Finally! A comedy I actually thought was funny (I’m looking at you, As You Like It)! After many years of only teaching Shakespeare’s tragedies, I couldn’t face the prospect of teaching Julius Caesar one more time to sophomores. Shakespeare is a bit of a tough sell alone, but Julius Caesar is just so dry. It doesn’t go over well. So I’ve been on a search for a good comedy to teach. Much Ado is shocked me. In a good way.
I had never read Much Ado until this summer. I read it in two days, and I enjoyed it. Which isn’t always easy when it’s summer and you don’t want to be reading things to teach. Luckily, there are several movie adaptations, which always encourages teachers and students to read a work (sad, but true). What I liked about Much Ado is that it isn’t quite as complex as Twelfth Night, but not as odd as As You Like It. Frankly, I really liked Beatrice. For once I felt that we saw a smart, witty young woman who isn’t quite made into a shrew. Although I was troubled by how she treated in the end.
What is intriguing about Much Ado is that the couple who is supposedly in love, Hero and Claudio, turn out to be very superficial. Yet the couple that doth protest too much, Beatrice and Benedickt, end up being more deeply in love. Or at least Benedickt actually show she loves Beatrice in action rather than in just words. Claudio just reminds me as another Romeo-type. What wasn’t so cool is that in the end Beatrice is “silenced” with a kiss and we never actually here whether she consents to marry Benedickt. I don’t know if Shakespeare meant it, but it seems that he’s saying that because she’s witty, smart, and sarcastic, she needs to know her place and submit to Benedickt. Compared to Hero, though, Beatrice is a regular Betty Friedan.
Beatrice knows what she wants and she’s not going to settle. She hints she have had her heart-broken which, understandably, makes her cynical towards marriage. But when Benedickt shows that he is willing to duel his friend for her, I think it shows that love is more than just saying words or writing poems; it takes action, it’s not always pretty. Hopefully my students pick up on this too.