One of the Bard's more boring works

Much Ado About Nothing - William Shakespeare

Once I went around church (and work), as I am prone to do, and asked as many people as possible what their favourite Shakespeare play was (assuming that they actually knew who Shakespeare was, and what plays he had written, and assuming that they had actually seen one) and what surprised me was that the most common answer was 'Much Ado About Nothing'. The reason that it surprised me is because it is not necessarily one of his most performed plays, and is generally not one that is studied in High School (though I won't comment on university because while I studied three plays at Uni, the university that I went to seemed to steer away from Shakespeare's). I am not surprised that not many people picked Hamlet, Macbeth, or Romeo and Juliet, since those plays are generally rammed down our throats at High School, which can have quite an off putting effect.

As for this particular play I must say that it is not really one of my favourites. Even though it is a comedy it seemed a little dull - there wasn't anything in the play that you could say was out of the ordinary in it (such as the fairy tale elements of A Midsummer Nights Dream, or the interesting relationships that arise in Twelfth Night and a Taming of the Shrew). Okay, it is a little more complicated because we have two romantic relationships going side by side, which demonstrates Shakespeare's mastery at writing plays with multiple plots that all come together at the end, but the play itself still somewhat bores me in the sense, as I have suggested, that there is nothing really all that interesting about it.

One of the plots involves Benedick and Beatrice, who seem to both have a rather cold exterior. Their friends then decide that they want to try to set them up, and while they tend to be quite cold towards each other, it begins to come to light that they have deep seeded passions towards each other, so their friends decide to manipulate the situation to bring them both together. Obviously, as I and others have suggested, simply by reading the play (rather than watching it) does not necessarily draw out the intricacies that such a plot can show when performed by good actors.

The other plot is a little more sinister in that Don John, the villain of the piece, decides that he wants to ruin the relationship between Claudio and Hero for no real reason than the fact that he is, well, a prick. Seriously, try as I might, I can't really find any reason why Don John actually wants to ruin a marriage, other than maybe because he is a bastard, and in those times being a bastard was not a very good thing. In fact, being a bastard (name you were conceived out of wedlock, not that you do mean things for the sake of doing mean things) generally led to a life of rejection and poverty. This is probably why the bastard in King Lear actually was one evil son of a bitch. Here Don John is simply laughable, but he does manage to ruin a wedding (based on flimsy evidence and word of mouth, which makes us wonder why anybody would have listened to him anyway) but then as can be expected in the end, everything works out well and everybody ends up getting married (which some people have suggested is a form of death anyway).