Much Ado About Nothing–Act V

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I’m never quite sure what to do with the opening of this act, particularly in the question of whether we take Leonato seriously as a herald of truth or if we are to look at him rather foolishly like Polonius giving advice in Hamlet. Is it true that counsel, philosophy, and truth do not provide us consolation in times of suffering? “For there was never yet philosopher/That could endure the toothache patiently” (V.i.35-36). I’m not so sure what to make of it. I could say there are two fools in this play–Dogberry and Leonato, one being superior to the other. Or I could scrap that thought altogether.

Now, the confession of Borachio. While he was merely caught bragging before in Act III, here he actually comes forth with a heart full of repentance. This stems from the phrase of the Friar, “Die to live,” for the only thing I can think of that has changed in the course of the Sexton interviewing Borachio and the present scene is the “death” of innocent Hero. The death of an innocent bringing forth a repentant heart? Smells familiar.

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Benedick was, “not born under a rhyming planet’ (V.ii.39-40), and thus is unable to flatter Beatrice with flowery words. Shakespeare deals with the figures of Leander (who swam a heck of a long way for a lady) and Troilus (don’t get me started, but essentially, he’s a man of all words) as paradigmatic poetic lovers. I would dare to say he prefers a Leander to a Troilus, and Benedick seems more on the Leander side of the argument. Beatrice in the previous act and this one calls Benedick to action, for, “Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome” (V.ii.51-52). Relationship advice from Shakespeare–stop talking about it and do something for your lady. Boom.

This play ends perfectly–Don John is caught, everyone’s getting married, there is singing and dancing, Hero is alive and innocent as ever–and it isn’t an annoying, “Deus ex machina” perfection that cheapens a nice “Happily ever after.” It’s one of the elements that makes me love this play–people convert their hearts to love and truth in a believable manner (not that all conversions are the same, some real-life realizations are sudden and “unbelievable” in their nature) and even Don John isn’t punished until after the joyful activities. I wish I could say more, but I find I am running out of thoughts to express my fangirl-esque love for this play.

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And, truly, to love one no more than reason? It’s humble, it’s honest, it’s true…and it’s quite a compliment. 🙂

Thanks everyone for your patience during my move. Now that I have everything settles and a routine, I will be back to posting like the days of old.

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Much Ado About Nothing–Act IV

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The first scene of this play has three parts: The Wedding/Shaming, the Friar’s counsel, and Benedick and Beatrice revealing their affections. Let’s begin!

I think the most important thing to note with Claudio and Don Pedro in this scene is that they make a petition that no one trust their eyes to Hero’s innocence. Yet, the ground on which they base their scorn is rooted in their sense of sight. Shakespeare often uses the image of poison when he sculpts the speeches of his Iago’s, and I think the image fits well here–they are poisoned by their sight to see the truth of the blushing and innocent Hero.

I’ve seen many renditions of this play, and I usually have one particular qualm with many of them–they cut out the Friar’s line by which we understand what his plan does. He states, “For strange sores strangely they strain the cure./Come, lady, die to live” (IV.i.251-252). Now, maybe some of you are not neurotic like me, but I stress myself out over the fact that the Friar cures a lie with lying. I’ve gotten better, mostly because of the aforementioned line, and the paradox of dying to live. Now, the scene began with Leonato not wishing the Friar to catechize the duties of being husband and wife prior to their actual wedding. What is a wedding but a death to self, two becoming one flesh? While I feel unable to reconcile the whole “lying” aspect of the Friar, I think back to the Catholic Church printing off fake baptismal records to Jews in WWII. It helps me sleep at night.

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Ah, and now for everyone’s favorite part. If it isn’t, it ought to be. And…I’m just going to quote my thesis again. Sorry folks!

