It’s Too Darn Hot

November 4, 2011 at 11:53 pm (Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays, The Taming of the Shrew) (, , , , , , )

The Fall colors really popped out today and I played hooky from all the work I shoulda coulda woulda been doing. So, instead, I went to see Anonymous, which I will blog about soon. And, in a Shakespearean double whammy for the day, I took in a really fun performance of Kiss Me, Kate done by Rockville Musical Theatre.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a show on Broadway, but I was getting those good pre-show vibes while I was listening to the musicians warm up. I just kept feeling transported to New York and was all excited waiting for the show to start (of course, the tix were a lot cheaper in Rockville than Times Square!).

The show is fantastic! I can’t remember if I’ve seen Kiss Me, Kate before. If I did, it was decades ago. The story is so cute, set in post-WWII Baltimore and involving the relationship between the actors Lilli and Frederick as they play the roles of Kate and Petruchio in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew.

It’s great fun how the 1940s storyline mirrors and weaves in and out of the play within the play (and they stage quite a lot of The Taming of the Shrew!).  The actors do a wonderful job, the leads have beautiful voices, and the dance numbers are well-done (I especially enjoyed Too Darn Hot).

The Cole Porter tunes are familiar and fun and the musicians are excellent. I was surprised to see one of my kids’ pediatricians as the musical director… that’s what I love about community theater! And while I was impressed with this production all around (singing, dancing, music, acting, costumes, sets), what I like best of all on the Rockville Musical Theatre’s website is their “Oh S#%t Awards” for the biggest goofs during each production. I got a good laugh out of that (but did not notice anything tonight that would earn the award)!

Anyway, great fun and I highly recommend it to anyone in the DC area. Kiss Me, Kate continues this weekend and next at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville. Tickets are $20 and I was pleased to see a good crowd there tonight! Head on out, folks. It’s Wunderbar!

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Forces of Nature

August 27, 2011 at 8:25 am (Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays, The Taming of the Shrew) (, , , , , )

A storm’s a-brewin’ here in the DC area as we await Hurricane Irene. It’s been a weird week here, what with the big earthquake and all.

These forces of nature formed the backdrop of a lovely evening of theater last night in Olney, Maryland. The National Players presented a free outdoor Summer Shakespeare show, The Taming of the Shrew, at the Olney Theatre Center.

Director Clay Hopper set the stage by first checking the hurricane app on his iPhone… “It’s not here yet!” he announced as he looked up at the lovely evening sky. Then he noted that we were in the safest theater around in case of another earthquake (outside, backed by some woods and serenaded by cicadas). With that, the show began, and what fun!

They jumped right in with a rowdy wild West theme that worked well for me. Very stylized acting/fighting and lots of funny sound effects brought out the farce of the play. Bianca was literally all white from head (very blond hair) to toe (dressed in sparkly white). No-nonsense Kate, in leggings and corset, played the part well — athletically taking on Petruchio and even cartwheeling away from him… a force of nature, indeed!

The staging was great fun and judging from all the laughter, a big hit with the audience. The National Players are in their 63rd year and presenting their 22nd free Summer Shakespeare production. The show is supposed to continue tonight in Olney, but I have a feeling that Hopper’s hurricane app may sing a different tune than last night. My trees are already a-blowin’ here in Gaithersburg.

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Renaissance Rom-Com

August 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm (Film Adaptations, Shakespeare's Plays, The Two Gentlemen of Verona) (, , , , )

I had the pleasure of watching Don Taylor’s 1983 production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona (part of the BBC’s Television Shakespeare series). This is one of Shakespeare’s first plays, and although it is not among his best, I find it entertaining. This BBC version remains close to the text and is easy-to-watch.

It is a straightforward Renaissance setting with lovely vistas and blue skies. Much of the courting in this courtly-love quadrangle takes place in a garden graced by statues of Amor (love) and Fides (Latin for trustworthiness). Early on, golden cherubs shoot an arrow into the sign for amor, cluing us into Proteus’s preference for following his heart at the expense of his integrity.

The play’s action is not particularly well-drawn, but Shakespeare returns in later plays to many themes raised here, so maybe it can be viewed as Shakespeare’s internship project. Proteus is a silly boy acting on infatuation, willing to give up his true love with Julia and his lifelong friendship with Valentine, hurting everyone along the way, in his efforts to win over the disdainful Silvia. Shakespeare ties up all the loose ends at the end of this play by creating a sudden and unexpected return to reality for Proteus, while everyone he has injured instantly forgives him, and all live happily ever after. It’s a bit far-fetched.

This production is fun to watch. Proteus and Valentine are both wide-eyed boys, falling in love at first sight with pretty girls and sharing trysts and secret kisses with them where ever they can. Silvia is portrayed as the other-worldly woman on a pedestal — as she walks (lightly, in flowing gowns), flower petals are strewn on her from above. She’s the object of everyone’s infatuation.

Poor Julia, who dresses as the boy Sebastian in order to visit her wayward love Proteus in Milan, is lovely and heartbroken when she sees Proteus throwing himself at Silvia.

The comic foils in this play, Speed and Launce (along with his dog, Crab), are great fun with their quick-witted wordplay, often mocking the courtly lovers. I especially enjoy Speed, Valentine’s quick-talking and always-smiling servant, who is played here by a teenager.

Along with the set and costumes, the music in this version is lovely. From the chorus at the beginning to quiet lutes in the courtly garden, the Renaissance-inspired music is a nice addition.

The other thing I really enjoy here are the actors’ facial expressions. Valentine’s wide-eyed adoration of Silvia, Speed’s mischievous smiles, Julia’s heartbroken sadness as she listens to Proteus serenade Silvia… the actors do a great job. I think my favorite of all is the Duke of Milan (played by Paul Daneman) whose steely glare and raised eyebrow show that he knows exactly what kind of “friend” Proteus is for telling him of young Valentine’s secret plan to elope with his daughter Silvia. That is a great moment.

