I love this play!
It was the second play I ever read by Shakespeare, and I distinctly remember being surprised at its extremely sharp wit, expressly referred to as “skirmishes of wit” in the play. From the first dialogue between Beatrice and Benedick, I knew that I was in for some fun.
Now, I have not read the play in over two years, almost three. (But it is on my summer reading list.)
This was a play of “firsts” for me: the first time I encountered one of Shakespeare’s many strong women characters, the first time I experienced the biting sarcasm that I have grown to love, the first time I remember reading something I recognized as a famous Shakespeare quote.
About a year later, I watched the movie starring Emma Thompson and Denzel Washington. Although it was entertaining, I did not at all care to the portrayal of Benedick. I had pictured him as much different, but I cannot explain exactly how.
Anyway, I enjoyed my reading of the play better than the film version.
But I often wonder what exactly I think of when I think of characters. I always picture them in my mind when I am reading a book (or play), but it is an indefinite picture, blurry as in a dream. But for all that fogginess, I am always able to distinguish a film version’s portrayal of a character as being definitely wrong according to my definition of that character. I do not exactly know why this is, but it is one reason I prefer reading to viewing.
Some characters are admittedly more difficult to picture than others, but generally, it is not a problem for me to get caught up in the world of the characters, and so see them as living individuals.
Maybe that is what I so much enjoy about Much Ado About Nothing – its incredibly clear, incredibly alive characters. Their speech so completely distinguishes them, that one cannot help but feel that he or she has actually heard them deliever their speeches in person. Although Benedick’s actual physical appearance may be somewhat foggy, I can distinctly picture his attitude and mind with the words he speaks. For example, here is the first exchange between the two B’s in the play:
BEATRICE: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick. Nobody marks you.
BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?
BEATRICE: 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.
BENEDICK: Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.
Yes, these are clear characters, which one feels rather than sees. I can hear them speaking as I read, tell by the words they say how they say those words. This is not always the case with Shakespeare, so I will enjoy it when I can!