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An Introduction to Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

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An updated introduction to William Shakespeare's play "Much Ado About Nothing" - designed for a 6th Grade curriculum.

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An Introduction to Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

  1. 1. Much Ado About… • Do you think that you could you be tricked into falling in love? • Could you fall in love with your worst enemy? • This is the funny, fantastic premise behind William Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing • Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s best comedies. • It deftly combines elements of zany humor with more serious meditations on honor, revenge, and shame.
  2. 2. The History… • It was probably written in 1598 and 1599, as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of his career. • He used several sources in writing Much Ado, including: • Orlando Furioso (1591) • La Prima Parte de le Nouelle (1554) • Le Troisiesme Tome des Histoires Tragiques Extraittes des Oeuvres Italiennes de Bandel (1569) • The Courtier (1588)
  3. 3. The Setting… • Shakespeare sets the story of Much Ado About Nothing in the Italian province of Messina, a sea port off the coast of Italy. • It takes place shortly after a battle, in which Prince Don Pedro is victorious against his enemies. • Coming home from the war, Don Pedro and his company are welcomed at the home of Leonato to rest and celebrate the end of the successful campaign.
  4. 4. The Main Characters • Beatrice - Leonato’s niece and Hero’s cousin. At the outset of the play, she appears content never to marry. • Benedick - An aristocratic soldier, and friends with Claudio and Don Pedro. At the beginning of the play he swears he will never fall in love or marry. • Claudio - A young soldier who has won great acclaim fighting under Don Pedro during the recent wars. • Hero - The beautiful young daughter of Leonato and the cousin of Beatrice. Hero is lovely, gentle, and kind.
  5. 5. Other Characters… • Leonato – a nobleman at Messina, and Hero’s father, he hosts Don Pedro and his returning troops. • Don Pedro – a noble prince, and leader in the recent war, he is friend to Benedick and Claudio. • Don John – Don Pedro’s brother, who is incensed about being passed over for a promotion, and wants to cause mischief.
  6. 6. Final Characters… • Dogberry - The constable in charge of the Watch, or chief policeman, of Messina. Dogberry takes his job seriously, but he has a habit of using exactly the wrong word to convey his meaning. • Margaret & Ursula – Hero’s personal servants. • Friar Francis – a local minister.
  7. 7. The Plot • Senior Leonato, a rich nobleman, is informed by a messenger that Prince Don Pedro and his company, triumphant in a recent skirmish, are coming to visit. • They arrive, and young Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and asks Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato that he may marry her. • Meanwhile, Beatrice and Benedick immediately begin to snipe at each other with barbed banter, to the wearied amusement of their friends. • Both Beatrice and Benedick swear that although marriage is good for some people, neither of them will ever marry.
  8. 8. A Little Trick • Beatrice & Benedick’s friends decide to play a trick on them – Don Pardo, Claudio, Leonato, and Hero will stage separate conversations within Beatrice & Benedick’s hearing where they declare that each secretly love each other, but are too ashamed to admit their love openly. • Both Beatrice and Benedick are shocked to hear that the other holds a secret passion for them, and immediately realize that, perhaps, they actually love each other as well.
  9. 9. Meanwhile… • The wicked Don John, who wishes to cause mischief, stages a scene where Claudio thinks he sees Hero passionately kissing another man – on the night before their wedding! • Filled with rage, Claudio accuses her the next day - during the wedding – causing her to faint from the shock. • Friar Francis hatches a scheme to win back Claudio’s love for Hero by having it rumored that Hero died from a broken heart. • Afterwards, Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio for defaming Hero in front of everyone at the wedding.
  10. 10. A Happy Ending • Luckily, Dogberry inadvertently discovers Don John’s wicked plot, and reveals it to Leonato and Don Pedro. • Claudio is told that Hero died, and is subsequently challenged to a duel to the death by Benedick – but, in a means to atone for his disgraceful act, and restore his honor, Leonato offers Claudio marriage to “another niece” (actually, Hero again). • Claudio agrees, and in a wedding surprise discovers Hero lives, and Benedick and Beatrice join them in a double wedding.
  11. 11. Much Ado about… • Much of the popularity of Much Ado About Nothing comes from the cutting repartee between Beatrice & Benedick. • Audiences roar with laughter over their timeless and witty “battle of the sexes.” • When their snide comments are replaced with the raptures of love, they become one of the most silly, beloved couples ever created for the stage.
  12. 12. Quotes… • "Lord! I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face: I hath rather lie in the woollen." - Much Ado About Nothing, 2.1 • "He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." - Much Ado About Nothing, 2.1 • "Speak low if you speak love." - Much Ado About Nothing, 2.1 • "Friendship is constant in all other things Save in the office and affairs of love: Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues; Let every eye negotiate for itself And trust no agent." - Much Ado About Nothing, 2.1 • "Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever,- One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never." - Much Ado About Nothing, 2.3 • "I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest." - Much Ado About Nothing, 4.1 • "But masters, remember that I am an ass: though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass." - Much Ado About Nothing, 4.2 • "I have drunk poison while he utter'd it." - Much Ado About Nothing, 5.1 • "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably." - Much Ado About Nothing, 5.2
  13. 13. Stage & Film • Due to it’s continuing popularity, dozens of performances of Much Ado About Nothing are performed on stages around the world every year. • In 1993, an acclaimed, popular film version was made by Kenneth Branagh. • Most recently the writer/director of The Avengers, Joss Whedon, filmed his own version the week after he finished The Avengers! He made it at his home using his actor friends [video].
  14. 14. A Nutsy the Squirrel Production Copyright 2015 Oak Hills Media Center All Rights Reserved.

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