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Historical & Social Context
Marriage & Courtship
"Eric Rasmussen explains the complex process of getting married in Shakespeare’s England, and the way this worked for young Will himself. He explores the tension, in Shakespeare’s plays, between the old order, in which fathers chose their daughters’ husbands, and the new order based on mutual love, but still plagued by the threat of infidelity." -- from the British Library.
Benedick and Beatrice: the 'merry war' of courtship
"Penny Gay sees Benedick and Beatrice as the witty stars of a Shakespearean rom-com. She explores both their modernity and their conformity to traditional gender roles and marriage." - from the British Library.
Deception and dramatic irony in Much Ado About Nothing
"Although the characters might be fooled by the many deceptions in the play, the audience seems to know better, but Andrea Varney suggests that our role as observers is more complex and uncertain." -- from the British Library.
Performances & Other Videos
Much Ado About Nothing - New York Shakespeare Festival 1972
Joseph Papp’s 1972 CBS-TV production of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Broadway staging of Shakespeare’s rollicking comedy is brassy, bouncy, and altogether entertaining. Featuring Sam Waterston and the Tony-nominated performances of Kathleen Widdoes and Barnard Hughes, Papp’s turn-of-the-century version has Teddy Roosevelt roughriders and bicycle-riding women suffragettes, while remaining faithful to the classic tale: Beatrice and Benedick are still sparring partners fighting their merry war of words; the evil Don Jon continues conspiring to break up the wedding of Hero and Claudio; and it’s once again up to Dogberry to save the day. Critically acclaimed and enormously popular with audiences, this production of Much Ado About Nothing—which was transferred to Broadway after originating at the open-air Delacorte Theatre in Central Park—was perceived as the first successful Shakespeare to play without a major star in Broadway history. The CBS broadcast was seen by 20 million people. Cast: Sam Waterston, Kathleen Widdoes, Barnard Hughes, April Shawnham, Douglass Watson. (155 minutes)
ShakespeaRe-Told: Much Ado About Nothing
Amorous sparks fly alongside barbed repartee in this hip adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy. A modern television news studio provides the setting, transforming Beatrice and Benedick—played by Sarah Parish and Damian Lewis—into bickering coanchors. Meanwhile, Don, a jealous studio tech, tries to sabotage the budding love affair between Claude the sports guy and Hero the weather girl. Screenplay writer David Nicholls cleverly weaves Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments.”) into the dialogue. Produced by BBC Northern Ireland and Horsebridge Productions. A part of the series ShakespeaRe-Told. (90 minutes)
Shakespeare in Perspective, Much Ado About Nothing
This 25 minute episode is part of the BBC produced Shakespeare in Perspective series that provides introductions to Shakespeare's plays.
Shakespeare Uncovered: Much Ado About Nothing
"This Italian tale about lovers is an exquisite comedy of comparison and contrast. Helen Hunt, who has played Beatrice twice, investigates this finely balanced play through the testimonies of other actors who have played the major roles." -- from PBS