Tuesday, October 12, 2010


"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.


Derrick said...

Another succinct explication, Berowne!

Janice said...

What a fitting combo of amazing women to create the complete Beatrice! I've always loved "Much Ado"...

MorningAJ said...

I've never seen Much Ado.. Maybe I should!

Sylvia K said...

Great post for the M Day! And Bea is quite the woman! One of my favorite plays! Hope your week is going well! Enjoy!


Leo said...

I think Much Ado is one of his best plays..! A lovely M post for sure, Berowne!

My M Post Is Here:

photowannabe said...

Why oh why weren't you there so many years ago to explain Shakesphere to me? Thanks for actually making me want to read his plays again.

Roger Owen Green said...

"Ned's pa!" HA!
Very entertaining & informative.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Sara Katt said...

Meow! What an interesting post about Beatrice and Benedict! This guy Will Shake-something seems to really know how to write a story! I think I'll ask my Mommie/Mummy to tell me more about him. Does he like cats?

Stop by and visit! I write poetry! Not bad for not having opposing thumbs!
(I like your choice of actresses. My favourite is Katie H.)
Sara Cat
Sara Cat's abcWED-round-7-M

Hildred and Charles said...

Another wonderful commentary, - you make Shakespeare so inviting.

Mara said...

I've only ever seen the film (with Emma Thompson), but I have seen it several times since it's so good. You feel more for them than for the other couple.

Tumblewords: said...

A terrific choice of ingredients!

Berowne said...

Great to hear from Derrick, Janice, MorningAJ, Sylvia K, Leo and photowannabe. Thanks for your comments.

Berowne said...

Roger O G: "Very entertaining & informative."
As was your comment. :-)

Pagan Sphinx said...

Fifty percent Lucille Ball??? I'd have to kill her. ;-)

That was fun. Thank you.

Nope. Never been to Venice but I would quite love to.


Gramma Ann said...

I have never been able to understand The William, but you make this one sound like something I may understand if I were to venture out of my comfort zone and read it.

EG Wow said...

I very much enjoyed your short version of the play. It has been years since I saw the play.

rallentanda said...

Enjoyed this. There must be a Beatrice out there somewhere. Keep searching and good luck!

Barbara said...

Great post for 'M'. One of my favourite comedies, I'd probably enjoy it even more without Hero and Claudio but never mind! I saw Siobhan Redmond play Beatrice at Stratford - she was so good, really caustic. Benedict didn't stand a chance.

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

I like your shake! (in a good way that is) - great choice of women - smart, fun, sharp and funny. Thanks for explaining Shakespeare in a super entertaining way!

Leslie: said...

Terrific choice for tody! I always learn something new when I come by. :D

ds said...

Great summary! Much Ado is one of my favorites also (interesting combo of actresses for Beatrice). B & B's sparring is so delightful.
What did you think of the Branagh film (way back when he was still married to Emma Thompson, the perfect Beatrice)?

Anonymous said...

Invite you to try the prompts at Writer's Island

Elizabeth said...

Ah, I see that you not only know your way around the work of the great Bard but have an intimate awareness of the art of seduction, too. Claudio and Hero's struggle for their romantic union is as nothing compared to the intellectual brawling of Beatrice and Benedick.

'Charm ache with air, and agony with words.'

Berowne said...

ds: "B & B's sparring is so delightful."
I agree.

Berowne said...

Barbara: "I saw Siobhan Redmond play Beatrice at Stratford - she was so good, really caustic. Benedict didn't stand a chance."
The mark of a great Beatrice. :-)

Berowne said...

It's a pleasure to read the comments of Pagan Sphinx, Gramma Ann, EG Wow, rallentanda, OJ Gonzalez and Leslie -- my thanks.

Elizabeth said...

My very sincere apologies if my comment offended and was not a pleasure, sir; that was not my intention. Forgive me. x

Berowne said...

Elizabeth: "My very sincere apologies if my comment offended..."
I went back and read your comment again. I'm genuinely puzzled. I thought your comment was intelligent, knowledgeable, positive -- and very welcome.

Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe said...

Then all is well, sir. I merely read too much into your the exclusion of my name in your lovely acknowledgement of your other commentators - but then, I am but a simple maid and easily overlooked. ;-)x

LisaF said...

Bea, as well as your "cocktail shaker" woman sound like more woman than most men would be capable of handling! Ahh, Betti Davis and her sarcasm, gotta love her.

Berowne said...

Elizabeth: "Then all is well, sir. I merely read too much into your the exclusion of my name in your lovely acknowledgement of your other commentators."
The reason: I had put yours aside because you had shown such informed knowledge of the play and of the Bard that I thought it deserved special discussion later.
"...but then, I am but a simple maid."
I would suggest, rather, "a lass unparalleled." :-)

Elizabeth said...

Is there an echo in your comment box...my words keep bouncing back!?!

'I yield upon great persuasion,' and I am, of course, now truly sorry that I responded too soon and missed the special measures of your felicitious attentions that could have been solely mine. ;-) x

Berowne said...

Elizabeth: "Is there an echo in your comment box...my words keep bouncing back!?!"
That is because they are worth repeating.:-)

Elizabeth said...

'Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?'

I bid you goodnight, sir. x

Berowne said...

Elizbeth: 'Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?'
"No, the world must be peopled."

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