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Parallels

August 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm (Analysis and Discussion, Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , )

As may be obvious from my non-interest in the Shakespeare authorship question, I am not much for conspiracy theories. So, the multiple theories on whether or not there may have been a sequel to Love’s Labour’s Lost parallels for me the conspiracy stuff and let’s just say I won’t lose sleep over the possibilities.

But, LLL leaves so many loose ends that it does seem possible (maybe even probable) to me that there was a sequel that brought it all together. There are historical references to a play called Love’s Labour’s Won… although it has vanished without a trace (to date).

I read this in an online discussion group on the topic and it makes sense to me:

(1) In 1952 a bookseller’s inventory was discovered that listed both LLL and LLW as separate listings in alphabetical order…The bookseller would have had no reason to fabricate the names in his stock.

(2) The internal evidence in LLL is even more evocative. The play does
not end like a traditional comedy, as Birowne notes (“Jack hath not
Jill”), and the ending is full of strong hints of a continuation after a
year (“it wants a twelvemonth and a day, / And then ’twill end. That’s
too long for a play.”). In other words, “stay tuned.” The tasks
assigned the various gentlemen provide good grist for another comedy.
Posted by Larry Weiss at Shaksper, the Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference

List of several plays from the verso of the 1603 leaf used to bind a book of sermons in 1637, including ''Love's Labour's Won''

I don’t know anything about the person who posted this and to be honest, I did not read most of the discussion. But this quote pretty much describes what’s been in the back of my mind. There is historical evidence that a play named Love’s Labour’s Won existed. We don’t have it today. The play Love’s Labour’s Lost ends oddly, with loose ends, with tasks assigned to the characters that could be material for another play. I agree that Berowne’s words sound like “stay tuned” and that the second play would probably wind up with four (or more!) weddings.

Theories
That said, another idea is that maybe Love’s Labour’s Won was just a subtitle for another play. Or maybe it was an alternate title for another Shakespearean play… one that we are familiar with by a different name. There are various ideas about this–possibly The Taming of the Shrew, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing or Troilus and Cressida.

In the article “Wonne” is “Lost, quite lost,” G. Harold Metz analyzes the literature on the subject (published in 1986, so maybe it’s out of date, but I found it interesting) and came to this conclusion:

The attempts to identify Love’s Labour’s Won with an acknowledged Shakespearean play are seriously or even fatally hampered by the fact that we do not have any knowledge of the play beyond the title… It seems clear that we are left with the conclusion, however unhappy to contemplate, that this title in Meres’s list represents a lost Shakespearean play…

The probability that Love’s Labour’s Won has been lost need not lead us to conclude that it is forever beyond recovery. Q1 of Titus Andronicus, which was known to Langbaine in 1691, dropped from sight for two centuries until the unique copy now in the Folger Shakespeare Library came to light in the modest book collection of a Swedish postal employee in 1904. We may hope that a similar stroke of good luck will someday restore Love’s Labour’s Won to us. But at this moment in time, except for the title, Wonne is “all, all lost, quite lost.”

“Wonne” Is “Lost, Quite Lost,” G. Harold Metz, Modern Language Studies Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring, 1986), pp. 3-12

Much Ado About Something?
As Metz points out, most of the scholars he cites admit that Love’s Labour’s Won is probably a lost work, and yet they are unable to stop themselves from conjecturing which existing play it might have been.

So, in that vein, I will do the same and since Much Ado About Nothing is the only one of the possibilities that I’m fairly familiar with at this point, I will talk about it (for no purpose other than to talk, since I don’t really think Much Ado is LLW!).

It is not hard to see parallels between LLL and Much Ado About Nothing. Let’s consider a few:

The Sparring Love-match: Berowne and Rosaline’s sexy sparring is reminiscent of Much Ado’s Beatrice and Benedick. In both cases there was a relationship prior to the play’s action and in both cases, they apparently did not part amicably and that history colors the sparring. However, in Much Ado, it was Beatrice who was hurt by Benedick prior to the play, while in LLL, it appears that Rosaline may have dumped Berowne. Also, there is deeper character development in Much Ado and I am more emotionally attached to B&B than B&R. I find Beatrice and Benedick a much more likable pair… they sizzle and seem well-matched. Rosaline is not so likable for me and in general, I care less about the outcome of R&B’s romance, while I root for B&B and am pleased by their marriage.

Masks/Mistaken Identities: This occurs in both Much Ado and LLL. The reasons for and outcomes of the masks are quite different. In Much Ado, these mistakes are central to the plot and affect nearly all the characters. In LLL, the masks and mistakes are just pastimes and tricks.

Mocked Men: Berowne and Benedick are teased pretty mercilessly by their guy friends in both plays. In LLL, all the guys are in the same silly boat, being mocked by the ladies, as well. In Much Ado, that’s not the case.

Eavesdropping: In both plays, there is some silly eavesdropping to out the men’s true feelings. In LLL, the men eavesdrop on each other to prove that each of them have broken their oath to give up women, but it does not bring B&R together. In Much Ado, the eavesdropping brings B&B together.

Intercepted/Mocked Love Letters: Both plays have ‘em. In Much Ado, Beatrice gets to read Benedick’s letter and it melts her heart. In LLL, Rosaline never sees the letter from Berowne.

Rustic Foils: Both plays have a comic constable: Dogberry in Much Ado and Dull in LLL. However, Dogberry’s verbal style and silliness has more in common with LLL’s Costard.

I will stop there. There are similarities, for sure. But the characters and plays feel very different to me. What I want is a Love’s Labour’s Won where we see the king attempt (and fail) to be a hermit for a year and Berowne to work in a hospital and care for the sick (for a day or two) and Dumaine and Longaville to fail at whatever they are supposed to do for a year, and Don Armado to faithfully farm and take care of Jaquenetta and her child (whoever the father really is!) and for everyone somehow to get happily married at the end!  I will be sure to post about that if the lost play is found!

The Owl and the Cuckoo
Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with a parallel that I really don’t understand… the song about the Owl and the Cuckoo. Don Armado brings it up at the end:

This side is Hiems, Winter, this Ver, the Spring;
the one maintained by the owl, the other by the
cuckoo. Ver, begin.

