much ado about nothing
- (written as Much Ado About Nothing)A comedy by Shakespeare, first performed in 1598 - 99in London. It was revived in 1613 before James I with the title Benedickand Beatrice. The action of the play arises from the visit ofDon Pedro, Prince of Aragon, to Leonato, Governor of Messina. He istravelling with his malevolent half-brother, Don John, and the noblemenBenedick and Claudio. The latter falls in love with Leonato'sdaughter, Hero. Don John and his follower Borachio convince Claudiothat she has been unfaithful, and he publicly rejects her at theirwedding ceremony. Friar Francis persuades Hero to hide until he provesher innocence, and then reports that she is dead. Finally Don John'splot is uncovered, he is arrested, and the lovers are reunited.
For most audiences, however, the main action is totally overshadowedby the subplot, which concerns the "merry war" of witsbetween Benedick and Beatrice, Leonato's niece. The two,who have a history of pretended antipathy, are finally tricked intodeclaring their love for each other. The play also includes the comicconstable Dogberry, a part created by the clown William Kempe.
In 1879 the first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre inStratford-upon-Avon opened in 1879 with a production of the play inwhich the cast was led by Barry Sullivan and Helen Faucit (in herlast role). The theater's green room had been beautifullydecorated as a dressing room for Faucit and when Sullivan saw thishe refused to appear unless he received equal treatment. Charles Flower,who had built the theater, told his wife, "You, my dear, mustsend across silver candlesticks, vases of flowers, and a lace pincushionfor Mr Sullivan." Sullivan was mollified and the productionwas a success.
Henry Irving and Ellen Terry gave famous performances as Beatriceand Benedick in the 1882 production at the Lyceum Theatre. In 1906all 22 members of the Terry family appeared in the play'smasked dance for Ellen's Jubilee matinee at Drury Lane. Sir John Gielguddirected and starred in a high Renaissance version at Stratford in1949, while Franco Zeffirelli's stunning production for the NationalTheatre in 1965 starred Maggie Smith and her then husbandRobert Stephens. John Barton staged a British Raj version at Stratfordin 1976, with Judi Dench and Donald Sinden. Kenneth Branagh's successfulfilm version, in which he starred with his wife Emma Thompson, wasreleased in 1993.