on March 24, 2001
I was assigned to read "Much Ado About Nothing" for my block class, and my initial thought was, Oh, how boring. I don't want to read Shakespeare. I won't even be able to understand it. Let me tell you, I was very wrong! This book was excellent- one of the best I've ever read. It contained romance, humor, comedy, and drama- so many diverse qualities that I rarely find in books these days! The main characters, Beatrice and Benedick, add humor and warmth to the book. They argue and insult each other, yet they are really in love. Hero and Claudio are the lovebirds, but the evil Don John tries to get in the way of this with a deceitful plan. Even though this book was written centuries ago, the main themes still apply to today, (such as the Beatrice and Benedick theme). That is why this book is a classic. Oh, and understanding it isn't a problem, either. This was my first Shakespeare book ever (I'm only 14), and I understood the plot, characters, and the theme. I enjoyed it at the same time. So order this book today. You won't regret it!
on September 29, 2005
I am here to do my part in diminishing the value of all the one- and three- star reviews posted here, the authors of which are clearly the same person or all from the same class of children too young to read the play. Amazon visitors reading these should know two things: the reviewer is a twit, and this play is wonderful.
I, for one, am a sucker for romances; if you are, Beatrice and Benedick will make the play worthwhile. Predictability be damned, they were an adorable couple. The main couple, Hero and Claudio, are boring; the other one will make you swoon. Beatrice and Benedick are funny, clever, and stubbornly reluctant to admit they love each other. To wit, they're perfect for one another.
I have read two contradictory criticisms regarding the language in the play on Amazon: that the language is too simple for Shakespeare's standards, and that the language is too difficult. The latter was from the kid's reviews; for everyone else, the language is not so difficult to decipher that you need to avoid it. The Folger edition, at least, has one page of notes for every page of text, noting both puzzling references to Elizabethan beliefs, such as that sights draw blood from the heart, and language problems caused by the hundreds of years between Shakespeare's time and ours. The editors do all the work for you. You have no excuse. (Oh, and that the language is too simple: Bah. It's Shakespeare. That's impossible. I loved all the double entendres; this play was very witty.)
One criticism I somewhat agree with is that the plot is boring. Hero and Claudio, being the main couple, get much time, and I didn't care much about Don John's vengeance, but at least half of my favorite couple was usually present, and by no means do Hero and Claudio's plot monopolize the story. Much Ado About Nothing is often genuinely entertaining, which is what kept me interested. The plot's not the point here, it's the dialogue.
In sum, the language is poetic, but not so much so that it reads like Klingon, the romance will make you sigh, and the plot is at least good enough to keep Beatrice or Benedick in most of the time. Don't let the previous reviewers deter you: Read it.
on November 11, 2008
Claire McEachern's Introduction, notes and commentary on Much Ado About Nothing suffer from the decline in real scholarship over the last few years. Previous introductory materials in Arden edition have always built on the solid scholarship of the past, adding new ideas and research as integrated parts of the growing body of knowledge associated with Shakespeare scholarship. McEachern's abandons most of the valid accepted readings of this play to wander rather aimlessly down the tunnel of self-promoting feminist, postmodern eclecticism. As a college professor, I am dismayed to see Arden turn to such contemporary and popular approaches at the exclusion of real context. The Arden editions have always set the standard, but are now falling prey to the subjective, personalized, even vindictive vents of the academic few. The field of Shakespeare criticism, unfortunately, is in danger of collapsing in on itself, and becoming completely irrelevant to anything other than these marginalized interest. More specifically, McEachern's search for sources for the play becomes a labyrinthine exposé of speculative inference and unrelated texts, ignoring primary sources for a new historicist fascination with the obscure. The tenor of her subjective argument about the play is captured in her overdone attack on Benedick as misogynist and Beatrice's rendering as the shrew. The problem, obviously, is the imbalance here; the feminist objective reduces a complex and humorous interplay to victimizer and victim, both seen from one perspective. Ignoring the historical contexts of the play, she focuses instead on marginal texts that only partially relate to the central themes of the play, to the social context, and to the audience's understanding both of Shakespeare's environs and present-day concerns. McEachern eventually backs herself into ridiculous corners, such as pages of arguing how women of the period who were too talkative (such as Beatrice) were labeled promiscuous, only to concede that Beatrice is never so labeled or even considered such. Her complete overblown fascination with the few humorous "cuckold" references in the play channel her criticism into a reductive and extremely limited analysis of minor factors in the play, while she completely avoids the important social considerations of marriage, challenges to gender roles, and the place of female intelligence in Shakespeare's society. It is a sign of the worst kind of scholarship, that her introduction to Much Ado About Nothing runs to nearly 145 pages, once the length of only the Hamlet introduction among the Arden editions (the only play, because of its complexity, demanding such a lengthy explication). Ego gets the better of scholarship here, and buries the important and necessary social, political and cultural ideas associated with this play. If McEachern's editing and commentary is a sign of things to come from Arden, they can expect to lose readers on all levels who find such marginalized approaches to important scholarship outside the interest of students and professionals alike.
