Every time I re-read Much Ado About Nothing I’m a little more taken with Beatrice and Benedick and a little less impressed with Claudio. Perhaps because this time I’m reading the play while writing about violence, I’m very much struck at how awful the denunciation/wedding scene is, how amazingly rash Claudio is, and how very easily men can ruin women’s reputations and lives with only the slightest cause (at least in early modern drama, which doesn’t reflect real life with complete exactitude).
Margaret is the character in whom I’m most interested at the moment. Much Ado is an odd play because it somewhat resists the usual trope whereby the chaste woman is redeemed at the cost of shaming another less modest lady. Margaret, however, is cleared by both Borachio (“she … / … knew not what she did when she spoke to me, / But always has been just and virtuous”, 5.1.284-86) and Leonato (“But Margaret was in some fault for this, / Although against her will as it appears”, 5.4.4-5). This makes a welcome change from a number of domestic tragedies that briefly made their way into my last chapter, where women become the scapegoat for marital infidelity while their erring lovers and husbands escape unharmed. She’s even included in the final festive scene. I’m not really sure what to make of her yet, or even of hero in the context of other slandered and shamed women. It’s a refreshing change at the moment though.
I think Much Ado is replacing Measure for Measure as my favourite Shakespeare comedy. I’d really like to see the Tennant-Tate version.
26 March 2013 ~ Hamilton
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado about Nothing. The Norton Shakespeare: Comedies. Eds Greenblatt et al. New York and London: Norton, 1997. 521-84.