April 26, 2008

Review: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare

Ah, Shakespearean rapture! How pleasing is thy sound. How tantalising thy taste. How did I abide so long without thee?

I've just finished Much Ado About Nothing and again name Shakespeare the master. The wickedness of Don John; the nobility of Benedick; the purity of Hero; the redemption of Claudio. It is all too marvellous.

"How much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!"
Claudio, a young soldier just returned victorious from battle, falls in love with the virtuous Hero. His friend, Prince Don Pedro, woos her for him behind a mask at a ball, winning her hand but also giving the Prince's jealous and villainous brother, Don John, an opportunity to cause mischief. Meanwhile, Claudio's other devoted friend, Benedick, who has sworn off marriage and brags of his fortitude in avoiding the wiles of the fairer sex, is to be the butt of a joke; he is to be fooled into thinking Hero's cousin, Beatrice, a woman set against marriage as much as he, is secretly in love with him. Likewise, Beatrice is to believe that Benedick pines away for her. But while this young love is blossoming, there is a much more sinister scene being hatched.

This is most certainly a comedy but it also has some very dramatic moments. I must critique honestly, I was left a little dizzy from the abrupt switches from humour to drama and back to humour again. I loved it all but sometimes the jokes seemed out of place when hearts are being broken and death has intruded. It seems inappropriate to laugh at such times. But then one has to remember that this is a play, meant to be performed. There are pauses in between lines. There are intermissions here and there. It is not as abrupt as it is in written form.

"When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married."

My favorite character was Benedick. He is so confident in his views, even as they contradict from one moment to the next, but he recognises innocence despite the appearance of contrary evidence presented by questionable characters. And the idiotic Dogberry made me laugh out loud. "Oh that I had been writ down an ass!" Too funny.

This book was the April selection for my reading group, chosen by my good and wise friend. We meet on Monday to watch the movie and discuss. In honor of unrequited love there is to be a wedding theme. As some of the members are not regular connoisseurs of Shakespeare, I wait anxiously to see what they have to say.

I leave you with this piece of art I found depicting the most dramatic scene from the play, Hero's accusation. The line at the bottom is spoken by her father, Leonato.


Trish said...

My coworker and newbie bookblogger is trying to coerce me into hosting a challenge. I've thought about doing a drama challenge. I have a number of plays sitting on my shelf but I always seem to forget about them--same thing with poetry.

Glad you liked this one! Have you read Twelfth Night? I'd recommend that one as well--and I loved Taming of the Shrew (but I think I've mentioned that before).

Anonymous said...

I've always preferred Shakespeare's tragedies to his comedies -- perhaps through exposure, since 3/4 of the Shakespeare we read in highschool was tragic.

Glad you liked Much Ado, though!

Petunia said...

Trish-a drama challenge would be fun. Let me know if you do it so I can sign up. I haven't yet read Twelth Night but I saw the movie with Toby Stephens. I will continue to read Shakespeare throughout the year so I'm sure to hit it at some point.

She Reads Books-I have only read Romeo and Juliet and that was in high school so it's been a while. In the last year I have only read his comedies but I will make an effort to read some of his tragedies before the year is up.

Trish said...

I will let you know if I decide to do one. It would either be that or classics--but how knows. I'm a little scared to host a challenge!

Sarah said...

I love this play and re-read it a little to often!

Beeatrice and Benedick are wonderful.

Petunia said...

Trish-I would join either one. But I understand about being nervous to host one. Notice I haven't hosted one myself.

Sarah-I watched an older drama version starring Sam Waterson as Benedick. It was dated but funny.

Susanne Barrett said...

Hi Petunia --

I'm teaching a Shakespeare class at Brave Writer starting on Monday, and Much Ado is the play we'll be discussing, after background and sonnets. I adore the play itself, and Ken Branagh's film is masterful, if a bit uneven in places (like every time Keanu Reeves as Don Juan, speaks). It's definitely one of my favorite plays. However, my absolute favorite is Measure for Measure which I finally saw acted live this past summer.