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

Or as another estimate put it high spirits run away

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Or, as another estimate put it, 'high spirits run away with the tongue but not with the manners, this is the key-note struck by Miss Faucit'. 1 While some nineteenth-century actresses continued to empha- size Beatrice's asperity, the general tendency was in the direction of 'true womanly spirit', a tradition epitomized at the century's 1 Manchester Guardian, 11 April 1866, cited in Furness, 388; Manchester Examiner and Times, 11 February 1866, in Furness, 389 (reviews of Charles Dillon production, Broadway Theatre, Manchester, 1866). 104
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Introduction 14 Ellen Terry as a kinder, gentler Beatrice in Henry Irving's Lyceum produc- tion, 1884-5 105
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Introduction end by the actress Ellen Terry (see Fig. 14), who managed to temper the termagant by means of performances most frequently described by the terms 'sunny', 'boisterous' and 'merry' (as opposed to 'caustic', 'contemptuous' or 'tart') (Cox, Shakespeare, 35-43 passim). Here, ebullience provided a context for Beatrice's verbal combativeness that took the sting out of the zingers: enchanting in her tenderness, full of an admirable vivacity, never once playing the shrew, and though her words were sharp as steel, they seemed always sheathed in velvet and to convey the idea that she loved Benedick; she softened the wordy blow that she struck him and turned it to nought by the tender light of her eyes, or by a manner deviously arch and winsome, which in itself was ever half-caressing. 1 With the twentieth century, and the advent of a popular politi- cal feminism, one would have thought that the spikier aspects of Beatrice's character would have become more plausible, but the sentimentalizing nineteenth-century tradition held on strong until mid-century. Then, after the Second World War, actresses of the part such as Katharine Hepburn, Peggy Ashcroft, Maggie Smith and Janet Suzman began to inject a bit more spirit into their renditions; Emma Thompson's Beatrice, in the 1993 Branagh film, 'seemed representative of twentieth-century feminism in its mature phase: not edgily assertive ... but assured of her powers as a woman, and confident from the beginning of her ascendancy in the "merry war'" (Cox, Shakespeare, 83). Nonetheless, the production cut 180 lines of banter between Beatrice and Benedick, so whatever assurance Thompson conveyed had to be managed without them. If Beatrices range between women of feeling and women of wit, Benedicks too have parameters: these are most often the gruff and the urbane, or the soldier and the courtier, or Garrick's vivacious humorist, or Charles Kemble's elegant courtier (see Fig. 15). Recent productions have cast him as somewhat dissolute. Nicholas Le Provost, in the Doran RSC 2002 version, 'is a 1 L. Clarke Davis, Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 March 1884. 106
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Introduction 15 Charles Kemble as Benedick, drawing by J.H. Lynch, published by Engelmann, London (1828) 107
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Introduction lank-haired, unshaven old louche for whom even the plink and fizz of soluble aspirin proves too vexatious the morning after the night before' (Marmion).
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