Their moment alone goes well, until Beatrice calls Benedick to prove his love in action, by killing Claudio. Benedick’s initial response is no, because she is asking him to forsake his previous office under the service of the Prince Don Pedro and to forsake his friendship for Claudio. The action she calls him to is a renunciation of self. She is enraged by his response, because his profession of love for her is not to be demonstrated by himself and his own interests for the sake of his love for Beatrice and her request. Then he relents and obeys her call to action, using his hand as a testimony of his promise to challenge Claudio for the dignity of Hero’s honor. He states, “Enough, I am engaged: I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you hear of me, so think of me”(IV.i.329-332). In their first conversation, not only do they profess their feelings for one another, but Beatrice submits to her role as a woman, while Benedick submits to her call for him to act. In the time allotted by the Friar for the truth about Hero to be revealed, the fruition of Don Pedro’s intentions behind his deception for Benedick and Beatrice’s good comes to be—they communicate and humble themselves in “a mountain of affection the one with the other.””

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Finally, I leave you with this…

Oh that he were here to write me down an ass! But masters, remember that I am an ass: though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. (IV.ii.74-77)

Much Ado About Nothing–Act III

My hiatus is over! I am officially settled in to my new town, new room, new life! And, without further ado…Let’s continue.

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Firstly, there is a common thread between Benedick and Beatrice’s reactions (and the deceiver’s). Firstly, the deceiver’s make a point in outlining Ben and Bea’s flaws–particularly how proud and scornful they are–because it is the only way they will hear such flaws and be open to transforming themselves to the truth. Their personal flaws are the first thing they reject in their monologues (also note that there is no other time in this play where we find someone alone reciting a monologue, and note that we don’t really see monologues happening in Shakespeare’s comedy). They first deny themselves before confessing their love for the other. Does this not ring true with how we love?

It is the scene directly after that sets up Don Pedro and Claudio. Now, Claudio reacts as his rash, young, self. However, depending on the control the actor has in this scene, there is an explanation for Claudio’s reaction aside from his rashness. He’s hurt. And so is Don Pedro, who, as a good prince, wants the good for his men. We don’t see the reactions of Don Pedro and Claudio to the “evidence” that Don John shows them (we do in most portrayals on stage of the play, but not directly in the text itself) unlike the deceiving of Benedick and Beatrice. I would say this is an illustration of the nature of truth and falsehood. The second scene takes place at night–and where else does falsehood lead one, except into darkness.

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Dogberry. The man who mixes phrases. Yet, he’s clearly able to see what is true, his timing is actually perfect, but because he has an inability to communicate, his goodness falls on deaf ears. Notice how much of this play relies on communication  overhearing, reporting, gossip and hearsay. The cruel deception of Don John doesn’t happen by hearing–it necessitates sight.

Oh, speaking of Dogberry, let me go on a side-note and say how excited I am to see Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal to us Firefly fans) play Dogberry in Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of this play. (And how excited I am that Joss Whedon, if he follows Shakespeare and doesn’t take liberties, can’t kill off characters that I love for once in his bloody career).

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I want to speak of Borachio’s confession in a later scene. I think I have made my basic points for this act. I’m going to follow the old schedule and post through the rest of the week. Then I’ll be back on track to continue the project every weekday.

Much Ado About Nothing–Act II

Doing a schedule change. I’m still doing an act each day, but it may be spread over the course of these two weeks. It is the only thing that can work conveniently enough for my schedule right now.

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The opening of this act holds some of my favorite lines of Beatrice’s, albeit they reveal her over-bearing pride. I’m much more interested in the three different mistakes in identity that happen throughout. For one, when Claudio affirms that he is Benedick, I kept thinking, “Now, what of his character would make him do that.” It seems out of place to me. However, he’s also a fish-out-of-water when it comes to the whole “interacting with women” aspect of life, so I find myself attributing his actions that are seemingly against his nature to relate to that.

I want to make a brief point about Claudio’s rashness. If we hold Aristotle to be true, in that virtue is a “mean between two extremes” than I would dare to say that what served him well on the battlefield (bravery) is transformed to the quick-to-anger Claudio that we see now. Also, notice that Don John’s first attempt to hurt is brother is completely foiled by the honesty of his brother. Which is why the plot has to contain contrived evidence for Don John to get his way.

