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Innes, Paul (2014)
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: PR, PR1_Literary_history
In Much Ado About Nothing, characters repeatedly stage moments designed to confuse other figures, a good example being the machinations aimed at Beatrice and Benedick. However, the play contains many more instances in which misrepresentation plays with truth. The supposed offstage seduction of Hero signals the audience that what this unseen (to them) event means will be crucial, making them focus upon the meanings given to the event by the characters. Critics have often noted that the young noblemen get it wrong, and that the play then ironically counterpoints this by making the useless constabulary get it right by apprehending the culprit; they also usually marginalise the older characters, especially the Friar, who is relegated to a plot-function. However, given the play's insistence on perception and misunderstanding, this article revisits their importance in performance as a group that avoids the mistakes made by the younger generation.
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    • 1. Much Ado About Nothing, ed. Claire McEachern (London: Cengage, 2006), 2. Subsequent quotations refer to this edition.
    • 2. Much Ado About Nothing, 2.
    • 3. Diana E. Henderson, 'Mind the Gaps: The Ear, the Eye, and the Senses of a Woman in Much Ado About Nothing', in Knowing Shakespeare: Scenes, Embodiment and Cognition, ed. Lowell Gallagher and Shankar Rama (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 193.
    • 4. Henderson, Mind the Gaps, 193.
    • 5. Robert Weimann, Author's Pen and Actor's Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare's Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 207.
    • 6. Robert Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press), 208-46.
    • 8. Much Ado About Nothing, 23.
    • 9. Don Pedro also temporises with Beatrice, as remarked in Heather Dubrow, Shakespeare and Domestic Loss: Forms of Deprivation, Mourning and Recuperation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1.
    • 10. This term is used by John Brockington to describe techniques of sub-narration in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, but it is also a useful to term for multi-layered narration in general. See John Brockington, The Sanskrit Epics (London, Boston and Cologne: Brill, 1998), 18.
    • 11. Nicholas Grene, Shakespeare's Tragic Imagination (London: Macmillan, 1996), 65.
    • 12. Carol Thomas Neely suggests the importance of the motif of the broken nuptial as a central component of Much Ado, supplied by means of source material in the Italian novella: Carol Thomas Neely, Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays (Chicago: Illini Books, second edition, 1993), 24-57. My concern here is to discuss the structural significance of the moment of Hero's repudiation.
    • 13. Mark Breitenberg, Anxious Masculinity in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 114.
    • 14. Georges Minois, History of Old Age, trans. Sarah Hanbury Tenison (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989), 250-54.
    • 15. Minois, History of Old Age, 277.
    • 16. Anthony Ellis, Old Age, Masculinity and Early Modern Drama: Comic Elders on the Italian and Shakespearean Stage (Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2009), 161.
    • 17. Minois, History of Old Age, 281.
    • 18. Minois, History of Old Age, 286-87.
    • 19. Anthony Ellis suggests that a 'heterogeneity' of comic types inherited by the Italians from the classical tradition is added to native English elements in the period of Shakespeare's drama - see Ellis, Old Age, Masculinity and Early Modern Drama, 4.
    • 20. For a discussion of the common topos of the seven ages of man, see Nina Taunton, Fictions of Old Age in Early Modern Literature and Culture (New York and London: Routledge, 2011), 1-2.
    • 21. Paul Johnson, 'Historical Readings of Old Age and Ageing', in Old Age from Antiquity to Post-Modernity, ed. Paul Johnson and Pat Thane (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 6.
    • 22. Johnson, 'Historical Readings of Old Age and Ageing', 17.
    • 23. Tim G. Parkin, 'Ageing in Antiquity', in Old Age from Antiquity to Post-Modernity, ed. Johnson and Thane, 21.
    • 24. Parkin, 'Ageing in Antiquity', 25-26.
    • 25. Parkin, 'Ageing in Antiquity', 27-29.
    • 26. Parkin, 'Ageing in Antiquity', 33.
    • 27. Parkin, 'Ageing in Antiquity', 34.
    • 28. Shulamith Shahar, 'Old Age in the High and Late Middle Ages', in Old Age from Antiquity to Post-Modernity, ed. Johnson and Thane, 44.
    • 29. Shahar, 'Old Age in the High and Late Middle Ages', 54.
    • 30. Erin Campbell, Growing Old in Early Modern Europe: Cultural Representations, ed. Erin Campbell (Aldershot and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006), 3. See also Taunton, Fictions of Old Age in Early Modern Literature and Culture, 3-4.
    • 31. Ellis, Old Age, Masculinity and Early Modern Drama, 155-56. He suggests (158) that anger empowers Prospero, allowing him to act effectively in spite of the strictures against old age, and of course this could be applied to Leonato as well. However, one does not necessarily need to locate the logic of Much Ado only in character motivation, since the play's structure reserves such an important function for the figure of Leonato.
    • 32. Nina Taunton argues for a similar role for the older characters in All's Well that Ends Well; see Taunton, Fictions of Old Age in Early Modern Literature and Culture, 159-68.
    • 33. Simon Shepherd, 'Shakespeare's Private Drawer: Shakespeare and Homosexuality', in The Shakespeare Myth, ed Graham Holderness (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 102.
    • 34. This train of thought also suggests that the supposedly 'Ghost' figure of Innogen, Hero's mother, should be retained for reasons of making a thematic unity more visible. Terry Hawkes has read this persona over and against the function of absent mothers in Meaning By Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1992), 156n9.
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