Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing - Some Starter Questions

Ernst writes:

1. The play’s title is often seen as a pun on “Much Ado About Noting”; in other words, one of its major themes has to do what people take others to be, the “fronts” or “masks” that they put on, their ways of seeing through appearances and coming to valid understandings of their own and others’ situations. Simply describing these poses and examining how they work is a good way to get into the play’s structure.

2. Much Ado About Nothing is quite thoroughly structured—so as to set itself up for comparisons:
a. The Benedick-Beatrice Relationship vs. the Claudio-Hero relationship,
b. Benedick vs. the other men,
c. differences among classes (at least three classes are represented here; note also that Leonato and Antonio probably come up from the merchant class, as opposed to Benedick and Claudio, who are noblemen),
d. Hero and Beatrice (significance of classical and Christian names? [this is true of the male lovers too]),
e. the “English” stuff and the conventional (imported from Italian tradition) stuff,
f. the various characters’ different vulnerabilities and their ways of dealing with them.
g. the differences between Benedick’s and Beatrice’s “snipes” (if you can find them)

Also: I add the exceedingly strong suggestion that anybody in this group involved in teaching see the new French film, "The Class." It is a powerful depiction of what teachers go through with the sorts of classes one finds in cities today. The teasing question to ask about it is: Do you think this teacher's school would be improved by by giving the "better" teachers merit awards?

Also: I have been involved in a play about Giordano Bruno a friend has written. There is a fair bit on the Web about Bruno's possible influence on Shakespeare's thinking—adding, I suppose, to the latter's broader perspectives in his writing and some of the complex issues discussed in his sonnets. Bruno? The Times? I'm not sure. In any case, Sid (my friend) put a somewhat prosaic version-in-English of one of Bruno's sonnets into his play (no meter or rhyme) and had his characters very impressed by it. So I have tried to make it more impressive by re-writing the words as a makeshift Italian sonnet. Bruno was, as most of you probably know, a Copernican who was at odds with the Roman Church because, among other things, he asserted that the universe was not limited to the contained crystal spheres of the sun, the moon, and the stars rotating around it. His views of God's presence in all nature and out into infinity bothered them too. He was burned in 1600. The dubious re-write (as of the present):

Thou art my full delight, warmth of my heart
Thou mak’st me fear nor fate nor grisly death
Thou break’st the chains and bars that stifle breath,
The prisons from which few men e’er depart:
The years, months, days, the seasons’ tedious hours,
The progeny of Time, the tools of court—
Where neither steel nor gold give true support
Or save men from the grim foe’s cruel powers.

Henceforth, I spread my wings and fly toward space,
I fear no crystal dome to stop my flight;
I cleave the heav’ns to view th’infinite’s face
And, while I rise above our sphere, delight
To pierce yet further realms of God’s good grace
And see earth’s earth-bound bounds from greater height.


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