Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
The action is set in Sicily, where Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, has recently defeated his half-brother, the bastard Don John, in a military engagement. Apparently reconciled, they return to the capital, Messina, as guests of the Governor, Leonato. There Count Claudio, a young nobleman serving in Don Pedro's army, falls in love with Hero, Leonato's daughter, whom Don Pedro woos on his behalf. The play's central plot shows how Don John maliciously deceives Claudio into believing that Hero has taken a lover on the eve of her marriage, causing Claudio to repudiate her publicly, at the altar.
Much Ado About Nothing is my first Shakespeare. A deliberate choice for the fact that it's one among the Bard's shortest and lightest plays, and therefore one of the easiest to get into. But truth be told, I struggled with this last year, and ended up dropping it a little less than halfway through. But this 2014, I resolved to attack this again with renewed vigor and much determination. And I finally got to finish my first Shakespeare! So this 1st paragraph is nothing but a shameless self-congratulatory, back-patting hoopla. I apologize. Well, no. Not really. :D
The play, I found, drew my attention to two events. There is the one that circles around Claudio and Hero, whereby the former falls in love with the latter, and seeks to win her over through the wooing of Don Pedro on his behalf, but only to be thwarted by Don Jon. Then there's the one that centers on Beatrice and Benedick, the two people who hate each other and the idea marriage with such passion, and thus have sworn to remain unattached until the end of time. This in turn spurred their respective friends to contrive to bring these two to fall in love.
This isn't to say that I did not struggle, because I did. Much inferring or reading context clues on my part, but I think I understood the whole thing well enough. And it was a cool experience. The lines have a certain flamboyance to them. It is after all Shakespeare. Each and every one of them is just brimming with zest and verve. Most especially Benedick's and Beatrice's witty and sarcastic bickerings, and their hilarious opinions about what great foolishness it is to commit oneself to marriage (and incidentally to each other). I have learned of february face, lying knaves, cuckold, and clod of wayward marl. New words to add to ones arsenal of insults. Haha. Listening to the audio book helped well enough for me to get a feel of the language, and I eventually continued the rest of the story by reading them, taking much pleasure in all the haths and thous and thees.
It seems like this play has become the template for today's many a romantic comedies. Someone meddling over people's romantic life is pretty much a staple theme in stories. And then there is the slap-slap-kiss trope which the play literally embodies with a kiss at the very end. And I am not complaining because I have always been partial to this particular trope and theme. And this Shakespeare play is the perfect model. The plot holds much intrigue as to whether all the meddling will bring forth a favorable result or blow up in their faces. Can they really bring Benedick and Beatrice together despite the chasm of contempt between them? Can Hero and Claudio be together or will Don Jon prevail in his villainy? It has a quick enough pacing and resolves in a delightfully theatrical way. There's plenty of eavesdropping and creeping around bushes, setting up of treasonous traps, a masquerade and a wedding nightmare, and the dead coming back to life. I could not have asked for more.
All in all, I am very glad I persisted. I had a grand ole time with this play. Had a good enough time to at least try more of his works.