The difference between the brothers lies in the fact that Don Pedro is honest and his actions come from his love, while Don John is the exact opposite and his actions are spurned from hatred.

Now for Benedick. The scene opens in an orchard, with music. Hmm. These to me set up all my ideas of “world set apart” from the ordinary.

And…Now I am just going to quote my thesis to make the point I want to make about Don Pedro and his deception on Benedick. Because when I wrote this, I was more qualified and better with words than I am to try to recapture what I mean….

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“The initial reaction to Don Pedro’s contrived deception takes place on stage, for the audience to see (which differs completely from the deception of Don John). When Benedick comes forward, the initial words of his monologue reveal his conviction that the conversation he has just overheard cannot be a trick, because of the tone of the conversation and the way in which they sympathize with Beatrice.[1] Moving from recognition of their sympathy, he responds openly to their critiques and acknowledges his pride. He states, “I must not seem proud: happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending.”[2] His statement reveals two things about the effect of the deception played upon him. Firstly, he acknowledges and rejects his pride, which he is happy to do—through hearing his critics; and secondly, his use of the passive periphrastic, “must,” in the rejection of his pride, corresponds with the imperative he uses previously—“Love me? Why, it must be requited.”[3] His rejection of pride and the requiting of her love are two things that must be done, since one cannot love another if one is exceedingly proud. As his monologue continues, he recognizes that Beatrice meets all of his previous expectations of a woman, rejecting his previous disdainful notions of marriage, and resigns himself to “be horribly in love with her.”[4] The fact that the audience is able to witness the success of Don Pedro’s trick—that it has not led Benedick away from truth, but to truth and humility—shows that the deception itself is not founded upon a lie, like Don John’s. Rather, it is rooted in something that is true, but must be carried out in a deceptive-like manner, because of the circumstances and the disposition of the characters involved.”


[1] II.iii.230-234 This can be no trick. The conference was sadly borne. They have the truth of this from Hero. They seem to pity the lady. It seems her affections have their full bent.

[2] II.iii.239-241

[3] II.iii.234

[4] II.iii.246

Much Ado About Nothing–Act I

Anyone who knows me, knows I love this play. I’ve seen the Kenneth Branaugh movie a million times, my latest favortie past-time is watching the David Tennant and Catherine Tate version, I’ve watched the BBC movie edition at least twice. I’ve read the play a thousand times. I wrote my thesis on it. And yes, I never, ever get sick of it. I think this play is the catalyst for my adoration of Shakespeare.

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The play begins after a war–a war that is undisclosed in time and place–we only hear of in the beginning of the play. I think this is key to the play, really. It doesn’t set our mind thinking, “Oh, this is after the crusades” or “I wonder if this is a reference to this historic war.” It rips us out of our neo-scholarly thoughts and launches us into a different kind of warfare. Ah, yes, the warfare of love!

For example–the “merry war” of Benedick and Beatrice. Which, I honestly don’t want to talk about them until we get more into the play. Yet, I will say, they are delightful to watch.

I want to get more at the root of the relationship between Don Pedro and Claudio. When I’ve discussed this play in the past, I’ve noticed there is a tendency to see Claudio as an extremely weak character–I mean, really, he can’t even talk to the girl he digs to woo her himself? What a twit. But I would like to point out the dialogue between the two of them, because I think the problem is not in Claudio’s weakness, but in his lack of experience doing anything aside from acting as a soldier. How do soldier’s woo women? Claudio certainly hasn’t the faintest idea. And Don Pedro’s the guy who wants to make sure his men are taken care of after the war–so he’s going to match ’em up.

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Moving on to scene two. The main “thing” to this whole play is the overhearing or overseeing by the characters, some are mislead, some are placed to mis-lead, either way–it’s kind of a play about gossip.

Finally, Don John. Essentially, he’s a straight out villain–mustache-twirling and all. I would like to propose a reason for his horrid disposition lies in the fact that he chooses to be run by his passions and chooses not to quell such a thing with reason. Boom.

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Sadly, I have to get going to a going away party for some Dutch men, otherwise I’d spend all day on this entry.

Until tomorrow.