Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In this delightful comedy, Shakespeare shows how “man is a giddy thing” (V.4.). Appearances can be deceiving, and fiction can become reality.
- Claudio and Hero have a conventional courtship, but he is in it mostly for the money at first (I.1.296ff).
- Benedick and Beatrice carry on a merry war of words, but really love each other. Telling him she is pining for him (when she isn’t) changes him. Telling her he loves her (when he doesn’t yet) changes her.
- Don John appears reconciled to Don Pedro, but is looking to cause mischief and hurt in the house. He slanders Hero making her seem unfaithful when she is not.
- The crazy constable appears an idiot, but gets the most important truth out in the open.
Notice that sometimes we can use fiction or tricks to help others to the truth (Pedro). Or it can be a malicious plot to hurt and destroy (John).
The changeable nature of man is another theme. This also can be morally good or bad. The group generally turns from warfare to love, which is a good thing. Benedick goes from scorning romance to falling hard and marrying! His and Beatrice’s pride and scorn give way to love. But we can also believe lies too easily about friends to whom we should be loyal (Pedro and Claudio). We can feign peace and then passive-aggressively carry on a war in the shadows (John).
The plot is an emotional roller coaster, with the botched wedding at the center of the play the nadir of it all. But as a comedy, the end turns right. Changeableness means we have to suffer the giddiness of man, but also that “wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight.” The war of words will end with a kiss. The turmoil of slanders and insults resolves into a wedding.
“Sigh no more, ladies” (II.3). Not in resignation that “men were deceivers ever,” but with the end of all wrongs.
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