Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"'s Reviews > Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
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's review
Jan 11, 2011

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bookshelves: all-fiction, classics, plays
Read in January, 2011

This is an unfunny comedy. A notable exception is the misuse of words by Dogberry and Verges. I wouldn't even have caught that if not for the explanatory notes on the facing pages. I know I missed it when I saw the stage performance. There are a few humorous moments at the start between Beatrice and Benedick as they trade insults. Other than that, the play is more of a twisted romance. It has many of the same elements as other Shakespeare comedies, but it lacks the playfulness and absurdity of a real comedy like A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The introductory notes explain that the word "nothing" was at that time pronounced "noting," making the title a wordplay. "Noting" is eavesdropping, which is what the play is all about. It involves a lot of manipulative people devising elaborate set-ups whereby various other people will overhear information. Is this passive-aggressive behavior? I prefer direct communication.
Everyone is at fault here---the so-called friends for setting up the ruses, and the hearers for listening in on private conversations. But Claudio nails the truth in Act 2:

"Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love."

When it comes to wooing, it's every man for himself.

It's interesting how Don John the bastard brother is perceived as the evil one, but he only preys on the idiocy of the people he tricks. As I work my way through Shakespeare's plays, I'm beginning to think he saw the entire male sex as a bunch of dimwits. Else why would they fall for every lie and transparent disguise without questioning or seeking proof? (Think of Othello, completely undone by a stupid hanky.) It's always the women who see clearly and set everything to rights. Maybe Shakespeare simply saw that a man's duplicitous nature makes him automatically assume duplicity in everyone around him.

And what's up with Hero being willing to marry Claudio anyway, after he was so quick to believe lies about her? That's not love, that's brain damage!
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Rebecca I found this play to be much funnier than A Midsummer Night's Dream, and every version of it I've seen performed is quite playful. But that might just be me.

message 2: by Chris (new)

Chris You need to see the movie. As for the Hero/Claudio thing - when Shakespeare was writing, Hero would have had to for the sake of her reputation. There is a modern take of the play in Shakespeare Retold where Hero (played by Billie Piper) does not marry Claudio. It's pretty good.

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" "when Shakespeare was writing, Hero would have had to for the sake of her reputation."

Good point. I always forget that these things were created centuries ago. I'll definitely look for the movie.

message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris Get the Brangah version. The Shakespere Retold series is pretty good too.

Bettie☯ Chris is right, the Branagh version is terrific fun, and there was all the palpable real life chemistry shining through between Benedick and Beatrice (branagh and thompson).

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads The Branagh version is terrific; we saw it in my Shakespeare class when we were reading Much Ado, actually.

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