Category Archives: Much Ado About Nothing

Theatrical Review: These Paper Bullets

Last weekend, I took my wife Lisa and fifteen year-old son Jack, down to the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, California, to catch These Paper Bullets, the self-proclaimed “Modish ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.” Much Ado is a blast, Lisa’s favorite Shakespeare comedy, AND a play I’d seen recently (up in Ashland earlier this month). How would this Modish Ripoff stand up?

Quite well, actually.

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Review: Much Ado About Nothing by the Independent Shakespeare Company at Griffith Park, Los Angeles

A couple of weeks back, I took my wife Lisa and son Jack to Los Angeles’ Griffith Park to catch some free outdoor theater (#ShakespeareSetFree) by the Independent Shakespeare Company, for the first of their two summer productions, Romeo and Juliet. If you were around for that one, you know I found it to be very enjoyable. I wasn’t the only one: that production will be returning after the current production, Much Ado About Nothing, runs its course at the end of this month. But I digress. This past weekend, Lisa and I headed back to the woods for a little Nothing, or Much Ado.

Much Ado About Nothing by Independent Shakespeare Company (at Los Angeles' Griffith Park)
Much Ado About Nothing by Independent Shakespeare Company (at Los Angeles’ Griffith Park); photo–Mike Ditz

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Podcast 87: Much Ado About Nothing: Directorial Concepts, Casts, and Wrap-up

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This week’s podcast concludes our two month-long discussion of Much Ado About Nothing, with a directorial concept and cast, as well as a wrap-up of the play.

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Much Ado About Nothing: the wrap-up

Ah, Much Ado About Nothing winds down and comes to a close.

So here we are at the end of our two-month journey. And what have we learned on this trip?

That sometimes nothing is nothing. Sometimes nothing is nooky. Sometimes nothing is noting. That it’s important to listen, but not to overhear (unless you’re a cop). Oh, and don’t call the lead cop an ass.

And what do we think?

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Much Ado About Nothing: midpoint

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Much Ado About Nothing.

There are 2633 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1317, or at Act Three, Scene Three, line 9. Now, Rodes’ theory postulated that you could find (within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly summed up the major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions; in a play with as much prose as Much Ado (77% of the lines are prose; only The Merry Wives of Windsor has more prose), this forty-line window is all the more important.

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A Podcast Delayed

The regularly scheduled podcast for today (Episode 87–Much Ado About Nothing: wrap-up and directorial concepts) is delayed until next weekend.

If you’d like to be a part of that podcast, send me (either through the comment thread below, the contact form, or the Facebook or Twitter pages) your directorial concept and cast. Get ’em to me by Wednesday night, and you’ll be immortalized on MP3 (OK, so that’s a bit of an overstatement… but you will have my eternal gratitude… OK, I’d appreciate it).

See you then!

Much Ado About Nothing: Love’s Labor’s Won?

Last month, the Royal Shakespeare Company opened a duet of plays, Love’s Labor’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing. Only the RSC isn’t promoting the two plays as that bill. Instead, they are presenting Much Ado as Love’s Labor’s Won.

Now for those who don’t remember, Love’s Labor’s Won is a play referenced in 1598 in a book that mentions both Lost and Won as being by Shakespeare. Its text has never been found, though. Many consider it a lost play, while some critics have claimed it is an alternate title for another play (much like how some critics believe the original performance title of Richard III was Buckingham, and the subtitle of Twelfth Night is “What You Will”), with the most popular suspects being Troilus and Cressida, The Taming of the Shrew, and–you guessed it–Much Ado About Nothing.

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Much Ado About… the Title

So.

Titles.

In the histories and tragedies, they’re pretty simple: Who is the play about? Who ends up in a body bag at the end? Sure, it’s an over-simplification, but when character names are in the title, it’s pretty straightforward.

[of course, the words are barely on the page before re-evaluation begins… next month’s play, Julius Caesar, takes that little proposition and does a little jig on it. still, you get what I mean…]

In the comedies, dark comedies (the so-called problem plays) and tragicomedies (romances), titles can get a little dicey. There are some straightforward ones: The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Then there are the ones that seem more like tone-setters: The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, even Love’s Labor’s Lost.

And then there are the “whaaaa? titles. You know, the ones that are on par with Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35,” Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and the Who’s “Baba O’Riley”: All’s Well that Ends Well, Twelfth Night, and

Much Ado About Nothing.

Now, we’ve spent much (pun, get it?) of the last week or so breaking down words that tie in with the title.

Nothing, and its homophone (at least contemporarily), noting.

So the title means…

A great deal of fuss or trouble about

  • (in regards to noting): listening or paying attention
  • (in regards to nothing): sex
  •  (in regards to nothing): something of no importance

If it’s the first one, then the title is either ironic or a misnomer; it’s really much ado about not paying attention or listening (because if the characters were more observant, then much of the plot would be moot).

If it’s the middle argument–sex–then this play is reduced to hinging on the sexual act. But this isn’t the case. The only sex in the play, between Borachio and Margaret, happens off-stage.

So then we find ourselves at the end.

A great fuss over something of little importance. And it does make sense:

  • Does the Beatrice/Benedick romance have any great consequence? Not really.
  • While Much Ado may have more references to “fashion” than any other play, in the world of the play, what is commonly seen as fashion–style–is looked upon with relative dismissiveness.
  • Even the war that precedes the action of the play doesn’t seem to have much consequence; none of any name (value) have been lost, and even the losers are reconciled with the victors (rather than being imprisoned or executed).

And yet…

There are life-and-death stakes involved, stemming from the out-sized reaction of the prince and Claudio to what they believe is Hero’s pre-nuptial nooky.

Life and death. That would be great fuss or trouble. But the nooky? We had ruled that earlier. So am I ready to amend my thinking about sweet nothings? No.

I know this is a purely twentieth century viewpoint (look, I’m old, but certainly not as old-school as the Elizabethan worldview), however, maybe what’s of no importance is the obsession on female chastity. It’s the root of so much hand-wringing and obsession in the play. The worst wedding ever. The horns-on-the-brain fixation by the male characters on becoming a cuckold. Even the women are reduced seeing pre-marital sex as bad (remember Margaret’s “heavier” commentary before the wedding).

I’m not saying all women should be or are promiscuous. But maybe what’s good for the gander is good for the goose. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with the male characters making use of prostitutes in the world of this play (and others), so male sexuality seems to be just fine, thank you very much.

It’s female sexuality that’s scary.

So maybe it is nothing. Not the sex, mind you, but the naught, the zero, the hole, that’s of no importance, even if it is the cause of all this fuss.

Much Ado About… Listening

When we last wrote about Much Ado About Nothing, we were using the concordance in our discussion of the concept of “noting” or pointing out something or taking notice.

You know, listening.

Which got me to thinking: is the use of other listening terms (list, listen, hear) as pervasive here as it was with “note”?

The answer is pretty much “yes.”

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