THE SONG

SPRING.
When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo;
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
When shepherds pipe on oaten straws
And merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo;
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
WINTER.
When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
V.2.873-894

What the heck does this song mean? Can anyone help me understand the purpose of the song and how it relates to the rest of the play? The play within the play, the Nine Worthies, is nothing but interrupted, and yet this song, meant to end the Nine Worthies (and how does it even relate to the Nine Worthies?), is sung in its entirety, without interruption or comment. Why?

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And now I will end with a fun parallel. When I first read the honey-tongued old lovemonger Boyet’s speech to the Princess (below), I thought it reminded me of the Grinch (I always have Dr. Seuss on the brain) but then I realized it was A Visit from St. Nicholas that rang the bell. (“When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer…”) Hear the rhythm?

Why, all his behaviors did make their retire
To the court of his eye, peeping thorough desire:
His heart, like an agate, with your print impress’d,
Proud with his form, in his eye pride express’d:
His tongue, all impatient to speak and not see,
Did stumble with haste in his eyesight to be;
All senses to that sense did make their repair,
To feel only looking on fairest of fair:
Methought all his senses were lock’d in his eye,
As jewels in crystal for some prince to buy;
Who, tendering their own worth from where they were glass’d,
Did point you to buy them, along as you pass’d:
His face’s own margent did quote such amazes
That all eyes saw his eyes enchanted with gazes.
I’ll give you Aquitaine and all that is his,
An you give him for my sake but one loving kiss.
II.1.233-248

On that silly note, I think I will end my thoughts on Love’s Labour’s Lost. I would love to hear from anyone, comments, clarifications, disagreements… whatever you like.

I am looking forward to the next play: The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Maybe it will not take me a whole year!

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Love’s Labour’s Lost, Abridged

August 4, 2011 at 10:54 am (Love's Labour's Lost, Plot Summaries, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , )

A year after I began… here is a summary of the plot. I began disliking this play very much. I found it very hard to read at first. There is thick satire, intricate wordplay, difficult allusions… it is not easy reading. I was waylaid by other things in my life, but I am glad I had all this time to think about this play. I like it quite a bit now and find it quite light and funny, which was not at all evident to me on first reading.

So, as always, I hope this summary will entice you to read the actual play. There are some wonderfully funny characters here, especially Don Armado and Costard. There are some very funny situations. It is essentially a play about girls versus boys. In this case, the boys are very silly and naive and the girls are more worldly and cynical.

There is very, very little plot to this play, and essentially all the real action happens at the very end. The rest of it is sheer folly (wit and wooing) and words, words, words… or as the introduction in my Penguin edition says, “extravagant excesses of language.”

It makes reading the play a challenge, especially if you take it too seriously! Really, it’s much easier when you do not take too seriously the crazy pig-Latin type lunacy of Holofernes and the over-flowingly flamboyant Armado and the earnest-but-common-sense-lacking King of Navarre. Just go with the flow and enjoy the sexy repartee (when you can understand it).

The ending is very ambiguous… not at all the happily ever after expected in a Shakespearean comedy. No one gets married! Maybe, as some scholars believe, there was a companion play (now lost): Love’s Labour’s Won, that wrapped things up. Or maybe Much Ado About Nothing began in this role and Shakespeare changed his mind. We don’t know. But it’s an intriguing question, because this play ends rather abruptly and with loose ends.

If anyone sees any errors, let me know so I can fix them—this is just based on my casual reading of the text, so I could easily have things out of order or get the details wrong.

Without further ado, here’s… Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Overview
The young King of Navarre and the three young lords, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville, all sign an oath to study for three years with no distraction. They agree to eat and sleep sparingly and to give up the company of women for three years(!), so that they can focus on their serious quest for knowledge.

Berowne points out how difficult it will be to keep these oaths, especially because the Princess of France is due any minute on a diplomatic visit that the King of Navarre forgot about. The King decides to make the Princess and her entourage stay in a field so that the oath that no women come to court isn’t broken.

The Princess and the ladies Rosaline, Katherine and Maria indulge in much girly chatter about the boys who they hear are at court in Navarre. They know them from previous social gatherings and are excited to get reacquainted on this visit. Everyone is in love!

The boys are instantly smitten with the girls when they meet in the field. Thus ensues the silly and extravagant wooing in this play, involving the boys visiting disguised as Russians, and the girls mocking and laughing at the boys as they themselves wear masks and trick the boys by switching places.

There are side stories featuring the rustic clown Costard, the dreamy Spaniard Don Armado and his page Moth, the lusty maid Jaquenetta, and the constable Dull, who lives up to his name. These folks along with the schoolmaster Holofernes (he of the silly Latin) and the cleric Nathaniel, put on the ridiculous play within the play about the “Nine Worthies.”

The poor players are mercilessly heckled during The Nine Worthies, and then Costard and Don Armado prepare to fight when Costard oddly breaks into the play to announce that Jaquenetta is pregnant by Armado. The fight is interrupted by the entrance of a messenger from France, who tells the Princess that her father, the King, is dead.

At this news, the Princess decides to return immediately to France, but the King of Navarre professes his love and asks her to stay. She and the other ladies tell the boys they thought the wooing was all in jest and that if they are in earnest, they must all wait a year and a day and come to France if they still feel the same and want to marry.

The play ends with the singing of a song about Spring (the cuckoo) and Winter (the owl) and Don Armado has the oddly poignant last lines: “The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You, that way: we, this way.” And everyone parts and goes their separate ways. Not the usual celebratory end to a Shakespearean comedy!

The Four Stooges
The play seems so serious at first, as the Earnest (with a capital E!) King of Navarre asks his lords to sign the oaths they have agreed to take in order to focus on their studies and seek Knowledge (with a capital K!). Dumaine and Longaville jump right in, excitedly signing up.

It soon becomes ridiculously apparent that these are impulsive boys and they have agreed to take oaths that will be impossible to keep… even for a day! Berowne, before signing, points out the difficulties of keeping these oaths for three years(!), with the hope that maybe there is some wiggle room. After all, it does not really seem reasonable to get by on one meal a day (with a fast day thrown in each week!), three hours of sleep per night with no napping, and worst of all… to give up the company of all women, who are thereby outlawed from the court.

