Sunday, 28 August 2011

'Much Ado About Nothing' by William Shakespeare (1600)

Synopsis: a feisty, vivacious woman called Beatrice and a high-spirited man called Benedick both claim to hate each other and that they are determined never to marry. But then their mutual friends trick them into believing that each is secretly in love with the other. This finally forces them to admit their real feelings for each other. There are also two subplots in this play. One of these subplots has Benedick's friend Claudio becoming engaged to Beatrice's cousin Hero. However the malicious Don John tricks Claudio into thinking that Hero has been unchaste and unfaithful to him. Claudio then publicly denounces Hero at the altar. The other subplot involves the night watchmen Dogberry and Verges trying to uncover the truth. Much Ado About Nothing is set in Sicily. 

Sometimes people can be a little reluctant to read Shakespearean plays. I know I was during most of my school years. It is true that you can spend almost as much time reading the footnotes as you do with the main text and not all of the jokes are funny. Some of them are too archaic for you to find them amusing. But there's a reason why Shakespeare's works are still so widely read and performed today... because he's awesome!

Although Hamlet is probably still my favourite Shakespeare play so far, Much Ado is a fantastic play as well. Some might not like the sound of this play though because in practically every rom-com film that gets made these days the man and the woman start off hating each other, because of some contrived misunderstandings, before they end up getting together. But Much Ado is different. Partly because it's just so funny and brilliantly written. Partly because Shakespeare drops several hints that Beatrice and Benedick had a romantic past and that they still have feelings for each other. I'm inclined to think that even if Beatrice and Benedick's friends hadn't meddled with their affairs that they would have still admitted their real feelings for each at some point. It would have just taken them longer to get there. 

Much Ado is an immensely enjoyable, beautifully written, genuinely funny comedy and it's amazing at just how little the humour of it has dated. Even after 400 years it's still funny. In fact the play is hilariously funny in places! I loved all of the witty banter between Beatrice and Benedick. They're both extremely likeable characters and make for a fantastic couple. I would love to hang out with these two and I don't think they'd ever be a dull moment in their marriage. Another thing that really impresses me about this play is that Shakespeare mixes the comedy and the drama so well. The Hero/Claudio subplot is very reminiscent of Othello and it could have easily ended in tragedy. 

I would definitely recommend reading this play or seeing it live. Much Ado is the quickest and easiest read of the Shakespeare plays I've read so far and it would make for a brilliant introduction to Shakespeare. It really is a hilarious and fantastic romantic comedy. Much Ado is still the only one I've seen performed live so far too - with Catherine Tate and David Tennant : ) I really must read more of Shakespeare's plays in future.

Rating: 5/5

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