"M" is for "Much Ado"
“Much Ado About Nothing” is one of Will Shakespeare’s best comedies. Why? Well, one of the reasons has to do with two of Will’s best-known characters: Beatrice and Benedict.
I fell in love with Beatrice quite a number of years ago, but it was obvious that she didn’t feel the same about me – she never even answered my emails. :-)
But how could I resist her? Let’s put it this way. Pour together in a cocktail shaker the following ingredients: about 50% Katharine Hepburn, 50% Bette Davis, 50% Carole Lombard, and the other 50%, Lucille Ball. That would be some woman, Ned’s pa?
Katie Hepburn because she marched to a different drummer – (even though she herself did most of the drum-beating).
Bette Davis because she was capable of wittily destroying someone, usually a guy, with a single well-placed, caustic remark.
Carole Lombard because she was full of life and vitality, not to mention the fact that she was quite beautiful.
And Lucille Ball because she was funny.
Shake well and pour. You’ve got Beatrice of “Much Ado.”
You can sum up the play’s situation this way: it appears that Beatrice simply cannot stand Benedict.
Poor Ben. He’s a solid, respectable guy who doesn’t ask too much of life. But Bea has decided to make him a target for her relentless wit. Of course, we know, and Shakespeare knows that we know, when a man and a woman hate each other’s intestines in the early part of a play, the odds-on betting is that they’ll wind up together when the curtain comes down.
(Which is a bit strange because they didn’t have a curtain in a Shakespeare theatre.)
Though she lived four or five hundred years ago, Beatrice was like many modern women – women of intelligence and wit, women who see the absurdity of the world and who have no desire to become some man’s possession, yet who deeply feel the need for love.
You’d never guess that Beatrice, with her mild appearance, could be so lively and amusingly sarcastic.
Those of us who sat there in the audience at the Globe Theatre would have seen that, behind all her wisecracks and cutting remarks, there was an obvious vulnerability. It’s clear that the man she loves is Benedict, but she has been hurt before; she will protect herself by acting as “Lady Disdain.” It’s also clear that Ben, in spite of his own share of wisecracks, could love Bea, if he were only given a chance.
The Governor tells her that Benedict is a fine man. “A man to a man, stuffed with all the honorable virtues.”
Bea says, a stuffed man perhaps, but as for the stuffing…
The Governor explains to all the other gentlemen there: “Benedict and Beatrice, they never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”
Bea: “Yes, but in our last meeting four of his five wits were off somewhere. He usually has enough wit to keep himself warm and that’s all.”
Benedict arrives and addresses the crowd. Bea: “I wonder that you keep on talking, Signor Benedict, because nobody pays you any attention.”
Her uncle says to her: “Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.”
Bea: “Not till God makes men of some other mettle than earth.”
Her girlfriends talk about her. “All that carping is not commendable.” “No, and to be so odd, and from all fashions, as Beatrice is, is not commendable. But who dare tell her so?”
Finally, as we knew it would, comes the scene where the feisty couple declare their love for each other.
Their decision to marry is just as wise-crackingly light-hearted as their usual conversations. Ben says he has decided to marry her, but he wants her to know he’s only marrying her because he’s sorry for her.
Bea wisecracks back she’s only marrying him to save his life for she was told he was deathly ill.
Ben stops her mouth by kissing her.
1 year ago