Can you believe it’s almost May? We are a third of the way through 2015, and that is crazy to think about. So instead of thinking about it, let’s just talk about the timelessness of this piece of 400-year-old literature, alright? As always, if you’re new to the concept of book club, read all about it on the Book Club Classics page. It might be informative to read Monday’s post about Shakespeare and those crazy conspiracy theories, too.
2015 Book Club Classics List
January – Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (January 28) My review here
February – A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (February 25) My review here
March – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (March 25) My review here
April – Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (April 29)
May – The Awakening by Kate Chopin (May 20)
June – The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (June 24)
July – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (July 29)
August – Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (August 26)
September – Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (September 30)
October – Dracula by Bram Stoker (October 28)
November – Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (November 18)
December – The Chimes by Charles Dickens (December 16)
Today’s post is all about Much Ado About Nothing by the Bard himself, so be thee warned, there are spoilers (!) past this point.
I thoroughly enjoyed this play by Shakespeare. I tend to prefer his comedies over his tragedies anyway (weddings > funerals, obviously), but even then they can be a bit hit or miss. Perhaps due to the multiple authors that wrote under the name William Shakespeare? 🙂
I thought the characters were overall pretty well-developed, and I loved the various ways that gossip and eavesdropping appeared throughout the acts. As Sarah pointed out on Monday, “noting,” which was a homophone of “nothing” in Shakespeare’s day, can refer to “noticing,” “eavesdropping,” “writing something down,” and even a certain feminine part of the body. With these definitions in mind, it makes the rather boring title of this play, Much Ado About Nothing, take on multiple different meanings. I mean, you can’t deny that there is much ado about… women during this play.
Beatrice: a feminist heroine?
I went back and forth about this one, and it was a question that tumbled around in my mind during my entire reading of the play. Beatrice is smart, she seems as independent as possible given the time period, and her wits easily match those of Benedick and exceed those of most of the other characters. She is fiercely loyal to her cousin, and I bet you even Claudio would have had some trouble beating her if she had been able to challenge him to a duel. During the course of the play, she receives two wedding proposals (if we’re counting Don Pedro’s), and she turns down both of them… before promptly reconsidering and accepting Benedick’s hand. Basically she’s a more active participant in her life (and is just a much more exciting character) than some of Shakespeare’s other heroines. (cough Juliet! cough)
Does it matter that she is so easily manipulated by her friends and family members? Should it make a difference that she flip flops her stance about marriage and men in general? I don’t know that either of these matter, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!
Marriage in the late sixteenth century
Whoa, marriage has changed a lot in the last four hundred years. This aspect of the play was probably what most rubbed me wrong, considering Hero (great name, by the way) might as well have been a cow or some other piece of livestock that gets auctioned off to the highest bidder. It was almost like watching one of the 19 Kids and Counting weddings (which I just can’t stop watching, despite how much I disgree with their patriarchal belief system).
I cannot even begin to describe to you how much it bothered me that after completely humiliating her (and in both film adaptations, physically pushing her) during the wedding, Claudio ended up with Hero at the end. Also, the fact that her own father hoped she would just die if the claims against her chastity were true? Geez, I would not have done well living in that time period.
The night watchmen
I must admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Dogberry, Verges, or the rest of the The Watch. I thought that the quick-witted humor between Benedick and Beatrice was so well done, and it kind of threw me off to have entire sections dedicated to a more slapstick comedy vibe. I understand that there are multiple audiences to appeal to with comedy, but it just seemed unnecessary. Although I will admit that Nathan Fillion pulled it off pretty well in Joss Whedon’s modern retelling of the story.
Much Ado About Nothing, performed
I firmly believe that you don’t truly “get” one of Shakespeare’s plays (or any plays, really) until you have the opportunity to see them performed. Onstage, on screen, I’m not a total snob when it comes to Shakespeare. Some of the best adaptations that I’ve seen have been modern film versions like the Joss Whedon one referenced above. There’s just something about having the lines spoken out loud and the actors’ interpretations that bring it all to life better than I ever can in my imagination.
You can check out the Joss Whedon version on Netflix, and I also caught a few scenes from the stage adaptation starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate on YouTube. I feel like you can stream it online, but I wasn’t going to pay $5.00 for it (as much as I love both of those actors). Both of these examples were more modern reimaginings, but they really opened my eyes to this play’s potential and made me love Much Ado About Nothing even more than when I read it off the page!
Overall, this play gets four out of five stars in my book (and on my Goodreads page)!
As always, if you’re a blogger who wants to link up with your own blog post on this book (or any other classics that you’re reading), use the InLinkz button below to join the party! I would also love for you to slap this button onto your page, and spread the word about the group.
Next month’s classic is The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and we’re discussing it a little earlier in the month due to a huge work event that I have during the last week of May. I’ve already gotten a jump start on reading it, and I must say that it’s pretty intriguing so far! You won’t want to miss the link up on May 20th.