"I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love" (Act 2 Scene 3, Benedick). Comedic statements and hints of romance is what makes this quote a sample of what the entire story as to offer. The 1993 film version directed by Kenneth Branaugh of Much Ado About Nothing is a timeless comedy for its ability to combine humor with serious subjects such as deceit, absolution, and of course love. Particularly for this film, stereotypical stock characters, false identification, and social issues are what makes this storyline a prominent comedy.
In Much Ado About Nothing, stereotyped stock characters are identified as traditional comedy. The character Hero is the exact model of a Virgo stock character. Virgo’s are beautiful virgins, but in this case she is acceptable of marriage. In the story Hero is a true virgin and is slandered and accused of not being pure. “They know that do accuse me; I know none: If I know more of any man alive…,” is said by Hero in Act 4 Scene 1 when proving her innocence of never sleeping with a man. The major conflict of the story branches from this because of her typical stock characters storyline.
Claudio is the normal Adulescen stock character. Adulescens are acceptable males/eligible bachelors who fall in love. Claudio is parallel to an adulescen concept. He is a handsome, young man who falls in instantly in love with Hero. Claudio is smooth with his words and expresses his love for Hero to Benedick in Act 1 Scene 1 saying, “In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.” Without a character like Claudio, there would be no young romance plot. An Eirion stock character perfectly matches Beatrice. Eirons are intelligent, quick on their feet and good at teasing others. Beatrice acts exactly like this. In Act 1 Scene 1 Beatrice is talking about Bendick and says, “O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease! He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad.” She is playful with her words towards the character Benedick. Making fun of him is easy to her. Her personality is quite a flirt in the story and provides a sense of comedy through this. Without specific comedy character personalities, the storyline would be dry and have trouble adapting.
The use of mistaken identities and disguises adds to the plot twists of a classic comedy. An example of undercover wooing occurs at the masquerade party. Claudio asks the Prince to request for Hero’s hand in marriage for him as a favor. In Act 1 Scene 1 the Prince tells Claudio, “I know we shall have reveling tonight. I will assume thy part in some disguise and tell fair Hero I am Claudio.” It goes fairly well until Don John tries to make Claudio think the Prince is doing this for himself. When action occurs in a disguise, plans never come to fruition and this is a perfect instance. Another prominent case that is the basis of the whole story is the mistaken identity of Hero to Margaret. The nights leading up the the wedding, Don John stirs up trouble by making Claudio see falsely that Hero is an unloyal soon to be wife. Don Pedro speaks to Claudio and the Prince in Act 3 Scene 2 and says, “Think you of a worse title, and I will fit her to it. Wonder not till further warrant. Go but with me tonight, you shall see her chamber window entered, even the night before her wedding day.” The events are a serious addition to comedy. Those who like to see a traditional storyline are the ones that favor in a false identity drama. These scenes make a comedy a comedy because they provide the much needed suspense and action aside from the jokes.
Much Ado About Nothing takes social matters and puts them in a relaxed environment that makes it alright to tease at. Women are supposed to be regarded as quiet and modest, but Beatrice is fair from stereotypical. Beatrice is fiery and witty, which means she is also not afraid to speak her truth, especially towards Benedick. “Scratching could not make it worse an ’twere such a face as yours were,” is said by Beatrice in Act 1 Scene 1 to Benedick. Even when she is speaking to a male that is above her, she is not afraid to speak her raw feelings. She takes no regard of her duties of being a female in her society. Her character breaks the boundaries put in place for women showing her strength and independence. Another social theme is the satirizing of love and marriage. Benedick from the beginning of the film is in strict avoidance of marriage, almost like the plague. He comes out and says to everyone is Act 1 Scene 1 saying, “Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none. And the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.”
It is comical how much Benedick opposes being tied down to someone until death. Though he puts on a guard, deep inside he really wants to share his life with someone, but will not admit it. The last social issue that is being mocked of or poked at is the purposeful and accidental misuse of language. Especially in Shakespeare’s era, education and intelligence were regarded as proper. It also identified your social status/class; wealthy had schooling and poor had none. Dogberry from the film is the perfect example of malapropism. Act 3 Scene 3, Dogberry says, “Adieu, be vigitant, I beseech you.” The misused word is vigilant and instead he says vigitant. Comedy does not have to follow standard language, therefore words add humor to what can be a serious topic. In a comedy setting, it is easier to make fun of issues that people either agree with or disagree with.
Although the standards of a comedy have been used for centuries, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is iconic. The play in any time period is literature itself. It has been read and seen by millions around the world. A viewpoint that has drastically changed from then to today is the importance of chastity. It was almost forbidden to be married to someone when you were not a virgin. Today our viewpoint has shifted. It is not as important and it is not regarded as taboo. There is not anybody who could not relate to these themes of the play. It will always be relevant, past or future.
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