Giving in to peer pressure (not wanting to appear a wuss), Berowne agrees to sign the oath, but immediately points out that they are going to break it when the Princess of France arrives any minute on her diplomatic mission. Navarre has forgotten about this, and decides that they can break their oath this time “on mere necessity.” Berowne will have none of that, as he says if they do it this time, they will all find a zillion reasons down the road to break the oath “on mere necessity.” So, Navarre decides that if they meet the Princess in the fields outside Navarre, they are not technically breaking the oath.

Three More Stooges
Berowne asks if they will really just study, study, study for three years, with no entertainment, and Navarre points out that the Spaniard Don Adriano de Armado will be around, and he should provide a steady supply of material to mock. Longaville notes that the hayseed Costard will also be around for a good laugh.

Then, the aptly named constable Dull arrives with Costard and a letter from Don Armado tattling on Costard for being caught with the country maid Jaquenetta. Apparently Costard is also supposed to forgo the company of ladies for three years, even though he is not part of the oath. When asked if he knew the new law, he said he’d heard it but didn’t really pay any attention to it. Navarre sentences Costard to a week of fasting under the supervision of Don Armado.

Don Armado converses with his page Moth, who appears to have more common sense than all the other characters combined. Dull delivers Costard to Armado. Armado professes his love to Jaquenetta before Dull takes her away. Moth takes Costard away to “prison,” leaving Armado feeling floridly poetic from his love for Jaquenetta (who you will remember, he just caught in a compromising position with Costard!).

The Princess and her Ladies
The Princess of France and her entourage approach Navarre and send the courtier Boyet ahead for information. He comes back with news of the lords (Berowne, Longaville and Dumain) who are at court with the King of Navarre. This sends the girls all into a flurry of excitement, as they know the boys: Maria has met Longaville, Katherine knows Dumaine, and Rosaline has danced with Berowne. The princess teases them that they are all in love.

Boyet also warns them of the King’s oath and the fact that he intends for them to camp out in the field outside Navarre. Minutes later, the King of Navarre appears and welcomes them to court. The princess rebuffs him for leaving them out in the field. Berowne and Rosaline flirt.

The “Plot”
There is very little plot in this play, but perhaps the diplomatic purpose behind the Princess’s visit to Navarre can be considered the plot. Navarre claims that the Princess’s father, the King of France, owes him money. The Princess claims that it is paid and that she can produce the paperwork to prove it. However, Boyet points out that the papers will not actually arrive until the next day… thus requiring the ladies to stay in Navarre, and providing the opportunity for the extensive wooing that ensues.

Love’s Labours
And then the “courting” begins. Berowne and Rosaline flirt and spar. The boys, like lovesick puppies, take turns asking Boyet about the girls: Dumaine asks about Katherine, Longaville about Maria, Berowne about Rosaline. Then, the girls are all flirting and teasing with Boyet. Boyet tells the Princess that the King is in love with her.

Meanwhile, Armado, who has been writing poetry to Jaquenetta, tells Moth to go get Costard, so he can take the letter to Jaquenetta. There is much punning back and forth between Moth, who stretches every word to its last possible meaning, and Armado, for whom English is a second language, and who has that florid Latin style to his speech.

Don Armado pays Costard to take the letter to Jaquenetta. Costard has a good deal of fun over the word “remuneration” which Armado calls the tip. Costard is then asked by Berowne to take a letter to Rosaline and he flips Costard a coin, which he calls a “guerdon,” leaving Costard to enjoy (verbally) the difference between remuneration and guerdon.

The Thrill of the Hunt
The ladies are out hunting to pass the time. Costard arrives and gives them the wrong letter (Don Armado’s letter intended for Jaquenetta). Boyet reads it (realizing the error immediately) and then there is some rather smutty back and forth between Rosaline and Boyet, with Costard joining in.

Costard and Jaquenetta (who can’t read) take the other letter to Holofernes, the school teacher (also called the Pedant) who reads it and believes since it is from Berowne to Rosaline that it represents treason and should be delivered immediately to the King.

True Confessions
There follows a very comic scene where each of the boys, in turn, enters and thinking themselves alone, declare their undying love for their lady. First Berowne sees the King approach and hides, so he overhears the King say how much he loves the Princess. Then Longaville approaches and the King hides to listen. Then it’s Dumaine’s turn. Longaville calls Dumaine on it (acting all innocent himself). The King comes out of hiding and calls Longaville on it (acting all innocent himself). And Berowne comes out of hiding and calls the King on it (acting all innocent himself).

Costard comes in with the letter Berowne wrote to Rosaline, and so that kind of gives him away, as well. They have all broken their oath to give up women (within hours of making the oath!).

Berowne then eloquently explains that women are actually essential to intellectual achievement, so they all decide it’s fine to break the oath and woo the girls in earnest.

Entertainment
Next is a scene that is truly best not to take too seriously. Holofernes and Nathaniel complain at length about Don Armado’s abuse of the English language (for example, not pronouncing the “l” in calf). And then Costard finds a reason to use the longest word in the English language: honorificabilitudinatatibus. In other words, there is much ado about nothing.

Don Armado finally gets around to asking Holofernes for help planning some evening entertainment for the Princess and the ladies. Holofernes immediately comes up with the idea of presenting a play about the “Nine Worthies” — ancient kings and leaders of note. They decide who will play which parts in the play within the play.

The scene ends with the line that gets the biggest laugh in the play from audiences:

Holofernes: Via, goodman Dull! Thou hast spoken no
word all this while.
Dull: Nor understood none neither, sir.
V.1.139-141

Favors and Masks
The girls get together to gossip about the gifts and letters they have received from the boys. They make fun of the poetry and the Princess tell them they are wise girls to mock their lovers.

Boyet (who has a knack for warning the Princess about whatever is coming next) arrives to tell the Princess that he was eavesdropping and overheard the boys discuss a plan to disguise themselves as Russians and come visit the ladies. They would recognize which lady to woo based on the favors (gifts of jewels) they had just sent.

