Much Ado About Nothing William Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing • Was written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1596-1599 • It is a comedy. What does this mean? Discuss with a partner… • In dramatic terms: a comedy is a play with a happy ending in which things could possibly turn tragically wrong but don’t. There will be some humour in a comedy In fact Much Ado About Nothing is a Romantic Comedy • Romantic comedies are very popular films today, here are a few examples of Romantic Comedies: • Just Like Heaven • 10 Things I Hate About You • Four Weddings and a Funeral • Notting Hill • Can you think of any more similar films which you would call a Romantic Comedy? Women in the 1500’s Women had very few rights during this time. Society in both England and Italy was very patriarchal – this means that society was dominated by men: girls had to obey their fathers and then their husbands. For daughters of noblemen (such as Leonato) their marriages were often arranged. Most importantly, a woman MUST be a virgin when she is married. The fact that Claudio believed (wrongly) that Hero was not a virgin; A belief which caused him to publicly humiliate Hero on her wedding day; was, during the 1500’s a perfectly acceptable reaction. The fact that Leonato was so angry and violent towards Hero when she was declared a ‘loose’ woman was, again, a perfectly acceptable reaction in the 1500’s. Introduction Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare. It is set in Messina, Italy in the sixteenth century. In lines 1-24 (Act 1, Scene 1) the audience learn that the Prince of Aragon is coming to Messina and that Claudio fought well in the recent battle. Language Shakespeare uses language in Much Ado About Nothing in particular ways. The title of the play could be a pun on the word "nothing", which in Shakespeare's times may have been pronounced as "noting". In turn "noting" meant to "observe" or to "watch". The key feature of the play is that it is built on misunderstandings - where things are not quite as they seem. People are misled or misheard (mis-noted), and this leads to comedy and drama. Shakespeare's characters use language to insult each other, to deceive and to entertain - the following are some of the techniques he uses to achieve this. Jokes and Puns • A pun is a form of word-play, which involves words that sound the same but have more than one meaning Ideas, Themes and Issues • The play as a whole is built around a number of key ideas, themes and issues. Trickery and deception - characters trick others into looking foolish, getting angry, becoming jealous, or falling in love. Self-deception and delusion - characters cannot see the obvious, and have an unrealistic view of themselves (good or bad). Love and marriage - described within a society where women have little power and little say in whom they marry. Status and honour - described within a society where anyone of low birth gives way to those of higher status, and where everyone is meant to keep to a strict social code. Creating moods through actor’s words • In Much Ado About Nothing, the voices of characters are important. • In the First Key Extract, Beatrice's use of words and tone of voice paint a negative picture of Benedick before the audience even sees him. • In the Second Key Extract, Benedick's description of how Beatrice treated him at the masked ball makes the audience feel sorry for him, and like him more. Main Characters Who is Beatrice? She is the orphaned and unwed niece of Leonato She is strong-willed and quick-witted She is continually sniping at and challenging Benedick She is not afraid of taking men on, in jest or in anger She is considered by Don Pedro and Leonato to be of a cheerful temperament She is a good friend to her cousin Hero, Leonato's daughter She has already had an unfortunate relationship with Benedick. The Characters Beatrice Who is Benedick? He is a gentleman (by rank if not by behaviour) and a soldier He is a close friend of Count Claudio He is quick-witted and can be relied upon to entertain his colleagues He is committed to being a bachelor He is vain and arrogant about his attractiveness to women He may be hiding his deeper feelings for Beatrice He is a fair man who likes to see justice done He is not a romantic at heart, but a realist The Characters Benedick What does Hero do in the play? She is secretly hidden, and believed ‘dead’ by Don John, Don Pedro and Claudio. She is unmasked at the wedding, and agrees to marry Claudio. She produces the love letter or poem proving Beatrice’s feelings for Benedick. The Characters Hero Summary • L eonato, a kindly, respectable nobleman, lives in the idyllic Italian town of Messina. Leonato shares his house with his lovely young daughter, Hero, his playful, clever niece, Beatrice, and his elderly brother, Antonio (who is Beatrice's father). As the play begins, Leonato prepares to welcome some friends home from a war. The friends include Don Pedro, a prince who is a close friend of Leonato, and two fellow soldiers: Claudio, a wellrespected young nobleman, and Benedick, a clever man who constantly makes witty jokes, often at the expense of his friends. Don John, Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, is part of the crowd as well. Don John is sullen and bitter, and makes trouble for the others. • When the soldiers arrive at Leonato’s home, Claudio quickly falls in love with Hero. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice resume the war of witty insults that they have carried on with each other in the past. Claudio and Hero pledge their love to one another and decide to be married. To pass the time in the week before the wedding, the lovers and their friends decide to play a game. They want to get Beatrice and Benedick, who are clearly meant for each other, to stop arguing and fall in love. Their tricks prove successful, and Beatrice and Benedick soon fall secretly in love with each other. • But Don John has decided to disrupt everyone’s happiness. He has his companion Borachio make love to Margaret, Hero’s serving woman, at Hero’s window in the darkness of the night, and he brings Don Pedro and Claudio to watch. Believing that he has seen Hero being unfaithful to him, the enraged Claudio humiliates Hero by suddenly accusing her of lechery on the day of their wedding and abandoning her at the altar. Hero’s stricken family members decide to pretend that she died suddenly of shock and grief and to hide her away while they wait for the truth about her innocence to come to light. I • In the aftermath of the rejection, Benedick and Beatrice finally confess their love to one another. Fortunately, the night watchmen overhear Borachio bragging about his crime. Dogberry and Verges, the heads of the local police, ultimately arrest both Borachio and Conrad, another of Don John’s followers. Everyone learns that Hero is really innocent, and Claudio, who believes she is dead, grieves for her. • Leonato tells Claudio that, as punishment, he wants Claudio to tell everybody in the city how innocent Hero was. He also wants Claudio to marry Leonato’s “niece”—a girl who, he says, looks much like the dead Hero. Claudio goes to church with the others, preparing to marry the mysterious, masked woman he thinks is Hero’s cousin. When Hero reveals herself as the masked woman, Claudio is overwhelmed with joy. Benedick then asks Beatrice if she will marry him, and after some arguing they agree. The joyful lovers all have a merry dance before they celebrate their double wedding. Benedick claims that all women love him except Beatrice. However he dismisses them, saying that no woman is good enough to tie him down in marriage. He appears more experienced in the ways of the world than Claudio. He is strong enough to actually challenge Don Pedro's attempt to influence events. Leonato and Don Pedro treat Beatrice and Hero differently. They respect Beatrice's strong will. Leonato appears to be her guardian, and no doubt would like to see her married, but there's no question of an arranged marriage. Rather, the two men are going to contrive that she falls in love with Benedick, as a prelude to marriage. They treat her as a person in her own right, but treat Hero as a daughter first, and a person second.