Friday, June 15, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing. William Shakespeare. 1599.

This "review" assumes you know the story, I provide no summary. These are just my ever-rambling thoughts on rereading my most-favorite-and-best Shakespeare play. 

Much Ado About Nothing has to be my favorite, favorite, favorite Shakespeare play! Why? Well, it's not exactly because of Claudio and Hero, the young couple whose courtship and marriage we're supposed to be celebrating merrily. Hero just isn't as interesting a character as her cousin, Beatrice. And Claudio, well, Claudio is a little clumsy. I'm thinking not only of the fact that he believes the worst of Hero and plays a big, big role in slandering her. Though, of course, that might be what first comes to mind. But I'm thinking of the fact that he's easily led by others. First, he's seeking approval for making the match, wanting--needing--to have everyone tell him and reassure him that Hero is a good woman, that the match would be a good one, that marriage would be good for him. So with the full approval of his superior (superior in many ways, I imagine) Don Pedro, the proposal is arranged. But while Claudio is waiting and waiting and anxiously waiting to hear her answer, he listens to Don John. And in an instant he thinks the worst of his friend. Yes, as Beatrice points out, Claudio controls his jealousy, his temper, being merely "civil." But still, you can tell he's struggling to keep composed. When he learns the truth, all is well again, crisis averted, normalcy returned. With sweet, sweet Hero by his side, Claudio becomes merry-hearted once again. But the next time Don John comes whispering in his ear, what happens again? Does he trust sweet, sweet Hero? No. Now, in his defense, Don John did arrange things cleverly. So it's not like Claudio is completely, completely, completely an idiot for falling into this trap. For acting on it in the way he did, perhaps. Could he have handled things better? Definitely! The non-wedding screaming match can be a little too much. With practically every character having a temper tantrum all at once. While we're considering different options, Margaret could have told someone, anyone--either privately or publicly--the truth. Granted, she was probably humiliated and ashamed and wanting to hide until the storm passed. But still. She knew the truth and did nothing. And I do have a hard time with Leonato and his response to the big reveal. Seriously. She's your own daughter and you automatically assume the worst and side with Claudio, Don Pedro, and Don John?! Really?! After knowing her all those years, those many many years. After knowing how sweet and gentle and passive and obedient and silent she is, was it in her nature at all to suddenly act so contrary? I mean it's one thing for other people to think the worst of you when they hear the worst of you, but for your very own father to act in such a way, it's just insane. No wonder Hero fainted away. I do have to admire Beatrice, not to mention the friar, for being the only logical, sane people at the affair. Both know that Hero is innocent, truly innocent, that it would be impossible for Hero to be other than what she is. Now, Beatrice is more fiery about defending her, but, I can't say that I exactly blame her. Because that's who Beatrice is.

I think I've talked about Hero and Claudio enough. The heart of Much Ado About Nothing, of course, is Beatrice and Benedick. I love, love, love this couple. In fact, I'm not sure three loves are enough. They are truly one of my most favorite couples ever. I just LOVE and ADORE them both. I love their scenes. I love their banter. I love what they bring out in each other. Their scenes definitely are giddy-making. And their scenes are so joyful, so wonderfully and perfectly joyful. I love how their "courtship" is carried out. And part of me wishes to know more about their past. Because I have suspicions that she's loved him a good long time. When she says, "I know thee of old." I believe her, I do. I think she's had her heart broken by him, whether he knew it or not, in the past. And I think she's doing the best she can to hide how she *really* feels about him.

Much Ado About Nothing is a play that I just LOVE. It's one of those practically-perfect-in-every-way plays. And while I don't love each and every scene, some being quite tedious, if you've read it or watched it, you can probably guess which scenes, but it is because of the foolish obnoxious characters or "guards" or "watchmen" that Hero's reputation is saved, so I can't complain too much.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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