Today we’re going old-school, all the way back to the 16th century, in the town of Messina…
Don Pedro has just returned to the home of Leonato after a successful battle against unnamed foes, bringing with him his best-slash-favorite comrades in arms (Benedick and Claudio) and his bastard half-brother (John, who is, of course, a bastard in more ways than one). Everyone is overjoyed by Pedro’s arrival–successful military campaign, house full of hot soldier types, what’s not to love? Everyone, that is, except Leonato’s niece Beatrice. She and Benedick go way back, and not in a good way. They fight. A lot. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Leonato’s daughter Hero, however, is happier than most–she and Claudio are in love, and his prowess in battle means he finally has the stature to request her hand in marriage (John, meanwhile, hates that everyone is happy and wants nothing more than to make everyone as miserable as he is, so he and his cronies spend the entire play trying to screw everyone over). Minor shenanigans ensue, and Claudio and Hero get engaged. Yay! More rejoicing (except from John, of course, because he is that guy who has to wreck everything for everyone, all the time). As plans for the wedding get under way, a plot is hatched (by asshat John) to ruin the wedding.
But we don’t really care about any of that, because this whole story is really about Beatrice and Benedick. They rant about each other to anyone who will listen, and at each other whenever they’re in the same room. The back-and-forth between the two is simply phenomenal. And their constant bickering, of course, gives their friends an idea: let’s get these two together. So now major shenanigans ensue.
This play is (in my opinion) one of Shakespeare’s absolute best. It’s fast-paced and funny, with a biting wit that wouldn’t be out of place on TV today (although, yes, some of the language is a bit archaic, which brings me to another point. There’s a series called No-Fear Shakespeare, and it’s got both the original text and a modern interpretation, which is perfect for anyone who has trouble with old-fashioned language. If you’ve been wanting to try Shakespeare but find the whole olde-tymey thing a bit intimidating, try those. ) Give this play a whirl, and let me know if you think I’m right, or if I’m just making a whole lot of ado about nothing.
Ha! ‘Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner;’ there’s a double meaning in that.
Don’t read if: you really don’t like witticisms, snarky women, snarky men, plots to besmirch a good name, or happy endings.