Much Ado About Nothing is yet another play created by renowned playwright William Shakespeare that has successfully maintained its relevance and adapted to a contemporary audience. The ability to relate to the characters, plot and the various themes continues to allow the audience to engage with these stories created over 400 years ago. Much Ado About Nothing revolves around two pairs of lovers; Beatrice and Benedick, and Claudio and Hero, and the obstacles they are faced with throughout the story.
The character relationships that are built are a main component to the plot, and to the play. The universal themes of marriage and deceit carry an important role within both adaptations also. These elements within Much Ado About Nothing have been transformed into a contemporary film, hence proving the adaptability of Shakespeare’s work. The universal themes used in Much Ado About Nothing have been tied to the sixteenth century, and as such would appear less relevant to a modern day audience; however, the particular theme of marriage is as relevant today as it was in the sixteenth century.
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Marriage is portrayed as the final outcome after a series of pitfalls and impediments structured throughout the play. It signifies a final conclusion and resolution to all problems that have since passed. Infidelity, as portrayed in the original play had greater social implications due to the values and morals of the time. The extreme measure of death was considered when Hero was accused of being unfaithful. As Hero’s father, Leonato, says of his daughter: “death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wished for. ” (4, i, 108. 109, p107).
By analysing both versions of Much Ado About Nothing, it is obvious that the themes within both stories, in particular the theme of marriage, is no different, thus showing how Shakespeare’s plays have successfully adapted to a more current audience. The plot outline from the original play closely resembled that of its contemporary adaptation. The love-hate relationship of Benedick and Beatrice features the war between the sexes. The setting of this contemporary film differs from the original, however, the plot and themes remain strongly aligned.
There is a significant shift in the conclusion of the contemporary version where hero and Claudio do not wed. This subtle plot change offers more focus towards the secondary lovers; Benedick and Beatrice, however it does not take away from the central plot or themes of the original play, thus effectively adapting to a contemporary film. The ability to relate to the characters is just one aspect of Shakespeare’s plays that makes them so adaptable to contemporary films.
The four main characters of Much Ado About Nothing are characters with obvious personalities that are easy to relate to. The witty banter that Benedick and Beatrice enjoy taking part in shows their independence and in Benedick’s case, conceded personality that these two characters share. Beatrice and Benedick renew their ‘merry-war’, each attempting to score points off the other, and trying to have the last word. Benedick calls Beatrice a “rare parrot teacher” (1, i, 103 ??? 107, p9). Beatrice responds to this and the banter is continued.
The characters Hero and Claudio are a typical ‘love at first sight’ cliche. Consequently, this relationship lacked trust, which essentially broke up and destroyed their marriage. The four main characters in Much Ado About Nothing formed the basis of the plot, and essentially the production. Being able to relate to these characters from both versions of the play shows the successful adaption to modern times. Shakespeare uses comedy as a tool to lessen the impact of larger, more profound topics.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice and Benedick are both shown as characters that have a lot of pride. Benedick states “what my deer, Lady Distain! Are you yet living? ” (1, i, 114 p7). Benedick refers to Beatrice as “Lady Distain” showing how Beatrice thinks she is much better than everyone else. The art of comedy is also used as a tool for distraction as well as deflecting situations that would normally warrant a more serious response. Beatrice also uses it as a protective shield for her pride and independence.
Benedick demonstrates humour through his clever wit, and although he is a character with arrogance, we sympathise with and enjoy his character. Benedick proves his wit, and within this, his sexism also. “Why I’ faith, methinks she’s too low…” (1, i, 126-130, p11). Shakespeare has successfully utilised the element of comedy within his plays, making sombre matters easier to watch. In conclusion, Shakespeare’s plays created in the 16th century, have proven to be able to stand the test of time.
Shakespeare has created and produced these timeless plays using the elements of characters, themes, comedy and plot. These plays have undoubtedly been effectively able to adapt to contemporary films. Much Ado About Nothing is a humorous play with many underlying themes and elements that form the basis of this undying story. The series of unfortunate events create an enjoyable yet irrational observation of human nature, which in the end, has Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare is just as alive and relevant today as he was 400 years ago.