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ConnieAnnKirk
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Much Ado About Nothing (spoilers, ok)

Here's our thread for the play, Much Ado About Nothing.  What would you like to bring up for discussion about this play?  We'll stay with it throughout the month of June.

 

Let the discussing begin!

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Benedict3
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Re: Much Ado About Nothing (spoilers, ok)

Much ado about nothing:

What’s in the title?  I remember a copy of some of Shakespeare’s plays saying that there was no significance in the title of the play.  I put down that version and went back to my big old fat book of all his plays.  To me the main meaning of the play is described right in the title.

First, what is the thing that is absent, creating nothing?  If you prick us, do we not bleed?  That is real, my body is real…  and my emotions are real.  But what is my imagination?  Is that real?  And if it is something other than real, then all of our contriving is also something other than real.

The longing for the opposite sex is real, however, there is societal contriving within this play that implies that this longing is stemming from the individuals(which would be real) when really the appearance of longing is contrived by a few individuals causing much ado.

Therefore, the contriving, not being real, is what is causing all of the ado.  Much ado about nothing.

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friery
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Much Ado about the Title of the Play

Wikipedia has some interesting comments on the title, Much Ado about Nothing. There are multiple puns in the title.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Much_Ado_About_Nothing

 

  • In Shakespeare's day, "nothing" and "noting" were pronounced the same (homophones).  So, when the title is recited rather than read, you don't know which word is meant.
  • "Noting" can refer to seeing someone or something.  Or spying and eavesdropping.
  • "Noting" can also refer to music and musical notation. Or singing.
  • In Elizabethan times, the "O-thing" or "no thing" were slang for the vagina.
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Re: Much Ado about the Title of the Play

Here's a bit of what the intro. to the B&N edition says about the nothing/noting title:

 

"...love or confusion? Such questions prove the truth of the title, Much Ado About Nothing, especially when we remember that "nothing" (pronounced "noting" in Elizabethan English) means also "observing." Audiences and readers -- by nature noters all -- watch the play and try to make sense of the witty characters and dazzling action.  Our confusions mirror those of the people on stage, who observe, consider, qustion, and draw conclusions (sometimes wrong).  For them as for the audiences, the play insistently calls into question the business of noting, that is, our human capacity to perceive and makes sense of the world" (1).

 

Is the play making "much ado" about our powers of observation, or its inadequacies?

 

 

~ConnieAnnKirk




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friery
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Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!

Act 3, Scene 1 is full of animal & bird & fish images.

 

Bea is described as a "lapwing."  3.1.25. That's a family of European shorebirds that have slow, irregular wing beats in flight and a shrill, wailing cry.  I think they also do the broken wing trick--shorebirds will pretend to have a broken wing if a predator comes close, and draw the predator away from the nest.  Interesting description of Bea.

 

Ursula says they're "angling" for Bea by having the pretend conversation.  3.1.27.  There are fun fishing images in that passage.  (Does "carping" in 3.1.75 also count as a piscene image?  Maybe so.  The word "carp," meaning to complain, comes from an old Norse word meaning to boast.  The word "carp," the fish, comes from an old German word for the fish itself.  So, maybe some old German guy was boasting to some old Norse guy about the size of the carp he caught.)

 

Bea's high spirits are described as like a "haggard."  3.1.37.  That's an adult hawk captured for training.  (And the multiple layers of that image begin to unfold--they're trapping Bea.)

 

And Bea is to be (no pun intended) "limed."  3.1.109.  Birdlime was a sticky substance spread on tree branches to catch songbirds.  Wikipedia says that the birdlime of the Italians  was made of Mistletoe berries, heated, mixed with oil.  Much Ado About Nothing takes place in Italy. So, maybe the Mistletoe connection adds some more flavor to this analogy.

 

Finally, there's a subtle horse analogy.  In a soliloquy at the end of the scene, Bea talks about Ben "taming my wild heart to thy loving hand." 3.1.118. Unless I'm amiss, that's a description of a rider taming an unbroken horse.

