Much Ado About Nothing
Title: Much Ado About Nothing
Author: William Shakespeare
Publication Date: 1600
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is extremely popular and perhaps the most frequently performed Shakespearean comedies. Probably written in the latter half of 1598, it was performed by Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the theatrical company with which William Shakespeare was associated. The play was included in the First Folio, published in 1623.
Revolving around two sets of lovers, the play combines humor with more serious considerations about court life, familial relationships, gender dynamics, and social mores. It is supposedly based on a story in a collection of stories by Italian writer Matteo Bandello, originally published in 1554 and translated into English in 1582. Some plot elements and characters may have been inspired by the Italian poem, “Orlando Furioso” by Ludovico Aristo, originally published in 1532 and translated into English in 1591.
Whatever the inspirations, Shakespeare uses his own wit and inventiveness to create a literary classic. The two sets of lovers—Claudio and Hero, and Beatrice and Benedick—are the sources of romance, merriment, confusion, and intrigue. Much of the play’s rapid-fire wit occurs in the dialogues between Beatrice and Benedick, both of whom reject the institution of matrimony till they are tricked into falling for each other. Beatrice and Benedick’s thinly veiled barbs and insults have appealed to the audience for generations. The play has had several stage and film adaptations, notable among which include the acclaimed 1993 version directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, and Joss Whedon’s modernized adaptation released in June 2013.
Most Shakespeare authorities agree that the word “nothing” in the play’s title is intended to be ambiguous. During the Elizabethan times, “nothing” was usually pronounced like “noting,” meaning not only taking notes or observing but also overhearing or intentionally eavesdropping—actions that twist and twirl the plot around.
What is worth noting in this play is the predominant usage of prose in the play. This contrasts with the blank verse that fills many of Shakespeare’s other plays; however, this resonates more with the modern audiences used more to plain prose and, hence, the play continues to be relevant even now.
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