Take that, Shakespeare! Jill’s haphazard thoughts on Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado Collage

Yeah, so I read this play in like July, and apparently into August.  What the hell was I doing last summer that it took me six weeks to read a Shakespeare play?  I have no idea.  And I’ll probably never know.  I do know that I read and finished this play and it’s sat on my ottoman with all my other finished but not reviewed books for half a year.  A corner of the cover has vanished and there are a few holes in the cover as well, that bear a striking resemblance to cat canines.  Why are my cats trying to eat this play?  I have no idea.  What was this play about?  Once again, I have no idea.

Bethany wrote a couple of lovely posts about Much Ado About Nothing back in July and September.  I suggest you read those if you are looking for scholarly essays about Shakespeare.  I think I’m going to skip trying to be scholarly and talk for a while about the weirdness that is reading Shakespeare when you aren’t being told to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare as much as the next person.  I voluntarily took two Shakespeare classes in college.  But it’s been difficult for me to write about in the absence of a looming deadline and a grade on the line.  His comedies, especially, leave me sort of empty of thoughts.  In AP English we talked about “potboilers” as the stuff writers write when they need money to finance the writing of their great works.  Much Ado About Nothing strikes me as a Shakespearean potboiler.  Sure, it’s been made into movies with lots of famous actors and actresses, but where is the timelessness of it all?  Where’s the character that everyone remembers, that actors live to play?  Nowhere.  The most memorable character in this play is, quite frankly, John the Bastard.  And not because of anything he says or does, just because the name is funny to the part of my brain that will forever giggle at curse words.  I’m actually looking forward to reading Hamlet again, because it’s a beautiful tragedy with wonderful monologues and lots of crazy people.  I loved re-reading King Lear, though writing about it wasn’t easy.  This one, not so much.  It was amusing, of course, to read the witty banter between Beatrice and Benedick, and all the sex and penis references were fun for a chuckle.  But otherwise, I can’t figure out any redeeming value in this play other than it’s one of Shakespeare’s comedies and no one dies at the end.

Bethany talked about the group project we had to work on for this play (probably because Fr. Murphy couldn’t come up with anything to say about it either).  And it does stand out as one of the bright spots of group work in my entire school career.  In addition to Bethany, I was in a group with my dear friend Rosanna, and also Gina and Sarah, who I was friends with in high school, though not especially close ones.  It was really fun to work with them on this project, and to hang out at The Owl and Monkey Café with them one Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1993.  (I think there may have been a boy in our group, too, but I’m not sure which one, and boys were always secondary to me in high school, with a couple prominent exceptions who have no place in our discussion of Shakespearean comedies.  Perhaps in the discussion of a tragedy, but certainly not a comedy.)  I never enjoyed group work, because I hated the thought of relying on others to get a good grade, and having others relying on me for the same was a pretty stressful thing to me.  But this was a good group and I’m glad I was in it.

So there you go.  Mostly I wrote this to check a box in my blog to-do list.  I have never failed to write about a book I’ve read in the year and a half we’ve been doing this blog, and I’m certainly not going to let one dumb Shakespeare comedy break my streak.  So take that, Shakespeare!  I’ll have more to say about Hamlet, I promise.

The collage up top was made using the website fotor.com, and has images from the two movie versions of this play that are nearest and dearest to my heart: the 1993 version directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, Keanu Reeves, et. al., and the 2013 version directed by Joss Whedon, starring various denizens of the Whedon-verse.  I still haven’t seen that one, but someday I will.

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This entry was posted in AP English - 18 Years Later, Drama, Reviews by Jill, William Shakespeare. Bookmark the permalink.

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