Thanks to everyone–cast, crew, and audience–for making last night’s staged reading of Much Ado About Nothing a success. So many great moments, from Cee Lo Green to “Kill Claudio” to the “hands of justice!” Be sure to subscribe to this blog for information about future readings.
(King Lear, November 17th!)
Here are Alaina Jobe’s dramaturgical notes from the program. I think they sum up the production and the mission of Improbable Fictions quite well.
“As with most comedies, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing puts a great deal of emphasis on the power of words: witty words, suspicious words, confusing words, unkind words, and, finally, three little words. Words form the basis of the comedy, and we laugh at the verbal spars between Beatrice and Benedick, Dogberry’s misunderstandings, Don Pedro’s jokes, and the multitude of double entendres that color the play. Benedick and Beatrice’s verbal sparring constructs the witty backbone of Much Ado, forming much of the dramatic tension and giving us some of the best insults in Shakespeare. Their interactions are precursors to many of our contemporary romantic comedies, which are oftentimes verbally driven. Words keep Benedick and Beatrice apart and words unite them— at the end, they have both written sonnets that reveal their true emotions.
“The titles of Shakespearean comedies are oftentimes self-denigrating, to the point that we must consider whether they contain some clue into the overall message of the play, a sly way of saying what the play is about— by virtue of the fact that the title is pointing out that what we see and hear onstage is Much Ado About Nothing, we should scrutinize the contents of the play in order to determine if this is indeed just a lot of talking over what does not even really matter. And if we more carefully examine how words are used in this play, we see that they do not merely make us laugh. They can also wound, plant suspicion, and ask for death. Hero’s honor is held in suspicion based on a rumor. Soon after declaring her love to Benedick, Beatrice quite seriously requests him to “kill Claudio.” We do not know why Don Pedro and Don John are estranged, but Don John’s heated words are notably angry and vindictive and those emotions dictate his subsequent choices.
“Words are powerful. They hurt just as much as they heal. They can indicate love as well as hate. And most importantly, they inform actions. We make decisions based on our words and the words of others. Much Ado shows us this and cautions us to be more careful about we say, and to perhaps think more carefully, if not make a fuss over, what we consider to be nothing more than syllables spoken into air.”