Much Ado About Nothing opens at the end of a conflict in Italy: Don Pedro of marriage, Claudio bashfully tells Benedick that he loves Leonato's daughter Hero Much Ado About Nothing pits male bonding against heterosexual relationships . As Beatrice tosses out Don Pedro's marriage proposal, he realizes that the girl hasn't married because she hasn't found her equal in mockery and wit. A summary of Act IV, scenes i–ii in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Leonato and the shaken Hero ask what Claudio means. The rejection scene also throws other relationships in the play into question: Claudio and Don Pedro both.
Sinden's years of experience in light comedy gave him the confidence to vary his virtuoso performance unpredictably from night to night, recklessly willing to play each audience as differently as might a stand-up comic. Audiences remember how he would sometimes perform the whole of his soliloquy at the end of the second act — in which Benedick, tricked into believing Beatrice loves him, gradually abandons his former opposition to marriage — as though remonstrating with increasing vehemence with a single chosen spectator in the stalls.
He would make a tremendous, emphatically nodding climax of the line "The world must be peopled", as though this were a clinching riposte with which to convince his obdurate opponent, and would then stomp triumphantly off — only to return a moment later, visibly calming himself, to offer the same spectator amends with a placatory, face-saving "When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I would live till I were married".
Dench recalls finding Sinden so funny and so perpetually unexpected that she would sometimes be laughing too much to make her ensuing entrance. Barton, rare among modern directors of Much Ado, was willing to trust Sinden and Dench to deliver their scenes' comedy with little help from the props department. Most of his successors have been less restrained, supplementing the respective gullings of Benedick and Beatrice with more and less desperate pieces of equipment for generating slapstick: These would-be comic devices, though, are always at risk of overbalancing the play, compelling designers to treat these scenes as its defining heart.
It's remarkable how little Hytner's production actually gained, for instance, once Simon Russell Beale's Benedick had finally undergone his predictable drenching, from the presence of all that irrelevant water. But the real trouble with the customary view that Much Ado About Nothing is just a cheerful romp about Beatrice and Benedick is that their superficially easy scenes supply only the subplot to a much darker and stranger play.Hero Claudio Wedding Scene
Its throwaway title, for a start, conceals a nasty sexual pun; at stake in the main story is precisely the "nothing" which, according to the Elizabethan slang used by the likes of Hamlet, lies between a maid's legs. That maid is Hero, who is wooed by an older man, Don Pedro, on behalf of a younger, Claudio.
Claudio, at first jealous of the intermediary he has himself employed, is then tricked into thinking Hero has been pursuing a clandestine relationship during their engagement, and at the altar he declares her to be a whore. She collapses unconscious, and her father, convinced of the accusation's truth, wishes she were dead. When her bridegroom-to-have-been is told that she is indeed dead he is unrepentant. The play manages to contrive a miraculous, wonder-struck ending to this story in which the two nonetheless wind up married: While accepting that comedies end in weddings, so that Benedick and Beatrice are only struggling against the inevitable, Much Ado depicts a world in which marriage is fragile, arbitrary and potentially traumatic, and in which people are not so much free agents as the prisoners of their own self-images and of each other's unreliable opinions.
To judge from his endless anxious jokes about cuckoldry, for instance which many directors ruthlessly cutBenedick has remained a bachelor to date largely because he is profoundly convinced that no woman is capable of fidelity and is deeply afraid of public disgrace. And to judge from the banter between Claudio and Don Pedro, soldiers fresh from victory, neither has ever wasted much time talking to girls, and when in doubt they would always trust a fellow-officer's word over that of a woman.
If this is a comedy, it's one that is alarmingly close to Othello.
The darkness at the heart of Much Ado About Nothing
Don Pedro and his men, bored at the prospect of waiting a week for the wedding, harbour a plan to match-make between Benedick and Beatrice. They arrange for Benedick to overhear a conversation in which they declare that Beatrice is madly in love with him but afraid to tell him; that their pride is the main impediment to their courtship. Meanwhile, Hero and her maid Ursula ensure Beatrice overhears them discuss Benedick's undying love for her. The tricks have the desired effect: Meanwhile, Don Pedro's brother Don John, the "bastard prince", plots to stop the wedding, embarrass his brother and wreak misery on Leonato and Claudio.
