Much Ado About Nothing
Kenneth Branagh’s presentation of Shakespeare’s play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was a brilliant one in which the Romantic Comedy begins with war and ends with marriage. It revolves around the relationships of two couples which propels drama, conflict and pathos that ensues in the process of their union. The deception is highlighted in the rendition ‘Sigh No More’ which was heard at the beginning and end of the movie. Also it was heard in Act 2. 3. It gives a brief incite as to what the play is about, i. e. deception which explores themes of appearance verses reality.
In the introduction, banqueting is seen where the characters appear to be having a picnic in the country where it is calm, quiet and peaceful. The letter introduces elements of suspense, mystery and conflict. This then causes Beatrice to ask “Has Signor Montanto returned from war… ” A trait of women in comedies is that they are the huntresses of their men. Beatrice and Hero conform to tradition, which is using their femininity to ensnare the men they desire to trap into marriage. Beatrice’s wittiness attracts Benedick’s attention.
Hero on the other hand outrageously flirts with Claudio at the masque. There is a reflection of Elizabethan ideals where Claudio and Hero’s interest is in marriage. They are a classic example of an Elizabethan couple as Hero is yielding and Beatrice is dominant which shows the modern woman striving for independence. Hero’s angelic look is enhanced by gently lighting, sound effects and a flowing white dress. Harsher lighting is on Beatrice and there is more distinct music to strengthen Beatrice’s character. The slow harmonious music emphasizes Hero’s innocence.
The injustice of Hero is outlined by “You have killed a sweet lady. ”, “Die to Live. ” The impact of this may bring forth tears from the audience who would feel an overwhelming sense of grief and sadness. Don John’s clothing signifies no balance of good and evil within him while Don Pedro’s clothing depict a balance of good and evil within him. Their formation in Act 1. 2 shows the social hierarchy of the Prince and his followers and it corresponds with Leonato’s triangular formation. On the right of Don Pedro, we see his close friends Claudio and Benedick.
This side symbolizes good while the left, on which Don John and his accomplices are, symbolizes evil. This positioning is also seen in the entrance at the start of the play. Don John is a bastard child; therefore his birth is a tragedy. He is the main cause of all tragic occurrences as viewed in the Elizabethan society. Bastards have no hope of redemption; he is branded and scorned because of his situation. It is because of his status as the Prince’s brother, he isn’t faced with as much scorn as he would’ve received if he had been at a lower social level.
Leonato believes Don Pedro’s accusations on Hero because he is of higher status than him. He doesn’t want to hear out Dogberry because Dogberry is of a low social class. Claudio was disrespectful before a holy area where he spoke slander; “…heat of a luxurious bed…” which received a repulsive response from the audience. Claudio lacks ethics and respect for religion. He shows his repulsiveness without hesitation. The wedding symbolically becomes a funeral as there is burial of friendships, and Hero’s good reputation. Because of Hero’s accusations, she is now viewed as worthless.
In the Elizabethan society, women’s wealth was measured according to virtue. The comedic element in the production was overshadowed by the tragic occurrences. The tragic elements were highlighted by scheming, society’s small mindedness towards different classes. The slanderous words spoken on Holy grounds and stereotyping of individuals also showed this. *Nudity is prominent in the presentation and this highlights that in the play “Much Ado About Nothing”, since a great deal has been done for nothing. The word nothing, pronounced ‘noting’ was a slang during that era for the female sex organ.
It is a fact that the play revolved around Hero’s virtue and all the drama propelled due to this cause; the question of her virginity. It was ironic that Leonato mentioned trouble in the first act, when addressing Don Pedro. This is foreshadowing tragedy to come in the play which occurred because of Don John and his accomplices. Adding to the spectacle we see Borachio eaves dropping on Claudio and Don Pedro. It then feeds into the evil plot of the play. Another irony was that Don John’s scene is set in a dungeon. There is a pun on the words ‘dungeon’ and ‘Don John’.
A dungeon is connotative of evil and darkness which is applicable to the villain. The melancholy and slightly upbeat music in this scene builds up tension and creates suspense. Borachio appeared wearing a mask which fits into theme of appearance verses reality and deception.. Although Don John’s portrayal of his character was impeccable, the lines omitted were unsatisfactory to his character. It was an injustice since it took away the impact of Don John which Shakespeare intended for the audience. His bitterness was established through use of language, “I am not of many words”.
The idea of Don John having limited freedom of speech was almost lost due to the omission of lines 23-25 in Act 1. 2. It took away from Don John’s character. However the music gave an insight to Don John’s emotion as it conveys a sad, hopeless, remorseful mood to the audience. Some of Don John and Conrade’s lines were omitted (lines 8-12) taking away from the concept of diseases and the alliteration of ‘moral medicine to a mortifying mischief” which feeds into themes of Shakespeare’s play. We see the deceiving act in Act 2. 1 as Don John kisses Hero on her hand.
This biblical allusion traces back to Judas’ kiss of betrayal which resulted in Jesus’ arrest. The sacred tradition of banqueting is seen and also the diction reveals banqueting as an essential occasion during their time period, ‘All grace may say amen to it” said by Don Pedro. There is a lot of repetition of ‘grace’ throughout the movie. As prince, Don Pedro is an important leader in the Elizabethan society and is in charge of bringing restoration to society through marriage. He does this by joining the two couples during the course of the production, whereby bringing balance to the society at the end.