The Princess immediately decides they should trick the boys by masking themselves and switching favors so that the boys woo the wrong girls. Rosaline will switch with the Princess, and Katherine will switch Maria. Madcap mayhem ensues!

The Muscovites
The men arrive dressed as Russians (Muscovites) and go after the wrong girls, based on the favors. The King goes after Rosaline (thinking she’s the Princess), Berowne after the Princess (thinking she’s Rosaline), Longaville with Katherine (thinking she’s Maria), and of course, Dumaine goes after Maria (thinking she’s Katherine).

The ladies mock the boys. The boys retreat, tails between legs. The girls giggle at the boys’ folly.

Boyet (always the harbinger) tells them that the boys will be back, unmasked. So, the ladies prepare, unmasking themselves and giving the favors back to the rightful owners.

The boys return and ask Boyet to get the girls. Berowne points out that he doesn’t trust Boyet. The girls come out and there is much teasing as it becomes clear that the girls know it was they who were dressed as Muscovites. Rosaline is pretty relentless making fun of them. The boys are humiliated and Dumaine says they should just admit to it.

The King asks the Princess to excuse them for their folly in dressing up. The Princess keeps up the teasing, telling the King he wooed Rosaline and will have to take her now. And telling Berowne all the sweet nothings she heard him say and that now she is his. Berowne blames Boyet for giving the ladies the heads up about the ruse.

The Nine Worthies
Costard arrives and asks if they can now perform the evening’s entertainment: The Nine Worthies. The King worries that the play will be so awful that it will further humiliate them in front of the ladies, however, the Princess intervenes and says she wants to see the play.

Costard comes out in costume as Pompey the Great. Then, Nathaniel does his rendition of Alexander, and is heckled by Boyet. Holofernes portrays Judas Maccabeus, and everyone heckles him. Armado is next, playing Hector, and again he is in the midst of being heckled by the lords and Boyet when Costard interrupts the play to announce that Jaquenetta is two months’ pregnant with Armado’s baby.

Armado challenges Costard, but as they prepare to fight, they are interrupted by the arrival of a messenger from the court of France who tells the Princess that her father, the King of France, is dead.

The Wrap Up with Many Loose Ends
The Princess (now Queen) wants to return to France immediately, but the King of Navarre asks her to stay. She doesn’t understand him and Berowne explains that although they did stupid things, they were serious and are in love with the ladies. The Queen tells them that the girls thought the flirting was all light-hearted pastime and not serious.

The Queen tells Navarre that although she doesn’t trust his oaths (!) that if he is serious, he should become a hermit for a year and if he still feels the same way for her, he can then come to her and she will marry him. Each of the ladies gives her guy a similar put-off for a year… the men are not pleased, but what can they say?

Berowne points out that this is too long for a play. We won’t know if any of them marry (or even see each other again).

Armado enters and says that he has vowed his love to Jaquenetta and will wait three years for her. And then he asks if they would like to hear the song prepared for the end of their play: in praise of the Owl (winter) and Cuckoo (spring). The songs include the bird calls with “cuckoo” sounding like “cuckold” and so not pleasing to married men’s ears. And the owl’s call: “Tu-whit, tu-who!” sounding an awful lot like “To Wit, To Woo” which pretty much sums up the action of this play!

The play then ends with Armado’s parting line: “You, that way: we, this way,” as everyone (including the audience) goes their separate ways.

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Carnival!

August 1, 2011 at 12:32 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

I love to get out during the summer to see outdoor Shakespeare. I’ve been wishing and wanting for months to see the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s carnival-themed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company lets kids in for free, and I thought this might be the perfect play for my boys, who are 6 and 9 and not very good at sitting still. Many of the shows begin at 8 PM, which is too late for us, but I made it out tonight for their 6 PM show, the last of the season! I am so glad.

I meant to get there early for the pre-show carnival games and fun, but we got tied up in DC beltway traffic and only made it about 15 minutes before showtime. The kids still enjoyed some games and had a quick burger before the show began. There was face painting and a sprinkler set up for the kids (I am kind of immune to the heat here, but I think the temp was in the high 90s at the show’s start… it felt pleasant to me and all the seats were in the shade). We brought a blanket and could have sat right up front, but the boys wanted to sit on folding chairs. There are no bad seats.

Molly Moores as Titania & Jose Guzman as Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream, photo by Teresa Castracane

I saw Chesapeake Shakespeare do Much Ado About Nothing last year, and I described their incredible outdoor performing space at the ruins of an antebellum finishing school in Ellicott City, Maryland. For A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they transform the ruins into a circus, with a tightrope, some signs, and lights… the carnival theme is not taken too far.

The show begins with some magic tricks, but again it’s not taken too far. Oberon is dressed as the circus master and Titania is his assistant, but other than that, the carnival theme fades and we’re in familiar forest and fairyland.

Jamie Jager as Puck & Stacy Downs as Peaseblossom from A Midsummer Night's Dream, photo by Teresa Castracane

I love this play, and there were no weak parts in this production. The Athenians were hilarious, and I loved watching them running all around, progressively losing their clothes and getting more worn out, leaves in their hair, etc. Funny. It was hilarious watching their fighting and insults and fun to watch Puck and Oberon sitting up in the windows of the ruins “enjoying the sport.”

Puck is great fun in this production — a big guy with cool shades. He’s very funny.

I loved Bottom in this production, as well. My boys have seen bits and pieces of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on video, and the part they know best is where Puck turns Bottom into the ass-head that the love-juiced Titania falls for. This had my 6 year old bending over laughing.

They also loved the Mechanicals — especially Flute playing Thisby. Both of my boys were laughing like crazy whenever Flute was out. They got a big kick out of the chink in the wall (fingers held out), too. The little one kept saying, “This is Ridiculous!” And indeed, it was. This version of Pyramus and Thisby was thoroughly ridiculous… as it should be!

I’m so very glad that I got out to see this production. My 9 year old pronounced this “the best day ever!” on our way home (we also had a hike in the morning and went fishing and butterfly hunting, so there was a lot for a little boy to love today). But I was glad that their first experience watching a full-length live production of Shakespeare was such a success. Bottoms up!