He informs Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero is unfaithful, and arranges for them to see John's associate Borachio enter her bedchamber where he has an amorous liaison actually with Margaret, Hero's chambermaid. Claudio and Don Pedro are taken in, and Claudio vows to humiliate Hero publicly. Her humiliated father Leonato expresses the wish that she would die.
The presiding friar intervenes, believing Hero to be innocent. He suggests the family must fake Hero's death in order to extract the truth and Claudio's remorse. Prompted by the day's harrowing events, Benedick and Beatrice confess their love for each other.
Beatrice then asks Benedick to slay Claudio as proof of his devotion, since he has slandered her kinswoman. Benedick is horrified and at first denies her request.
Leonato and his brother Antonio blame Claudio for Hero's apparent death and challenge him to a duel. Benedick then does the same. Benedick is following the commands of Beatrice and is one of the few who believe Hero.
Luckily, on the night of Don John's treachery, the local Watch apprehended Borachio and his ally Conrade. Despite the comic ineptness of the Watch headed by constable Dogberrya master of malapropismsthey have overheard the duo discussing their evil plans.
The Watch arrest the villains and eventually obtain a confession, informing Leonato of Hero's innocence. Though Don John has fled the city, a force is sent to capture him.
Claudio, stricken with remorse at Hero's supposed death, agrees to her father's demand that he marry Antonio's daughter, "almost the copy of my child that's dead"  and carry on the family name.
At the wedding, the bride is revealed to be Hero, still living. Beatrice and Benedick, prompted by their friends' interference, finally and publicly confess their love for each other. As the play draws to a close, a messenger arrives with news of Don John's capture — but Benedick proposes to postpone his punishment to another day so that the couples can enjoy their new-found happiness.
Don Pedro is lonely because he hasn't found love. Thus Benedick gives him the advice "Get thee a wife. The earliest printed text states that Much Ado About Nothing was "sundry times publicly acted" prior to and it is likely that the play made its debut in the autumn or winter of — The play was published in quarto in by the stationers Andrew Wise and William Aspley. This was the only edition prior to the First Folio in Analysis and criticism[ edit ] Style[ edit ] The play is one of the few in the Shakespeare canon where the majority of the text is written in prose.
Sicily was ruled by Aragon at the time the play was set.
Much Ado About Nothing - Wikipedia
Act II, Scene v: Benedick and Beatrice quickly became the main interest of the play, to the point where they are today considered the leading roles, even though their relationship is given equal or lesser weight in the script than Claudio and Hero's situation.
While this was reflected and emphasized in certain plays of the period, it was also challenged.
It seems that comic drama could be a means of calming such anxieties. Ironically, we can see through the play's popularity that this only increased people's interest in such behavior.
Benedick wittily gives voice to male anxieties about women's "sharp tongues and proneness to sexual lightness". This stereotype is turned on its head in Balthazar's song "Sigh No More," which presents men as the deceitful and inconstant sex that women must suffer. Infidelity[ edit ] A theme in Shakespeare is cuckoldry or the infidelity of a wife. Several of the characters seem to be obsessed by the idea that a man has no way to know if his wife is faithful and therefore women can take full advantage of that fact.
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Don John plays upon Claudio's pride and fear of cuckoldry, which leads to the disastrous first wedding. Many of the males easily believe that Hero is impure and even her father readily condemns her with very little proof. This motif runs through the play, often in references to horns, a symbol of cuckoldry.
In contrast, Balthasar's song " Sigh No More " tells women to accept men's infidelity and continue to live joyfully.
Some interpretations say that Balthasar sings poorly, undercutting the message. This is supported by Benedick's cynical comments about the song, where he compares it to a howling dog.
However, in the Branagh film Balthasar sings beautifully, the song is also given a prominent role in both the opening and finale and the message appears to be embraced by the women in the film.