All of Shakespeare by the 450th: Wit, Slander and Generous Hearts
Much Ado About Nothing: That’s easy for Shakespeare to write, but I’m sure if you asked Hero and her father, the aspersions cast on the virtuous young woman weren’t “nothing.” For the Shakespeare 450th anniversary, I just finished Much Ado About Nothing, and I’ve concluded it’s my favorite so far. With the wonderful and totally nonsensical but comprehensible dialogue of Dogberry; the unending wit of Beatrice and Benedick; and the quick-to-accuse Claudio and Don Pedro; the scheming brother; and the quiet, simple dignity and honest heart of Leonato. I was absorbed in feelings of empathy for Hero, the seeming object of all choices and action in the play. It seemed that Hero, who I feel I know only through comments and actions of other, did little in the play, but was like a ball, kicked this way and that by everyone else on the field.
Words that come to me as I think of the play include: Destructive power of slander, power of suggestion; cost of judging others; the pain of adversity; the challenge of strengthening those in adversity; and once again the unrealistic ease of forgiveness to get to a happy ending (although there was greater pain in this one getting there than in earlier plays).
Quotes that appealed to me (for various reasons) and a brief thought on a few of them:
Claudio: Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were but little happy if I could say how much.
Leonato: She is never sad but when she sleeps; and not ever sad then; for I have heard my daughter say she hath often dreamed of unhappiness, and waked herself with laughing.
Don John: How canst thou cross this marriage? Boracho: Not honestly, my Lord, but so covertly that no dishonesty shall appear in me.
Balthazar: There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting. (I can relate.)
Friar: Come, lady, die to live…. (The thought was completed later in the play by Leonato) Leonato: She died, my lord, but whiles her slander liv’d.
Leonato: Nor let no comforter delight mine ear but such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine. Bring me a father that so lov’d his child, whose joy of her is overwhelm’d like mine, and bid him speak of patience; measure his woe the length and breadth of mine, and let it answer every strain for strain, as thus for thus, and such a grief for such, in every lineament, branch, shape, and form: If such a one will smile and stroke his beard, cry—sorrow, wag! and hem when he should groan, patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk with candle-wasters,—bring him yet to me, and I of him will gather patience. But there is no such man: for, brother, men can counsel and speak comfort to that grief which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it, their counsel turns to passion, which before would give preceptial medicine to rage, fetter strong madness in a silken thread, charm ache with air and agony with words: No, no; ’tis all men’s office to speak patience to those that wring under the load of sorrow, but no man’s virtue nor sufficiency to be so moral when he shall endure the like himself; therefore give me no counsel: my griefs cry louder than advertisement. …I will be flesh and blood; for there was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently, however they have writ the style of gods, and make a pish (an exclamation of impatience or contempt) at chance and sufferance. (How inadequate we are in comforting those who suffer; and how hard it is for the suffering to accept comfort. You can’t help but think of Job as you read this.)
Next Up in reading all the Bard for the Shakespeare 450th anniversary (if you’re reading along): A Midsummer Night’s Dream