David R Tabish as Bottom, Robby Rose as Snout from A Midsummer Night's Dream, photo by Teresa Castracane

If you live in the DC area, think about joining the Shakespeare Explorers Meetup Group. They get out to a lot more shows than I do. For example, they’re going to see Taffety Punk stage King John for free at the Folger Theatre tomorrow!

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Shakespeare That Sucketh Not!

July 25, 2011 at 12:05 am (As You Like It, Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

I am lucky to live in the Washington DC area, where the Bard is alive and well onstage, especially in the summer. Tonight the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of The Merchant of Venice wrapped up. In a few weeks, their Free for All version of Julius Caesar takes the stage. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has extended their carnival-themed outdoor version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and they are also doing The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged. Jamie who blogs at Maryland Shakespeare has posted about the Empty Chair Theatre’s version of Titus Andronicus which sounds pretty cool. And entering the realm of the very artsy, there are several Shakespeare-inspired shows at the Capital Fringe Festival:

Hamlet Reframed: While Hamlet is off monologuing, what about the rest of Elsinore? Rather than showing Hamlet’s inner thoughts and private actions, this cropping of Shakespeare’s text focuses on how the king and queen deal with a mad and murderous prince.

King Lear: Drunken biker gang leader, King Lear, rashly banishes his thankless youngest daughter, igniting a violent turf war. As Lear rages, his conniving older daughters vie for control of the gang. It does not go well.

Shall I Compare Thee to a Purple Haze? The Lost Rock Sonnets of William Shakespeare: They’ve been broken up for nearly 500 years, but William Shakespeare is getting the band back together and releasing the most ambitious concept album since Hamlet, proving that high culture once was pop culture, and shall be again!

The Shrewing of the Tamed: Are women as funny as men? This feminist adaptation of “Taming of the Shrew” explores the politics of power, performance, sex, and laughter by taking Shakespeare’s original text and turning it on its head.

What, Lamb! What, Ladybird: Think you know Juliet? Think again. Shakespeare’s brilliant heroine is too often sidelined by the masculine world she inhabits, but this one-woman show, performed by Charlene V. Smith, puts Juliet center stage.

Whew! All this Shakespeare everywhere I look, and I hadn’t been able to see any of it. Then, the Maryland Shakespeare Festival was supposed to come to my town, Gaithersburg for a couple free performances of As You Like It. I thought, yay me! I finally get to go to a show. But guess what? Washington tends to get a little warm in July (tourists drop like flies here!). And Friday and Saturday our heat index was up in the 120s, so they cancelled the shows. I guess they did not want to have to wrestle in the damp heat!

Luckily for me, I was able to go to the rescheduled show tonight. What fun! As You Like It is such a funny show, and Maryland Shakespeare Festival does a great job of bringing the lightheartedness to the forefront of this production. They start with their “Riotous Youth” group giving an animated pre-show show explaining the plot of the play to kids (and grown-ups) in attendance. It helps set the stage perfectly.

This group did As You Like It this past spring as a Bare Bard (raw, unrehearsed) production and they have tightened it up (and rehearsed a few times!) to create the freebie show that is traveling around Maryland parks this summer. I’ve seen one of their Bare Bard’s (The Merchant of Venice) and I went to their summer freebie last year, Romeo and Juliet. They are an energetic company, exploring the original staging practices of Shakespeare’s time, while also making the plays fun and accessible to modern audiences. We are lucky to have them here.

With a minimal set and simple costumes, the actors were all wonderful comedians, from the early action with the wrestling match, the banishments to the magical forest of Arden, the great lines that everyone knows (“All the world’s a stage…”) to the craziness around Rosalind (disguised as the boy Ganymede) and her subtle wooing of Orlando, while fighting off the advances of Phoebe, and orchestrating the final happy ending with the four weddings (and no funeral!). All quite fun and fast-paced, with Touchstone the clown adding to the levity.

The title for my post comes from the T-shirt of one of the stage crew tonight. Truly, Maryland Shakespeare Festival is Shakespeare that Sucketh Not! And the price is right for this show ($0). The summer tour winds up next weekend with shows in Frederick and Denton. Try to catch it!

Celia (Erin Branigan), farthest left, and Rosalind (Teresa Spencer) watch while Orlando (Ian Sullivan) is on Wrestler’s (John Kelso) back during their wrestling match. Photo: Bill Green for the Frederick News Post

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Wherefore Art Thou Gnomeo?

March 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

Here’s the post you have all been waiting for! I have had no time to read Shakespeare lately, but I did have time to go to a movie on a rainy day today, and the kids wanted to see Gnomeo and Juliet. We waited out in the cold rain in a long line and we finagled the last tickets to the sold-out show (and boy, I woulda been p.o.’d if I’d waited in the rain and been turned away!). Got into the show a little late, but I think we only missed a minute or two. Had to sit in the front row, so have a bit of a crick in my neck now from staring up at the screen.

So, ummm, yeah. That’s how I spent my afternoon. Goofy pottery garden gnomes: blue ones at the blue house, red ones next door. You guessed it. They don’t get along. Blue Gnomeo falls for red Juliet. Froggie Nanette (aka Juliet’s Nurse) warns Juliet. The talking statue of Bill Shakespeare warns Gnomeo. There can be no happy ending, right?

Wrong. There are several moments when we believe our hero is a goner, but it’s just a tempest in a teapot. Tybalt crashes dramatically to smithereens, but nothing a pot of apoxy won’t fix.

Worth watching? I don’t know. Not to me. I am not a fan of many modern kids movies. All the animated hyper-drive silliness. As far as Shakespearean… um, really, I think Romeo and Juliet Sealed with a Kiss did a slightly better job sticking with the story. I don’t remember drag racing and a giant lawnmower/earthmover in Shakespeare’s version. I can’t remember Elton John singalongs, either. 

Was it awful? No, it’s watchable. Mildly amusing. I kind of enjoyed one line (in the whole movie! yay me!) where Juliet’s dad says she needs to be put back up on her pedestal for good. And she’s glued there. I thought there was some insight there. But it was fleeting.