on April 28, 2006
I study Shakespeare in my high school English class, and used to have a hard time understanding it. Then I got No Fear Shakespeare and now love the work of Shakespeare! Some of the words in the original text you would never think that they mean something different or unexpected in the modern text. It also explains some of the puns and humor. GREAT!!
on August 13, 2012
The Purchase was worthwhile for the 150 plus page introduction. A Shakespeare scholar, teacher recommended the book because I needed information about the how the play was performed and by whom. I would have paid the price just for the introduction alone. The Introduction is a well written, informative, and engaging account of the history of the play, its performers, and reception as well as Othello's unique position in the racial politics of the UK and the USA. As reference it is a must read for academics, social historians, and drama students
on March 23, 2013
I'm the parent of a 12 year old girl, and we watched the Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado, and since my daughter is particularly fond of the Korean form of Manga (called Manwah, I think), we got several Manga versions of Shakespeare's plays. They use Shakespeare's language (not all of it), and are a good "gateway" to reading the plays themselves. The visual style is dramatic and impassioned, which fits well with the emotions for teens. The images remind me of "story board" images used to plan the visual shots for a movie -- therefore, I would say that the images add to the intelligence and thought put into the reading of the play.
on July 20, 2005
The side by side edition, has both Shakespeare's script on the left hand side and modern language on the right. It no longer intimidates the reluctant reader, that becomes entangled with the archaic language and unusual vocabulary. Study questions are included at the back of the book for each scene.
on March 16, 2015
This is a love story, nothing more, nothing less. Yes, there’s the drama of Hero and Claudio, and the villainous Don John, and the comic relief of Dogberry; this is mere interlude. The larger story is about the unspoken love between Beatrice and Benedick, a couple that would rather trade insults than admit their true feelings. In the opening scene, it’s clear Beatrice loves Benedick despite her cool denials; she delights in teasing him. And, while Benedick intends to remain a bachelor, he clearly enjoys his verbal jousts with Beatrice. They are each acting out a role they have given themselves, Benedict as a confirmed bachelor, and Beatrice as a free spirit determined not to marry “till God make men of some other metal that earth.” She also says, “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.” Benedick calls her “Lady Disdain.”
What brings them together? The villainy of Don John, who misleads Claudio into thinking the woman he is to marry (Beatrice’s cousin, Hero) has cheated on him. In the play’s one truly dramatic scene, in which Hero’s father accepts her guilt as proven, when Claudio without a touch of remorse consigns her to shame, and even Benedick himself knows not what to say, it’s Beatrice who sees through the fraudulent charge and comes to Hero’s defense. “Oh, on my soul, my cousin is belied!” This is the turning point of the play. Beatrice dispenses with all light-heartedness and mirth and shows herself as a woman of true character and strength. “O God, that I were a man! I would eat (Claudio’s) heart in the market place.” It’s at this point, too, that Benedick dispenses with his pretense of remaining a bachelor. Says actor Jeffrey Bean, who has played Benedick on the Broadway stage: “Benedick is an arrested adolescent,” someone who’s “stuck in youth, and the persona has worn him out by the time we see him.” Bean finds Beatrice’s defense of Hero’s honor illuminating for Benedick, allowing him to empathize with feminine suffering. When Benedick agrees to challenge Claudio at Beatrice’s request, “he leaves adolescence and becomes a man,” says Bean.
From this point on, Beatrice and Benedick become comfortable with one another and work together to reveal Don John’s treachery and Hero’s innocence. As with most of Shakespeare’s comedies, the plays ends with marriage, of Claudio and Hero, and of Beatrice and Benedick. If you want a love story to sweep you off your feet, this it.
Finally, this comment, from “The Age of Shakespeare” by Seccombe and Allen: “There is nothing in all comedy more brilliant than the interplay of these two . . . The way in which Shakespeare converts their mutual irritation into the basis of a real and lasting affection is a triumph of art.” About the Dover Thrift Edition: if you want the play in clean typeset and without explanations cluttering up the pages, this is for you. If you want commentary, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
on October 15, 1999
Debatably, this is perhaps Shakespeare's greatest comedy. The combination of the hilarious scathing witticisms exchanged between Beatrice and Benedick, the "malapropatic" words of Dogberry, and the underlying beautiful theme of love make this an illustrious masterpiece. It is must-read for anyone interested in studying the Shakespearean canon for all it is worth. It is also a very understandable play; even to someone who is not experienced in deciphering the very awkward style of Elizabethan English.
on May 2, 2006
I feel it is necessary to dispute some of the prior reviews I have just read. Shakespeare is a magnificient writer and Much Ado About Nothing is no exception. Some people have written that it is difficult to understand his language; however, the Folger Shakespeare Library has notes on the left page to explain vocabulary that modern readers may not understand. These notes also explain phrases that are no longer used such as "civil as an orange" which is a similie (with the orange being a Seville orange) having the meaning of "between sweet and sour".
Much Ado About Nothing is a witty comedy with enjoyable banter between Beatrice and Benedick, an ironical storyline, and humorous characters such as Dogberry whose malapropisms bring a smile to the reader's face.