be in denial). When a devious plot threatens to put the relationship between Hero and Claudio, it takes the efforts of everyone – including the teaming up of Beatrice and Benedick – to put things right once more.

Also providing a great deal of entertainment are the watchmen of the town – foppish, clownlike fellows who are led by the unbelievably hilarious Dogberry and his faithful sidekick Verges. Personally, I could watch a play just about these folks and be perfectly content. No matter how great the main cast can be, it is usually this group that really steals (and sells) the show – so it is a good thing they get a couple of really great scenes!

“Much Ado About Nothing” works best when the cast plays. Watching an actor have genuine fun with a script as rich as what Shakespeare provides is a real privilege and joy for an audience. There are so many jokes already written into this play that it is funny all on its own, but when a cast finds new and exciting ways to use the text to their advantage, it becomes that much better.

“Much Ado About Nothing” is one of Shakespeare’s most mature comedies, well-formed and well-written, with an engaging plot and endearing characters. In its darkest moments, it is heartbreaking, and in its lightest, it soars…and as is expected with such authorship as it boasts, it always delivers on its comedic promises.

Written by Caroline Mincks

June 8, 2010 at 5:49 PM