The kids didn’t mind any of this or the inconveniences, getting soaked in the rain, almost getting sold out, no time for popcorn, sitting almost under the screen. They loved this movie! Mesmerized. There was a round of applause from the full house at the end! Bravo!

P.S. I’m going to really, really try to get back to my project here and actually read Shakespeare! I need it! Love’s Labour’s Lost, here I come!

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Shakespeare In-The-Ruins

July 5, 2010 at 12:37 am (Live Performances, Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , )

The ghosts of Southern belles are dancing in my imagination right now. I saw Much Ado About Nothing performed in the ruins of an antebellum finishing school today. It was the coolest thing! Well, it wasn’t cool. It was nearly 100 degrees and muggy when the play started. But it was really cool!

 
 

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performs outdoors, in the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, Maryland (not far from Baltimore). I found this information about the ruins:

Situated on a hilltop overlooking the Patapsco River Valley in Historic Ellicott City, the Patapsco Female Institute was founded in 1837 and operated for more than 50 years as an elegant finishing school for young women. The stabilized ruins of the Greek Revival structure are open for tours, and serve as a beautiful setting for special events including Victorian teas and a summer open air theatre.

So, there were hoop skirts here. Young Southern belles during the Civil War. I bet they had dances like Scarlett O’Hara went to in Gone with the Wind. 

Anyway, what a cool place to see a play! Huge trees surround the ruins. For the 4th of July, they started the play at 5 PM so we would have plenty of time to get out to see fireworks afterward. The actors also read the entire Declaration of Independence before the performance. That was kind of amazing to hear! 

The seating is very casual and family friendly (kids get free admission to all performances). Some sat on blankets, others brought camp chairs. CSC provides 200 folding chairs, so I took one of those. We all moved around quite a lot to get out of the sun for the first 45 minutes or so. Once the shade from the trees kicked in, everything was much more pleasant. It would be really lovely in the evening. 

The CSC provides pre-performance entertainment (jugglers, activities), but I arrived at showtime, so missed out on that. You could make quite a day of the outing. Because it was a family-oriented performance, one of the actors began by taking the kids (and any interested grown-ups) aside to explain the plot of the play (with photos) so they’d be able to follow along better. I thought that was really nice. 

They did a great job with Much Ado About Nothing. The stage is a series of platforms and ramps built into the L-shaped side of the ruins. So, the actors perform there as well as using the many doors and windows of the ruins. It gives them a lot of flexibility and they use the space well. 

Lesley Malin as Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Photo by Teresa Castracane

This production is set during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The acting is terrific! I enjoyed everyone. Beatrice has a lot of spunk and presence. You could see her cracking her gum in a Rosie the Riveter job. And she has that Big Band era chic… she looks great with her hair nets and stylish outfits. 

Katie Molinaro as Hero, Steven Hoochuk in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Photo by Teresa Castracane

One thing I noticed in this production that was not evident in video versions or from reading the text — Margaret during and after Hero’s jilting at the altar. Wow. So, it’s Margaret at the window with Borachio (they staged the window scene quietly here). Then the next day, Claudio humiliates Hero at the altar and accuses her of being a whore. So, all the while, Ms. Margaret, Hero’s trusted servant… is doing what? Why wouldn’t she set things straight at the wedding (blushingly waving, ummm, ahemm, excuse me, can I say something?). I don’t remember seeing her at all during the post-jilting in the film versions. 

Well, here, I watched her on the stage. It was interesting. Everyone else ran to Hero’s aid when she fainted. Margaret stood aside, by herself, nervously playing with a bouquet and quietly contemplating her navel. I kept looking at her. Why wouldn’t she speak up? But then it worked for me. Here she is, a servant. The jilting is huge: Big Drama involving the daughter of the governor and all these important people. I could see then… it would be very difficult for Margaret to own up to the truth here (although I still think she could have done it later, in private). But here, the big scene, how strange it would be for a servant to pipe up with the news that Claudio and Don Pedro were mistaken and that it was she having sex with Borachio at her mistress’s window while he called her Hero. How would she explain that here? So then, I understood Margaret a bit more. 

Only one thing bothered me during the whole show. You may have noticed that I love Balthasar’s song, as I’ve started many of my posts about Much Ado by quoting it. So, I was looking forward to hearing it performed. Guess what? Balthasar sang it in Spanish in this production! Oh, darn. 

It was really fun to watch this play, it’s so entertaining… really a pleasant outing. If you’re in the area, I recommend catching a show here at the ruins. Hamlet is running in repertory this summer with Much Ado. It’s a lovely venue. 

And I got home in plenty of time to see fireworks. Happy 4th of July! 

James Jager as Claudio, Michael Sullivan as Benedick, Theo Hadjimichael as Don Pedro in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Photo by Teresa Castracane

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Hey Nonny, Nonny

July 1, 2010 at 12:04 am (Analysis and Discussion, Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , )

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny nonny.
II.3.62-69

I’m wrapping things up here with Much Ado About Nothing. I just have a few miscellaneous thoughts.

Hero
I’ll just say it straight out: I don’t like her. She’s no hero in my book. She’s dumb. She’s mean-spirited. She’s two-faced. In her defense, she’s mightily wronged by Claudio in this play. Also, I suppose to her credit, she’s obedient to her father. It doesn’t make me like her.

Let’s start with dumb. Via hearsay (her uncle’s servant’s misnoting of an overheard conversation), Leonato tells Hero to expect Don Pedro to propose to her at the masked dance (and to say yes to Pedro, who is a good catch). I assume when she is proposed to at the dance, that she assumes it’s Pedro (it is). But Pedro is wooing her for Claudio (why?). And then when things get ironed out with (dumb) Claudio, she is okay with all of it and apparently lovey-dovey with Claudio. Is she indifferent about who she marries? Does she love either Pedro or Claudio? Unclear, but she doesn’t appear to have a lot of smarts (or personality).

Okay, and mean-spirited. Hero is in on Pedro’s plot to bluff the sparring B&B and transform them into lovebirds. She leads the charge on Beatrice. Yet while baiting the hook here (with Beatrice eavesdropping), she is a bit overly harsh.

