Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare
June 1 1997
directed by Robin McKee

Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, returns to the city of Messina after a successful campaign against Don John, his estranged half brother, with whom he has just been reconciled. Claudio and Benedick, two noblemen who have distinguished themselves in the prince's service, accompany them. At the home of Leonato, governor of Messina, Don Pedro and his entourage are graciously received by Hero, Leonato's daughter, and Beatrice, his niece. Romance quickly blossoms between Claudio and Hero and, under Don Pedro's cheerful guidance, the two lovers are betrothed at a masked ball. After successfully uniting these young paramours, Don Pedro undertakes the seemingly impossible task of bringing together Beatrice and Benedick, two scorners of love" who have long been engaged in a merry war of wit and words. While Don Pedro playfully sets his matchmaking ruse into motion, Don John and his henchmen, Borachio and Conrade, devise a scheme to stop Claudio and Hero's wedding. Don John convinces Claudio that his fiance is disloyal and arranges for him to witness her unfaithfulness. Deceived by a staged betrayal, Claudio resolves to disgrace Hero. At the nuptial ceremony the next day, Claudio publicly accuses Hero of being unchaste. Although Hero protests her innocence, she is overwhelmed by the accusation. Don Pedro, Don John and Claudio storm out of the church leaving Hero wronged, her family dishonored and bewildered. Believing the girl guiltless, a member of the local clergy counsels Leonato to have faith in his daughter and offers a plan to prove her innocence. After the others leave the church, Benedick admits his love to Beatrice and asks her to let him show his devotion. Enraged by her cousin's treatment, Beatrice implores Benedick to avenge Hero. Benedick, torn between love and friendship, challenges Claudio to a duel.

Date Time
Sunday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

Although Much Ado About Nothing is known for its lively and combative lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, it's the skillful combination of the play's three subplots into a single, unified story that makes it a theatrical masterpiece. Seen as Shakespeare's advent into "mature" or "joyous" comedy, this is the first of his plays in which the comic and the serious plots are so woven together that the outcome of one is completely dependent upon the resolution of the other. The merry rivalry between Beatrice and Benedick, the potentially tragic courtship of Hero and Claudio, and the bumbling antics of Dogberry and Verges are superbly interwoven to illustrate the beauty and the complexity of human relationships.

Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, returns to the city of Messina after a successful campaign against Don John, his estranged half brother, with whom he has just been reconciled. Claudio and Benedick, two noblemen who have distinguished themselves in the prince's service, accompany them. At the home of Leonato, governor of Messina, Don Pedro and his entourage are graciously received by Hero, Leonato's daughter, and Beatrice, his niece. Romance quickly blossoms between Claudio and Hero and, under Don Pedro's cheerful guidance, the two lovers are betrothed at a masked ball. After successfully uniting these young paramours, Don Pedro undertakes the seemingly impossible task of bringing together Beatrice and Benedick, two scorners of love" who have long been engaged in a merry war of wit and words. While Don Pedro playfully sets his matchmaking ruse into motion, Don John and his henchmen, Borachio and Conrade, devise a scheme to stop Claudio and Hero's wedding. Don John convinces Claudio that his fiance is disloyal and arranges for him to witness her unfaithfulness. Deceived by a staged betrayal, Claudio resolves to disgrace Hero. At the nuptial ceremony the next day, Claudio publicly accuses Hero of being unchaste. Although Hero protests her innocence, she is overwhelmed by the accusation. Don Pedro, Don John and Claudio storm out of the church leaving Hero wronged, her family dishonored and bewildered. Believing the girl guiltless, a member of the local clergy counsels Leonato to have faith in his daughter and offers a plan to prove her innocence. After the others leave the church, Benedick admits his love to Beatrice and asks her to let him show his devotion. Enraged by her cousin's treatment, Beatrice implores Benedick to avenge Hero. Benedick, torn between love and friendship, challenges Claudio to a duel.

Dang'rous Words: The Use of Language The three plots in this comedy are centered on questions of what it means to love and be loved, and the difficulty of communicating these emotions. Therefore, language is of great importance to the play's action. In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare establishes two very distinct uses of language. On one hand, it's a tool for polite social interaction; on the other, it's a plaything that people manipulate for their own enjoyment. The characters in this play are often differentiated by these two uses of language. For instance, Hero and Claudio conduct their romance according to the prescribed rituals of courtly behavior. Although both characters reveal themselves as witty and clever in the company of heir friends, they resort to the formalities of lyrical courtship when speaking to each other. The ceremonious courtship of these young lovers is parodied by Beatrice and Benedick, who subvert the rigidity of courtly love in their spirited and engaging battles of wit. Throughout the play, Beatrice and Benedick banter and exchange insults when it's obvious to everyone they are romantically drawn to one another. Both couples use language to mask emotion and guard themselves against confusion of the heart. Despite their verbal mastery, though, each is eventually duped by language. Beatrice and Benedick are led to confess their true feelings for one another only after they hear" their friends talking about them, and Hero and Claudio's relation-ship is almost destroyed after Claudio is led astray by a false report. As the unreliability of language brings one couple together, it seriously threatens the wellbeing of the other. In these two romances, Shakespeare shows us how the malleable nature of language can easily lead to the confusion of purpose and identity. The dual nature of language, its playfulness and its dangerousness, is explored in these two romances, and also in the character of Dogberry. in a play that emphasizes the importance of language and communication, there is something wonderfully touching and pathetic about a man such as Dogberry, who cannot form even the simplest of proper sentences. By trying to mimic the speech and manner of his social superiors, he creates his own impenetrable language of non words and malapropisms. Although Dogberry eventually provides the evidence that brings about the play's resolution, he's also responsible for withholding the vital information that could have prevented the crisis from occur-ring in the first place. It's precisely this difficulty in communicating with others that causes the "nothing" about which the characters make much ado." Ultimately, Much Ado About Nothing celebrates the triumph of true love over false report. As the characters struggle against the harmful consequence; of hearsay and rumor, they learn language is an untrustworthy gauge of human emotion-that they must trust their hearts -in order to find truth and happiness in love. This movement toward truth and understanding can be seen in Beatrice and Benedick's last exchange. Beatrice attempts to toast her groom with one last insult as the two lovers profess their devotion to one another. Benedick interrupts her final jest with a kiss: "Peace! I will stop your mouth." As Benedick's loving kiss stops Beatrice's caustic remark, the characters rejoice in a final dance, having learned that action, not words, is a more faithful pledge of love, truth and devotion.