Much Ado About Nothing: And They All Lived Happily Ever After

In many ways, the ending of Much Ado may well feel rather rushed, and hence unsatisfactory. There are a number of reasons for the this:

* the conflict between Claudio and Benedick comes to an abrupt end when Benedick claims that he was going to punch Claudio’s lights out, but thought better of it when he realised that they were going to be relatives. Claudio’s response to this is hardly contrite. He replies that Beatrice will have to watch Benedick like a hawk if she wants him to remain faithful. This is his response to Benedick’s command: ‘Love my cousin.’

* the resolution of the relationship between Claudio and Hero may feel equally unsatisfactory: the verse that describes her as ‘dying defiled’ does very little (i.e. nothing) to vindicate her as blameless from the start, and even less to bring justice to Claudio, who ‘loved’, and whose ‘slander’ of her is detached from its origin: him. (You would do well to compare the reunion of Claudio and Hero with that of Leones and Hermione in The Winter’s Tale; he is made to do penance for a whole 16 years, which makes Claudio’s 16 hours seem pretty pathetic.)

* the audience are denied a denouement when Friar Francis postpones ‘testify[ing] to the ‘amazement’ until after the wedding. In the mentime, he claims, ‘Let wonder seem familiar’. He seems to suggest that they hould suspend their disbelief until the ‘holy rites are ended’. Thus the wedding itself seems part if the play’s illusion, not its reality.

* we may well look to Beatrice and Benedick for a dose of reality (and the return to their plain-spoken banter is indeed welcome) but even Benedick concludes that ‘man is a giddy thing’, and not to be ‘beaten with brains’. Intellect is disregarded in favour of ‘humour’.

* the business of bringing Don John to justice is postponed in favour of dancing; Benedick (in outright disregard of Claudio’s wishes) declares that they will ‘think not on him till tomorrow’, and his answer to Don Pedro’s ‘sad’ state is equally trite: ‘Get thee a wife’.

BUT… of course this is exactly what the end of a Shakespearean comedy tends to be. Contrived, magical, and rather … unsatisfctory. Read this article to find out more.

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2 thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing: And They All Lived Happily Ever After

  1. I agree absolutely with this ~ and I think that this is one of the reasons that ‘Much Ado’ and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ are my least favourite of the mainstream Shakespearean comedies. It feels as if Shakespeare got to the last few pages and thought, “you know what, let’s cobble it all together somehow because then I can join the lads down the inn”. I always feel cheated when attending performances of these ~ very much less so in the case of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which may feel a little contrived (and cruel in places) but is satisfying in terms of its resolution.

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