Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

While it is true that beatrices reluctance must be

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While it is true that Beatrice's reluctance must be included in this catalogue of psychic obstacles, and while she does make the standard joke about marital infidelity ('to a cow too curst he sends none', 2.1.21), there is evidence that we are to construe her aversion to marriage, like Claudio's, as a response to Benedick's own ('Indeed . . . he lent it [his heart] me awhile, and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one. Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice; therefore your grace may well say I have lost it', 2.1.255—8). In Shakespeare's location of the barrier to sexual harmony within the human heart, Much Ado is, despite its gaiety, kin to the 'problem plays', with their dispiriting vision of the unequivocally fallen nature of human beings. 54
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Introduction Another feature of Much Ado's comic trouble is the way in which Shakespeare delays both its gestation and resolution. He mounts it in a staggered fashion, and once afoot, it is long brewing and difficult, perhaps impossible, to shrug off (the play may end with characters who have overcome their distrust of women enough to proceed to the altar, but they are still making jokes about cuckolds). No doubt this is partly because the mood is one of relief and celebration. After 2.1, with the resolution of the mini-comedy in Claudio and Hero's betrothal, Don John reapplies himself to his task, but we know as of 2.2 that an entire week must elapse before Borachio's incriminating masquerade will take place, as Leonato has fixed that term for the preparations of the wedding, and the plot is laid for the eve thereof. The interim is a halcyon time that does not, in Don Pedro's phrase, 'go dully by us' (2.1.336). Hence Much Ado can be played as the frothiest of Shakespeare's comedies. Its central acts are filled with the gullings in 2.3 and 3.1, and the contemplation of the 'limed birds' in 3.2 and 3.4. While Don John is presumably lurking (and a production may choose to underscore this in various ways), it is easy to forget this amidst the general gaiety of prénuptial high jinks. The conversions of Benedick and Beatrice give a sense that psychic obstacles to love are yielding, and provide another comedy in miniature, so that by the end of 3.1 we have them nearly aligned with each other even as Hero and Claudio were at the end of 2.1. Don John reappears and approaches Claudio and Don Pedro with news of Hero's transgression at the end of 3.2, but, reinforcing the sense of quiescence, the Watch expeditiously apprehend Borachio in the very next scene. Like the gullings of Benedick and Beatrice, this apprehension is almost too easy (indeed, the loves of Benedick and Beatrice will be forged again at a higher heat). The ease signals that the trouble is not over yet. Hero's heart is unaccountably heavy in 3.4, and with 3.5 (Leonato brushing off the tedious Dogberry and Verges) arrives that familiar component of tragedy, haste, which rushes us into the church scene, where the 55
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Introduction plot of Don John nearly achieves its intended effects: 'to misuse the
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