Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” Transcends Time.
CLOSE STUDY OF A TEXT: SPEAKING TASK Comedy is, by nature, difficult to translate as its appeal depends on local and topical interest. However, William Shakespeare ahs evidently proven in his play “Much Ado about Nothing”, that comedy can transcend time. This play, which was written in a patriarchal society, can be applied to today’s modern audience in a post – feminist world. Shakespeare’s conventions have ensured the ongoing success and due to his use of sexual innuendos, satire, deceit and wit, the modern audience is willing to look beyond the language barrier.
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Shakespeare is deemed unique because he has taken personalities, situations, and events and has used various techniques which can be interpreted into different contexts to be enjoyed 400 years after it was written. “Much Ado about Nothing” was written between 1598 and 1599, the turn of a century amongst the Elizabethan Era of a patriarchal society. This era reined Britain and become the height of the English Renaissance. The audience of this era expected stock characters and happy endings concluding with marriage and song and dance.
Chaos was resolved and order was restored. The complications revolved around the universal theme of love were played on to a comedic measure. Shakespeare expresses the human character, the ongoing human spirit that is timeless. He structures his comedy so it is not topical, thus creating a play that is still enjoyed to this day. Gender and sexuality play a central role in this play. Shakespeare often uses sexual innuendos phrases with a double meaning, to represent the sexuality and convey the ‘Battle of the Sexes’.
For example, the title of the play, “Much Ado about Nothing” has a second meaning. “Nothing” is referred to as gossip and deceit, which runs throughout the play boldly. However, this play has also been interpreted as “Much Ado about N-othing” which in the Elizabethan Era, was known as slang for a females sexual parts. Throughout the entire play Shakespeare uses phrases with a “double entrande”, in pursuit of creating humour through a different aspect, in which the audience may interpret the sexual innuendo as they please.
When Leonarto says to Claudio: “O, when she had writ it and was reading it over, she found Beatrice and Benedick between the sheet? ” in which Leonarto makes a sexual innuendo concerning sheet as in a piece of paper, but also as a bed sheet. The audience of a modern society still finds this particular humour comedic because it is not topical. Known as ‘dirty jokes’ in a modern society, it is deemed a timeless comedy technique, proven to be enjoyed by any class. Another comedic technique used in “Much Ado about Nothing is satire. This is represented through stock characters, such as Dogberry.
Dogberry is a constable in the play, that although he is an authority figure, he is a man that muddles up everything. For example, Dogberry says “redemption” instead of “damnation” in the sentence ‘O villain! Thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this. The comedy lies within humour that the constable means exactly the opposite of what he so passionately exclaims. An audience of any era can seek muse because satire is simple humour, and is easy to comprehend the concept behind the joke. In Shakepeares time, this form of humour was written for a less educated, lower class of people.
However, ‘wit’ was more responsive towards the higher class. Wit is represented throughout the play between the two lovers, Beatrice and Benedick. Their conversations are equipped with quick tongue and constant insults that are deemed witty and humorous. The conversations are a huge contribution to the humour associated with the play. We as an audience can see this love hate relationship from when they communicate in the very first scene of the play, when Benedick greets Beatrice with the sarcastic remark: “What, my dear Lady Disdain!
Are you yet living? ” and Beatrice responds with “is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence”. These constant quick minded insults are enjoyed by and audience of today because of the sophisticated language techniques Shakespeare conveys between the two, and the irony of them blatantly loving each other under the banter and insults they throw back and forth.
Deceit intertwines with the universal theme of love, both in which control the plays plotline. Deceit is shown through various different techniques, with one being eavesdropping. Eavesdropping in “Much ado about Nothing” happens more often than not, and is orientated around the lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Act 2 scene 1 explores this technique. Leonarto and Don Pedro devise a plan to stop the lovers banter once and for all, by making both lovers overhear a conversation about their partner being spoken of in a positive manner.
For example, when Hero calls Benedick ‘the only worthy man in Italy, aside from me dear Claudio’, she falsely states this knowing Beatrice is eavesdropping, and in the hope Beatrice will fall in love with Benedick. Deceit amuses the audience because especially in “Much Ado about Nothing”, deceit creates a complication and contrast against the happy, light hearted comical structure. Due to the invisible 4th wall, we are able to witness things the characters cannot, which expose how vulnerable the characters truly are.
A modern audience can find amusement just as much as an audience can from the Elizabethan Era, because of the technique. In order for a play to transcend time, the comedy cannot be topical, for the comedy would not be comprehensive to a modern audience of a post feminine society. William Shakespeare has proven his unique understanding of language and techniques, and has appropriately assembled his play “Much Ado about Nothing” not only for the audience of his time, but for an audience 400 years later, regardless of the steep difference in language. Much Ado about Nothing” has transcended time due to using timeless themes such as love and deceit, and with that is known as a play that will be enjoyed and analysed for years to come. Bibliography: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Much_Ado_About_Nothing http://boards. straightdope. com/sdmb/showthread. php? t=240952 http://quotations. about. com/od/shakespearequotes/a/bard18. htm