In Praise of Beatrice–Much Ado About Nothing

Star dance

We have just finished reading Much Ado About Nothing in my Introduction to Shakespeare class.

It’s been a few years since I’d read it, and while I hadn’t forgotten how much fun it is, I am surprised by how contemporary it seems today.  With themes of gender wars, slander, bullying, deception, shame and honor, the plays characters could make headlines in the digital world of social media today: “Girl Commits Suicide Following Gossip and Bullying.”

And once again, I joined poor Benedick as he falls for the bold and biting Beatrice who makes his life a misery from Act 1:

“It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:
but for the stuffing,—well, we are all mortal . . . 

Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick? . . . “

All women would be wise to approach marriage with her full wit and defiance;

all women would be wise to value themselves the way she does.

Much ado

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Four hundred and fifty one years ago today, William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest writer in the English language, was born. His plays and poetry are still being studied all over the world in spite of the difficulty of reading Early Modern English and the bard’s complex sentence structures and arcane language.

For those who dare, who want to learn more about Shakespeare’s work, his life, and times but feel overwhelmed by the dense language of the plays, I’ll be offering an Introduction to Shakespeare class online this summer through College of the Siskiyous–ENGL 1033 5031 beginning June 1, 2015.

We will focus on the fascinating social and cultural matrix of Renaissance and Elizabethan England to set the stage for our readings of “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra,” along with the sonnets and other poems. Both plays will be produced this summer by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in neighboring Ashland, Oregon.

Lest you think Shakespeare is too old school for you, here’s a poem from “Much Ado.”

Young man among roses

Young Man Among Roses, by Nicholas Hilliard, 1588–believed to be the Earl of Essex.

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;

Men were deceivers ever;

One foot in sea and one on shore,

To one thing constant never;

Then sigh not so,

But let them go,

And be you blithe and bonny;

Converting all your sounds of woe

Into, Hey nonny, nonny.

If you’re ready to read more,  you can check out Jeremy Hylton’s excellent site The Complete Works of William Shakespeare on the Web.

If you’re already a fan, what are your favorite poems and plays? Favorite quotations?