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friery
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Bea and Ben

The names Beatrice and Benedict apparently mean about the same thing.  Per Wikipedia:

 

Benedick means "blessed"; the root bene means "good." The name can also be interpreted as the two words bene (Latin for "good") and dicere (Latin for "to speak"). This is a reference to his unusual eloquence. It can also be taken as the obvious sexual pun.

 

Beatrice means "the one that blesses." Note that Benedick and Beatrice have similar meanings.

 

So, are we really talking about two sides of the same nature with these two characters?

 

 

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Re: Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, my!

Should that be "piscine"?
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Beatrice Has the Sniffles

In Act 3, scene 4, Beatrice enters.  Sick. 

 

She says "I am exceeding ill."  3.4.51.  And, "I am stuffed, cousin. I cannot smell." 3.4.62.  (The last comment giving rise [no pun intended] to some ribald comments by Margaret.)  And, "By my troth, I am sick."  3.4.70.

 

My question is, why did Shakespeare do this?  One theory I have is that he's made Beatrice such a formidable character that her later concession to Benedick wouldn't be completely plausible without some additional weakening of the defenses.  Hence, the sniffles.

 

I'm curious about what our readers think of all this.

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Re: Beatrice Has the Sniffles


friery wrote:

In Act 3, scene 4, Beatrice enters.  Sick. 

 

She says "I am exceeding ill."  3.4.51.  And, "I am stuffed, cousin. I cannot smell." 3.4.62.  (The last comment giving rise [no pun intended] to some ribald comments by Margaret.)  And, "By my troth, I am sick."  3.4.70.

 

My question is, why did Shakespeare do this?  One theory I have is that he's made Beatrice such a formidable character that her later concession to Benedick wouldn't be completely plausible without some additional weakening of the defenses.  Hence, the sniffles.

 

I'm curious about what our readers think of all this.


What do you think, Shakespeareans?

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Benedict3
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Re: Beatrice Has the Sniffles

In Act 3, scene 4, Beatrice enters.  Sick.

She says "I am exceeding ill."  3.4.51.  And, "I am stuffed, cousin. I cannot smell." 3.4.62.  (The last comment giving rise [no pun intended] to some ribald comments by Margaret.)  And, "By my troth, I am sick."  3.4.70.


To attempt to answer this, the meaning of these lines is described earlier in the same section.

Beatrice: “Then if your husband have stables enough, you’ll see he shall lack no barns”

The barn is used here as a symbol of a person.  Beatrice, as well as Benedict, both have confidence in their own beliefs and feelings lodged within themselves. Therefore, when thinking of any structure, she thinks of the internal functional parts first, such as the stables within the barn, not just what everybody sees, the outside of the barn, or the presentation of the barn.  But of course, when we see a stable barn, we take it for granted that there are stables within.  The outward show of ‘being a barn’ does not necessarily mean that there are stables within, but if we know that there are stables, then we know that it is a barn.  Any person can say that they are in love, but it would be great if we could see the inner workings of that person so that we could know if the outward show was descriptive of the inner workings.

Margaret on the other hand prefers to judge a book by its covers.  And she is accurate most of the time.  To her, if something looks like a thing, then it is that thing.  The barn is a barn, just as 3.4.86: “And how you may be converted I know not, but methinks you look with your eyes, as other women do.”  A barn is a barn is a barn, just as a woman is a woman is a woman and a man is a man is a man to her.

Beatrice is exceeding ill.  This is what is happening within her, and that is what she sees.  She sees the stables within the barn, and she sees her sick feeling.  Currently, the barn is the stables, and she is the sickness.

Margaret, sees Beatrice’s outward natural actions, not contrived presentations, and knows that the inner workings are caused by love.

