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Much Ado About Nothing
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.
It’s a simple story: boy meets girl, boy and girl bicker at each other, boy and girl fall in love. What makes Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing so enchanting is the complications that surround such a straightforward tale—not to mention the bickering itself, so full of barbs that “every word stabs.” To arrive at the requisite happy ending, Beatrice and Benedick’s romance requires some benign trickery from their mutual friends, but it’s another piece of deception—one much less well-intended—that gives the play dramatic heft, thrusting both lovers into a grim tale of betrayal, shame, and regret. Don’t worry, though—it’s still a comedy, so things have a way of working themselves out, mostly thanks to some good, old-fashioned mistaken identity.
One of the rare Shakespeare plays to be written primarily in prose, Much Ado About Nothing stands as one of the cleverest plays, not just of Shakespeare’s canon, but of drama in general. It’s little wonder, then, that Beatrice and Benedick have attracted some of the world’s greatest performers. A lauded 1993 film version saw Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, and even Keanu Reeves dive into the Bard’s pool of wit. Recent stage versions have included a James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave–fronted production, which pushed up the ages of the central lovers, and a production starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate—a bit of casting seemingly designed to make Doctor Who fans die from happiness.