But Nature never framed a woman’s heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice;
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprising what they look on, and her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak: she cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared.
III.1.49-56

Really now? Hero goes on and on slandering Beatrice while she knows Beatrice is in the bushes hearing every word. What a sweet cousin! Of course, she’s doing it all under the guise of jest, as a big prank to get Beatrice to think Benedick is in love with her. It’s all done in good fun, but… not very nice!

Let’s go on to two-faced. When Hero is dressing for her wedding, she gossips to Margaret about her cousin Beatrice. She says:

HERO
No, pray thee, good Meg, I’ll wear this.

MARGARET
By my troth, ‘s not so good; and I warrant your
cousin will say so.

HERO
My cousin’s a fool, and thou art another: I’ll wear
none but this.
III.4.7-11

Whew! Bridezilla! All this while Beatrice never breathes a critical word about Hero during the whole play, but stands by her steadfastly through the worst. Beatrice is so true to Hero that she asks Benedick to kill Claudio to avenge the slander against her! Hero doesn’t deserve Beatrice’s fierce loyalty.

Claudio
I think the modern Shakespeare Retold version portrays this couple correctly as they bond over mispronouncing “meteorological.” Claudio is also dumb. He’s mean-spirited. He’s two-faced.

The dumb part… I don’t know where to begin. Why does he allow Don Pedro to woo Hero for him? Maybe because he’s dumb and shy and naive? Or maybe because he has no choice, since Pedro is a prince. Why does he believe Don John’s lies about Pedro wooing for himself? Maybe because John is a convincing liar. Or maybe Claudio is just dumb. The window scene… Claudio gullible? Or John just so masterfully deceiving? I can go on and on. Dumb just seems a plausible explanation for Claudio’s behavior throughout the play.

Mean and two-faced: the wedding scene. That is an incredibly mean deception on Claudio’s part. He goes to the wedding solely to humiliate Hero in public. He believes he saw her with another man at her bedroom window the previous night, yet he shows up to the wedding ceremony calmly, as if nothing is awry. And then he lets loose a torrent of hateful stuff at Hero. This really goes beyond mean; he’s pathological.

After he jilts Hero at the altar, Claudio is disrespectful to the old men Leonato and Antonio, who are upset that he slandered Hero. When the old brothers leave in a huff and Benedick approaches, Claudio says:

We had liked to have had our two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth.
V.1.115-116

I hate this quote. It’s so unfeeling. At this point, Claudio believes Hero is dead, and to say this of her elderly father and uncle is just cold.

And as Hero seems indifferent early on about marrying Pedro or Claudio, at the end, Claudio parallels her indifference, by happily agreeing to Leonato’s odd suggestion that he marry his niece, sight unseen. Sure! No problem! What’s love got to do with it? (Oddly, at this point, I wonder if he is expecting to marry Beatrice, since she is Leonato’s niece.) And when Claudio lifts the mask to discover it’s his Hero, woohoo! A match made in heaven.

The Nature of Love
So, to summarize Claudio and Beatrice’s courting: Claudio comes back from war and Hero is a sight for his sore eyes. He falls immediately in love with her. Her feelings are unknown. Her father prepares her to expect a proposal from Don Pedro. She is an obedient daughter, so it’s assumed she’ll accept. Except the proposal comes from Claudio via Pedro’s mouth (odd situation). So is she accepting Claudio or Pedro? Does she know?

Not clear, but it’s Claudio that meets her at the altar. And Claudio comes to the altar planning to jilt her publicly (which he does, thinking she’s a whore). Her family pretends she’s dead hoping that Claudio will show remorse. He doesn’t. The truth comes out of Hero’s innocence and Claudio now shows remorse. Since Hero is dead, Claudio agrees enthusiastically to marry Leonato’s niece, who he’s never met. Then it turns out to be Hero and so he marries his first choice after all.

Umm, does anyone see this marriage as having a stable future?

Now, let’s talk about B&B. They have a history. We’re not totally clear about the nature of their earlier relationship and how it ended, but it ended badly and Beatrice shows the scars. She says:

DON PEDRO
Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of
Signior Benedick.

BEATRICE
Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave
him use for it, a double heart for his single one:
marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,
therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

DON PEDRO
You have put him down, lady, you have put him down.

BEATRICE
So I would not he should do me, my lord, lest I
should prove the mother of fools.
II.1.261-270

There is some sadness, some bitterness in Beatrice early on in the play, and yet you can see clearly the sparks flying between the two whenever they are near each other. The feelings are already there, just suppressed. They both protest too much, swearing up and down that they will never marry anyone, least of all each other. 

It does not take much for the merry pranksters to plant the seeds that grow into full-blown love for both B&B. It is a clever love-trap that Pedro comes up with. B&B are helpless to resist.

So, they are both starry-eyed, but is that true, lasting love? Then after Hero’s jilting, Benedick checks in with Beatrice and offers to do anything to help with her family’s situation. Beatrice is very clear: “Kill Claudio.” It’s a shocking statement. Certainly, Benedick is shocked! But he sticks around long enough to hear why Beatrice feels so strongly that this is the only answer to the wrong done to her cousin.

Benedick comes around to her reasoning and agrees to challenge Claudio. And when he goes to talk to Claudio, he is all business — there is none of the playful and witty repartee of the Benedick we’ve seen prior to this. He is deadly, bluntly serious with Claudio. There is no doubt he’s taken Beatrice’s feelings to heart. And then (much to his relief) Benedick is let off the hook when Hero’s reputation is cleared. 

So, in contrast to Claudio and Hero who hardly know each other and seem indifferent to who they pair with, B&B have a longterm relationship (even if it has been a “merry war” of words much of the time), they enjoy each other’s company, others see them as a good match, their relationship stands the test of loyalty in crisis, and they end the play clearly joyously in love with each other. Hey nonny, nonny!

Please let me know your comments about Much Ado About Nothing! I think this is my last post on the play, unless a reader brings up something new for me to think and post about. Next on my reading list is Love’s Labour’s Lost. Read it with me!

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