"I am stuffed, cousin. I cannot smell."
Hero receives perfumed gloves from the Count.  Gloves are gloves, but these gloves have something on them that are put on them to make them more attractive.  Beatrice sees the gloves as being gloves.  Her judgment of the gloves worth is not effected by the ‘show’ of perfume, but only the worth and functionality of the gloves themselves.  She will decide if she likes the gloves, she will not be tricked into thinking that the gloves are worthier because they are covered in perfume.
There is no room within Beatrice to be manipulated, her concepts of worth stem from her inside, not from manipulations from the outside.  No room… stuffed.

Both of these lines are pointed at the fact that Beatrice pays attention to what she thinks, not what society tells her she should think.

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lapwing, etc.


friery wrote:

Act 3, Scene 1 is full of animal & bird & fish images.

 

Bea is described as a "lapwing."  3.1.25. That's a family of European shorebirds that have slow, irregular wing beats in flight and a shrill, wailing cry.  I think they also do the broken wing trick--shorebirds will pretend to have a broken wing if a predator comes close, and draw the predator away from the nest.  Interesting description of Bea.

 

Ursula says they're "angling" for Bea by having the pretend conversation.  3.1.27.  There are fun fishing images in that passage.  (Does "carping" in 3.1.75 also count as a piscene image?  Maybe so.  The word "carp," meaning to complain, comes from an old Norse word meaning to boast.  The word "carp," the fish, comes from an old German word for the fish itself.  So, maybe some old German guy was boasting to some old Norse guy about the size of the carp he caught.)

 

Bea's high spirits are described as like a "haggard."  3.1.37.  That's an adult hawk captured for training.  (And the multiple layers of that image begin to unfold--they're trapping Bea.)

 

And Bea is to be (no pun intended) "limed."  3.1.109.  Birdlime was a sticky substance spread on tree branches to catch songbirds.  Wikipedia says that the birdlime of the Italians  was made of Mistletoe berries, heated, mixed with oil.  Much Ado About Nothing takes place in Italy. So, maybe the Mistletoe connection adds some more flavor to this analogy.

 

Finally, there's a subtle horse analogy.  In a soliloquy at the end of the scene, Bea talks about Ben "taming my wild heart to thy loving hand." 3.1.118. Unless I'm amiss, that's a description of a rider taming an unbroken horse.


 

In Taming of the Shrew, wasn't there also this kind of 'wild' imagery of Kate as a wild animal needing 'taming?'

 

 

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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Re: Bea and Ben


friery wrote:

The names Beatrice and Benedict apparently mean about the same thing.  Per Wikipedia:

 

Benedick means "blessed"; the root bene means "good." The name can also be interpreted as the two words bene (Latin for "good") and dicere (Latin for "to speak"). This is a reference to his unusual eloquence. It can also be taken as the obvious sexual pun.

 

Beatrice means "the one that blesses." Note that Benedick and Beatrice have similar meanings.

 

So, are we really talking about two sides of the same nature with these two characters?

 

 


Given the animal imagery earlier, could Beatrice be the "wilder" side of Benedick, and vice versa?

~ConnieAnnKirk




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friery
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Re: lapwing, etc.


ConnieK wrote:

 

In Taming of the Shrew, wasn't there also this kind of 'wild' imagery of Kate as a wild animal needing 'taming?'

 

 


I'm embarassed to say that I've never read Taming of the Shrew.  (Although, thinking about it, the title does contain a wild animal reference.)

 

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Re: lapwing, etc.


friery wrote:

ConnieK wrote:

 

In Taming of the Shrew, wasn't there also this kind of 'wild' imagery of Kate as a wild animal needing 'taming?'

 

 


I'm embarassed to say that I've never read Taming of the Shrew.  (Although, thinking about it, the title does contain a wild animal reference.)

 


 

Oh, sorry, friery--no problem at all.  We just talked about it here in the club a few months back, so that's what prompted me to ask.  I was too lazy to look up the exact passage, but I think the comparison is made, especially in one pivotal scene with a horse.

 

 

~ConnieAnnKirk




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friery
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Re: lapwing, etc.


ConnieK wrote:
In Taming of the Shrew, wasn't there also this kind of 'wild' imagery of Kate as a wild animal needing 'taming?'

