Much Ado About Nothing

Something strange happened when I was making this post. Somehow, when I got to the end of my writing – the very end – everything got deleted. Inexplicable. Nevertheless, I now hate this play with a burning passion, merely because of that technical mishap. Fucking hate it.

Before, I only disliked it. But now you get the furious and bitter draft of my thoughts.

First, I don’t think this Comedy is funny. And not in the way Merchant of Venice isn’t funny. I mean in the way Observe and Report isn’t funny.

Seriously, at what point was I meant to laugh at this?

Let me explain. If the title is any indication, it’s about a bunch of stupid people running around and not quite realizing what the other is doing. Specifically, it’s about a bunch of socially maladjusted soldiers who have just come back from war. One of them, Don John, is actually a prisoner of war who rebelled against his brother, Don Pedro. For some reason, he is forgiven for all of his crimes and welcomed back into the community. This is a stupid decision on everyone’s part, because Don John is evil, a self-professed “plain-dealing villain.” He proceeds to try and ruin everyone’s life.

How this play enjoys such a good reputation, I do not know.

In case you aren’t familiar with the details of the plot, let me explain it to you in my increasingly frustrated manner.  Claudio likes Hero, so Don Pedro pretends to be him at a masked dance and woos Hero for him.  Why they take such an indirect route, I do not know.  They are socially maladjusted, like I said.  In any case, Don John takes advantage of this stuidity and spreads a rumor that Don Pedro seduced the woman for himself.  The matter is quickly cleared up, and no harm really done, but it puts the seed of doubt in Claudio’s mind, and he has horrible thoughts about Hero’s chastity at that masked ball.

It also gives me an awesome opportunity to make this Eyes Wide Shut reference.

Don John’s second attempt at discord is a lot more successful.  He actually stages Hero’s infidelity with some of the servants, and convinces Claudio that he has just witnessed Hero fornicating without him.  Claudio – again, I’m not sure why – waits until the wedding ceremony to confront the woman.  And by confront, I mean he violently embarasses her in front of all her friends and family, and implores her father “Give not this rotten Orange to your friend.”  She faints out of shame, and Friar Francis convinces Leonato, Hero’s dad, to fake her death.  Beatrice and Benedick are also confederates in this plot, but I will talk more about their subplot in a bit.  Don John runs away, and his plot is uncovered, and everyone else feels guilty that they shamed Hero to death.  Fortunately, there is another stupid gimmick where Claudio thinks he must marry Hero’s cousin to make reparations with her family, and it turns out that it is of course Hero herself and all live happily ever after.  At the very end, a Messenger declares that Don John has been captured, but the final line of the play responds: “Think not on him till to-morrow: ‘ll devise thee brave punishments for him – Strike up, pipers!”  And then there is a dance.  End of Play.

I'm still not understanding why it's supposed to be funny.

So there it is.  It’s  difficult play, because so little of it makes sense.  The characters are absurd, but in a very muted way.  I feel like the rest of a production’s elements will have to heighten that absurdity to have it make any sense.  These are war-tattered warriors, after all.  Their ability to function in civil society is on par with tragic hero/villains Othello and Macbeth.  But this is a Comedy, which means they get a happy ending.  It doesn’t have to mean that the play is funny, technically.  The old defenition of Comedy only requires things to end in a wedding.  But if there aren’t at least a few laughs, it’s not really worth the audience’s time.  So here’s my thinking: the war was so horrible, these characters absolutely NEED to distract themselves with trivial lightheartedness and games.

Much like the Roaring Twenties was an attempt to forget the toxic soup that was World War I

That’s my concept for the show.  Decadence on a level that evokes our nation’s biggest decade-long party, and never forgetting the martial nature of Claudio and Benedick and the rest.  And Don John?  He has to be so comically evil that the audience knows he can’t be trusted from the moment he walks onstage.  That means he must wear the the greatest mustache of the silent film era.

It's brilliant, really.

That’s the way to make it funny, I think.  The characters are all very life-size, except for the villain who somehow walks among them unnoticed.  It’s the circumstances that are larger than life, and to pretend that those circumstances are normal is to kill this play and make me hate it even more than I do right now.
Okay, I don’t really hate it.  Like I said, I’m just bitter.
But I feel like I have to mention the romance between Benedick and Beatrice, even though it is a small part of everything that is happening onstage.  Benedick is an intelligent soldier, but Beatrice is right on his level if not above it.  She’s one of Shakespeare’s great heroines, and probably the sole reason this play is as popular as it is.

Also, the Hippie Constable Dogberry is pretty funny.

Beatrice actually has one of my favorite lines in the play, when Claudio scorns Hero at the altar: “O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.”  And the end of Act IV scene I is legitimately funny.  She is a smart and sexy woman, and should have been in more of the play.  Oh well.

Next week I will be reading Taming of the Shrew which is another strange Comedy, but I’m looking forward to it.  I took a bit of a hiatus from this blog because I was in England visiting my girlfriend – which was an awesome trip – but I plan to be pretty regular with writing now that I’m home again.  Also, I met my new favorite artist, Dan Hillier, whose visual style is something I want to incorporate into everything I do, as much as possible.  To that end, here is my final image for this entry, which describes my view of how lovers interact in this play:

And my final quote is one of the wiser things that anybody says in the entire play: “There was never yet a philosopher That could endure the toothache patiently.”  Hey, look at that, I’m in a better mood already!


2 Responses to “Much Ado About Nothing”
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  1. […] for their chastity, and regardless of their other qualities it is the chastity that makes or breaks their full value.  The brothel-bound Marina, in Pericles, is another great example of how chastity […]

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