Sunday, March 9, 2008

Much Ado about Nothing - Kristopher's Reaction

In all honesty, I did not suspect that Much Ado About Nothing would become one of my favorite Shakespearian plays. I'd like to thank my partner Linda who did a small analysis of some of the play's themes earlier, in the post "Nothing Like a Friend..."

I have been meaning to post my feelings about the play itself, with all the character explanations I have been throwing onto the blog. At first, I was cynical about enjoying the play. I have read Shakespeare's tragedies Macbeth and Hamlet, which gave me the impression that a comedy about two pairs of lovers dealing with court issues would seem meager in comparison to Macbeth's pressure into power and Hamlet's struggle with revenge. Between a serious piece and a funny one, I would usually opt for the more serious piece with death, despair and an ending where love does not conquer all.

In the area of real life romance, I could not stand a chance. The big question was of how I was going to relate to a bunch of people in court struggling with their feelings without the fantasy setting of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But with Much Ado About Nothing, that cynicism melted away. There is very funny wordplay involved, and I know I offered a few snippets of dialogue throughout the blog. From Benedick and Beatrice's fencing with words to Dogberry's malapropisms, Much Ado About Nothing hardly gets dull. Even for other people who have had little or no experience with relationships will still enjoy this Shakespearian classic.

I got into the tepid arguements between Benedick and Beatrice. Those two were made for one another in that they can lash out with whatever sharp comments they can come up with and rebound. All right, so Beatrice usually wins the fights but the point is, the romantic tension between ladies' man Benedick and witty, strong willed Beatrice was captivating and kept the play moving forward.

I imagine all guys would want to be Benedick; confident, swaggering and able to duel with words. This does not make Claudio and Hero shadows of Benedick and Beatrice. They are the couple who are not gifted with any "special" abilities to set things straight. They are the couple we can relate to in that there are people and things that control them. The overall point is that we can all relate to and pity Claudio and Hero in one way or another.

Claudio is the very opposite of Benedick, for he is no Casanova. He is a fairly gullible character, being fooled by Don John's "claim" that Hero was permiscous. Combined with his insecurities, the forces of love's difficulty make Claudio frustrated, assuming that Hero is unchaste. Hero herself matches well with Claudio because there are strong forces of love outside of her hands as well. She is forced to stay strong, not usually boisterous as Beatrice, and is "resurrected" as a stronger person after Don John and company get their vicious due.

Still, between the "Favorite Couples" area, Benedick and Beatrice still win for me for the sake of their entertainment value. Okay, so they can be a fun couple to watch, but I imagine both of them in real life would be a bother to deal with. There are many real life equivalents of Benedick who are obnoxious. Obnoxiousness is funny in the play but would be a chore in real life to deal with. And I really like Beatrice but she would be a difficult person for me to get to know in real life, even on a friendly basis. She aims her vicious words at almost everybody involved.

The sad thing about Much Ado About Nothing is that it is possibly underrated. I can find plenty of critical essays and articles, but many people do not go out of their way to express their love for the play. I have looked all around to find only a few good parody clips, some footage from the film adaptation and stage performance footage.

So maybe I am exaggerating, as there are some solid clips, just not enough good "tributes." Plays like Hamlet get their justice with Star Wars themed spoofs, and even King Lear was parodied using themes from The Office. But Much Ado About Nothing almost gets zilched.

Overall, this is a play to enjoy its characters struggling with romance, as all of us can relate to folks who just cannot grasp love so easily.

- Kristopher

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