 

 


I'm embarassed to say that I've never read Taming of the Shrew.  (Although, thinking about it, the title does contain a wild animal reference.)

 


 

Oh, sorry, friery--no problem at all.  We just talked about it here in the club a few months back, so that's what prompted me to ask.  I was too lazy to look up the exact passage, but I think the comparison is made, especially in one pivotal scene with a horse.

 

 


And, let's not forget the first word of the title of the play: "Taming."  That certainly suggests a wild beast.

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The Eyes Have It

Leonato's speech in the church after Hero's aborted marriage is really interesting.  Here's the full text (Act 4, sc. 1, 128 to 151): 

 

Wherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
The story that is printed in her blood?
Do not live, Hero; do not ope thine eyes:
For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches,
Strike at thy life. Grieved I, I had but one?
Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame?
O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?
Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
Why had I not with charitable hand
Took up a beggar's issue at my gates,
Who smirch'd thus and mired with infamy,
I might have said 'No part of it is mine;
This shame derives itself from unknown loins'?
But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her,--why, she, O, she is fallen
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul-tainted flesh!

 

In 24 lines, he uses the word "I" 12 times.  (And the word "eyes" twice more.)  And the word "mine" or "my" or "myself" another eight times. 

 

Getting a theme here?  It seems that his only concern is the effect of Hero's supposed infidelity on his own reputation--or his own ego.  Is this a Shakespearian comment on woman's place in the society of his time?  Or on the relationship between father and daughter?

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friery
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Re: Beatrice Has the Sniffles


Benedict3 wrote:
In Act 3, scene 4, Beatrice enters.  Sick.

She says "I am exceeding ill."  3.4.51.  And, "I am stuffed, cousin. I cannot smell." 3.4.62.  (The last comment giving rise [no pun intended] to some ribald comments by Margaret.)  And, "By my troth, I am sick."  3.4.70.



To attempt to answer this, the meaning of these lines is described earlier in the same section.

Beatrice: “Then if your husband have stables enough, you’ll see he shall lack no barns”

The barn is used here as a symbol of a person....

 


The word "barn" is also a play on the word "bairn."  "Bairn" is used by the Scots and Northern English to mean "child."  My guess is that "barn" and "bairn" were pronounced the same in Elizabethan times.

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Re: Beatrice Has the Sniffles


friery wrote:



The word "barn" is also a play on the word "bairn."  "Bairn" is used by the Scots and Northern English to mean "child."  My guess is that "barn" and "bairn" were pronounced the same in Elizabethan times.


Very interesting and well placed.  Thanks.

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Parting Words about Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado about Nothing is much ado about the sexual tension between Beatrice and Benedick.  For example, Benedick says in the final act, "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes..."  A man saying he will die in a woman's lap?  That's a pretty scandalous image, if you think about it.

 

I'm not sure that Benedick is a particularly likeable or sympathetic character.  His wit is really that of a courtier.  And he hesitates when Beatrice challenges him to confront Claudio over the death of Hero.  And that last stands in grand contrast to the willingness of Leonato, an old man, to challenge Claudio to a duel.

 

Remembering that she had the sniffles in the fourth act, Beatrice is still ill in the last act. Benedick asks her, "...and now tell me, how doth your cousin?"  She replies, "Very ill."  And he says, "And how do you?"  Beatrice replies, "Very ill too."  5.2.88-91.

 

A friend of mine remarked that the death--or apparent death--of Hero doesn't bring about the truth.  It's the confession based on Dogberry's overhearing a conversation that does that.  And that's really a pretty cynical observation by Shakespeare about people in general.

 

Even when they get together at the end, the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice is ambiguous.  In the final scene, Benedick says to Beatrice, "Then you do not love me?"  And she replies, "No, truly, but in friendly recompense."  And, finally, Benedick kisses Beatrice after saying, "Peace! I will stop your mouth."  And, guess what?  It does.  Benedick has lines after that.  But Beatrice does not.

 

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