Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts: Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

I’ve been hesitant to read another one of Shakespeare’s plays without a modern translation. To make my second dip into Shakespeare a little easier, I chose to read Much Ado About Nothing, a play which can be called a “romantic comedy” by today’s standards.

Don Leonato hosts Don Pedro of Aragon and company in his estate. One of Don Pedro’s soldiers falls, Claudio, falls for Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and proposes to her. Don John, Pedro’s bastard brother, plots to destroy the union. Meanwhile, Don Pedro intends to bring together his soldier, Benedick, and Leonato’s niece Beatrice. That might be a problem, since the two completely loathe each other…

I think I read somewhere that Hero and Claudio were supposed to be the main couple, but they were ridiculously boring. Hero had no personality, at all, while Claudio had no gumption or opinion of his own. He let other people’s thoughts and opinions cloud his judgment, without even thinking things through.

Benedick and Beatrice were the real stars of the play for me. I enjoyed every scene they had together, particularly in the beginning where all they did was trade barbs.
Beat. A dear happiness to women! They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! So some gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate scratch'd face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse an 'twere such a face as yours were.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuurn. I never thought Shakespeare would be able to make me laugh out loud, but the Bard proved me wrong once again. He’s so witty, and Benedick and Beatrice’s repartee could still be used in modern conversations.

This was the first time that I REALLY read Shakespeare. I read Hamlet before, but my edition also contained a modern line-by-line translation. I surprised myself by understanding most of the dialogue, but there were some parts where I felt like I was just floundering around. This problem was remedied when I saw the film version starring Kenneth Branagh. Most of the dialogue I didn’t understand before—including a whole lot of innuendos—suddenly became clear to me.

I really enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing. The only thing I didn’t like was Don John. He wasn’t that bad of a villain, and I guess the characters really made much ado about nothing.

Rating: 4/5

9 comments:

Red said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this play! I love Beatrice and Benedick and anytime the action moves away from them I just want things to hurry up so we can hear B&B argue some more. I was going to recommend that Branagh version of the movie but seems you've got that covered! Hope you find more Shakespeare to enjoy

llevinso said...

I LOVE Much Ado About Nothing! I agree about the supposed “main” characters. I like Beatrice and Benedict much better as well. What did you think of Dogberry? He’s one of my favorite Shakespeare characters of all time! Too funny!

Zibilee said...

I so admire you for tackling Shakespeare on your own! I have a feeling that if I just dove right in and let my preconceived notions wash away that I would enjoy it as well. I have his whole collection on my Kindle, and I thinking about just picking one at random and giving it a go. Thanks for the great review, and for inspiring me!

Jillian said...

I'm going to a Hamlet play Friday night! And I am ABSOLUTELY for reading Shakespeare with a modern translation. ;-)

Can't wait to read this one. I've yet to try his comedies...

Avid Reader said...

This is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. B&B's dialogue is just the best.

Trisha said...

This play is awesome, and you are definitely right about B and B being the go-to couple. I loved their interactions. You should check out the movie version too; it's actually pretty good.

Allie said...

This is my favorite Shakespeare comedy. :) It always puts me in a good mood. I love the word play between those two and they crack me up every time I read it.

I do love the film version. Keanu Reeves as the villain is hilarious, and it is fun to see so many big actors in a different element.

I usually read either the Folger's Shakespeare editions (like the one you have pictured above) or the Barnes and Noble editions. As I continue reading more and more of his plays, it is much easier to ignore the notes and translations on the other page. I do think that modern translations will be helpful for his histories when I get to those!

simplerpastimes said...

This is my favorite Shakespearean play, so I'm glad you liked it! I don't think there's a better way to really "get" Shakespeare than to see it performed, as the actors and director and setting add so much that we can't get just from the written words on the page, especially in the old language.

Rebecca Reid said...

I saw this in person and it was HILARIOUS. Watching Shakespeare is so great. The language just melts away and it comes alive.

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