Shakespeare, despite it's dated language, forgotten words, and belabored teaching in high school classrooms will seemingly never go out of fashion. I disagree whole-heartedly with Mr. Ramsy's assertion that "The very stone that one kicks with one's boot will outlast Shakespeare," in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse
, and am renewed in my disagreement whenever one of the Bard's play gets a new celluloid makeover, as is the case with Much Ado About Nothing
. This weekend I'm going to see the modernized film of this classic romantic comedy, which despite its update in era will apparently retain it's language - surely to comic effect. The story of Much Ado
is a parallel love story, one between Claudio and Hero which is troubled by the sinister machinations of the bastard Don John which calls Hero's fidelity and purity into question, the other between the stubborn Beatrice and Benedick: tricked into professing their loves for each other, which they didn't realize they even felt (a sort of update and improvement on the comedic Petruchio/Katherine dynamic in the bard's earlier The Taming of the Shrew
). While I found myself more endeared to the comedic reversals of affection, and the combative displays of wit of Beatrice and Benedick (particularly the Beatrice, a characteristically strong Shakespearean woman), the plays strength of plot, and particularly dark comedy, revolves around the reckless and aimless destruction of Don John, and the peril of Hero's reputation and happiness.
Unlike some of the Bard's other "high comedies" like Twelfth Night
, wherein the comedy is largely in the plot and action of the play, much of the comedy in Much Ado About Nothing
is found in wit. Confusion of identity, which is the trademark comedic element in Twelfth Night
is adopted to me damaging and nearly destructive ends, which are counterbalanced by the lighthearted beguiling and Cupid-ing of Beatrice and Benedick. One can always count on the Bard to reverse his own tricks to opposite ends, and he does so here, making near-tragedy of what he has proved elsewhere sure-comedy.
What seems to me a rare achievement in Shakespearean comedy is a truly believable love. Too often, though it does not undo the comedy of the play, lovers are struck in love like lightening - love at first sight - but rarely is that so in life. What makes the love between Benedick and Beatrice such a delight is that it is the fruit of a long antagonism. They know each other quite well, they hate each other, but in their innermost affections, beyond even their own understandings, they love. It is this reversal of a lifetime's hate to a renewed lifetime's love that makes this play so light-hearted. The impetus of the play, the drama of Hero's virginity and the unwarranted questions thereabout, despite their centrality to the play, are quickly forgot when reviewing it in the memory's eye. For my memory, I am fondest of the wittier pair, and let them live long and prosper!