Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play by William Shakespeare thought to have been written in 1598 and 1599, as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of his career. The play was included in the First Folio, published in 1623. Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, because it combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honor, shame, and court politics. Like As You Like It and Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, though interspersed with darker concerns, is a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths. Much Ado About Nothing chronicles two pairs of lovers: Benedick and Beatrice (the main couple), and Claudio and Hero (the secondary couple). Benedick and Beatrice are engaged in a very "merry war"; they are both very witty and proclaim their disdain of love. In contrast, Claudio and Hero are sweet young people who are rendered practically speechless by their love for one another. Although the young lovers Hero and Claudio provide the main impetus for the plot, the courtship between the wittier, wiser lovers Benedick and Beatrice is what makes Much Ado About Nothing so memorable. Benedick and Beatrice argue with delightful wit, and Shakespeare develops their journey from antagonism to sincere love and affection with a rich sense of humor and compassion. By means of "noting" (which sounds the same as "nothing," and which is gossip, rumour, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. However, Dogberry, a Constable who is a master of malapropisms, discovers the evil trickery of the villain, Don John. In the end, Don John runs away and everyone else joins in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples. Contents * 1 Date and text * 2 Style * 3 Sources * 4 Setting * 5 Characters * 6 Synopsis * 7 Analysis * 7.1 Themes and motifs * 7.1.1 Opposite sex * 7.1.2 Infidelity * 7.1.3 Deception * 7.1.4 Masks and mistaken identity * 7.1.5 Noting * 8 Performance history * 8.1 On stage * 9 Adaptations * 9.1 Television * 9.2 Film * 9.3 Other * 10 References * 11 External links * 12 Related information
| Date and text
The earliest printed text states that Much Ado About Nothing was "sundry times publicly acted" prior to 1600 and it is likely that the play made its debut in the autumn or winter of 1598–1599. The earliest recorded performances are two that were given at Court in the winter of 1612–1613, during the festivities preceding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with Frederick V, Elector Palatine (14 February 1613). The play was published in quarto in 1600 by the stationers Andrew Wise and William Aspley. This was the only edition prior to the First Folio in 1623. Style
The play is one of the few in the Shakespeare canon where the majority of the text is written in prose. The substantial verse sections, nevertheless, are used both to achieve courteous decorum, on the one hand, and impulsive energies, on the other. Sources
Stories of lovers deceived into believing each other false were common currency in northern Italy in the sixteenth century. Shakespeare's immediate source could have been one of the Novelle ("Tales") by Matteo Bandello of Mantua, dealing with the tribulations of Sir Timbreo and his betrothed Fenice in Messina after King Piero's defeat of Charles of Anjou, perhaps through the translation into French by François de Belleforest. Another version featuring lovers Ariodante and Ginevra, with the servant Dalinda impersonating Ginevra on the balcony, appears in Book V of Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, published in an English translation in 1591. The character of Benedick too has a counterpart in a commentary upon marriage in Orlando...
References: Performance history
David Garrick as Benedick, by ean-Louis Fesch (fr), 1770
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