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So when Beatrice requests, then demands, then implores Benedick to “kill Claudio” (IV.i.288) in Act Four, Scene One of Much Ado About Nothing, we see a rhetorical preview to another strong female character, one we’ll see a little later in the project: Lady Macbeth.
This week’s podcast continues our two month-long discussion of Much Ado About Nothing, with reviews of some of the available video productions of the play, plus a live theater review of The Tempest by South Coast Repertory.
As I view some of the videos of Much Ado About Nothing, I’m noticing something interesting. In the text of the play, the Borachio/Margaret assignation occurs off-stage, set up by scenes between Don John and Borachio, as well as John with his brother Pedro and Claudio, then reported by Borachio to Conrade in Act Three, Scene Three.
Last Sunday, my wife Lisa and I had the pleasure of catching the South Coast Repertory production of The Tempest in Costa Mesa, CA. Now The Tempest holds a pretty special spot in my heart, as it was the first major Shakespeare I ever saw, a magical production with Anthony Hopkins as Prospero at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles back in 1978; I’ll talk about that show more when we get to that play at the end of this project, but suffice to say it was a seminal moment in my love of Shakespeare.
The Tempest is a tough play to pull off. It deals with magic, and how to convey that on stage? It’s not easy. It often comes off as overly solemn or worse, cheesy. The earlier production began with a piece of stagecraft that set a magical tone (especially to this fifteen year-old) and then used that initial shock to carry the play. This production takes a different tack, however. Prospero is a magician, so why not show magic? Real magic (if that’s not an oxymoron).
This week’s Shakespeare news review includes announcements of the 2015 seasons for both Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and Kentucky Shakespeare, Station Eleven, the upcoming fundraising Benefit for Georgia Shakespeare, the film Muse of Fire, a whispered outdoor production of Coriolanus, and Kung Fu Hamlet. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.
I tend to dive a little deeper into the poetic aspects of the play during my second reading of the play, and Much Ado About Nothing is no different. And if you’ve read this blog for more than just a few months, you know that I love antilabes.
What’s an antilabe?
The completion of one character’s poetic line (in Shakespeare, usually iambic pentameter) by another.
There’s some critical opinion that the texts we have of Much Ado About Nothing are drafts and not final versions. One of the supporting pieces of evidence to conclusion is the mention of characters early in the play only never to be mentioned again:
In the first scene of Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice talks about Benedick and his “wit”:
So what are the “five wits”?
Now that the plot, sources, and basic names are out of the way, I’m beginning to map out the direction of the discussion of Much Ado About Nothing. As a purely brainstorming exercise (meaning some of these might find their way into the blog, some may not, and others elbow their way in), here’s what I’ve got so far: