Much Ado About Nothing was released on May 7, 1993, reaching 200 U.S. screens at its widest release. It earned $22 million at the U.S. box office and $36 million total worldwide, which, despite failing to reach the mark set by Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, made it one of the more financially successful Shakespeare films ever released.
On a Sicilian hillside, Beatrice sets the scene by reading a poem about the treachery of men ('hey nonny nonny') to picnicking kinsfolk. The family hears the news that Claudio, Don Pedro, Don John, Benedick, and others are coming to their villa after winning a battle. When the group arrives they are greeted by Governor Leonato. After a brief chat with Leonato, Hero (Leonato's daughter) comes into the scene. When Claudio sees her, he instantly falls in love with her. Beatrice and Benedick trade insults.
Benedick is disgusted by Claudio's new love, but Don Pedro offers to help him win Hero's hand. At a masked entertainment, Don Pedro woos Hero on Claudio's behalf. Don John tries to sour the relationship between the two men by telling Claudio that Don Pedro wants Hero for himself. Meanwhile, Beatrice tells a masked figure about what a pathetic figure Benedick is, knowing full well that her listener is Benedick himself.
Don Pedro succeeds in winning Hero's hand for Claudio, and a wedding is planned. To pass the time until the wedding, Don Pedro proposes to set up Beatrice and Benedick and try to make them fall in love with each other. After a musical rendition of the same "Hey nonny nonny" song from the open (here placed in its original position in the text), Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato allow Benedick to overhear their discussion of Beatrice's (nonexistent) state of distress. Her agitation is so great, they say, that she may die, for she cannot live without Benedick's love and it would kill her to tell him of it. This revelation is not unwelcome to Benedick, who briefly argues with himself but decides to accept Beatrice's love, exclaiming "The world must be peopled!" Beatrice is sent to fetch Benedick for lunch, and Benedick misinterprets her hostility as sweet affection.
Ursula and Hero then play the same trick on Beatrice, who overhears a discourse on Benedick's love and how Beatrice's scorn and pride have kept him from expressing his true feelings. She immediately softens and resolves to accept his love.
Meanwhile Don John is plotting to stop Hero and Claudio from getting married, and conspires with his man Borachio to seduce the maid Margaret in Hero's chamber. When this is set up Don John goes to find Claudio and Don Pedro to witness this apparent act of unfaithfulness. The act is convincing, and Claudio and Don Pedro believe they have seen Hero fornicating.
In town, the comic characters Dogberry and Verges commission three men to be the Prince's watch. The three overhear Borachio bragging about the night's exploits to Conrade, and arrest them. In the morning, Dogberry and Verges tell Leonato they have prisoners for him to examine, but Leonato is busy with the wedding and does not understand Dogberry's request. He tells them to examine the prisoners themselves and report back.
At the wedding, Claudio announces that he will not marry Hero, pushing her back to her father and telling the entire assembly that he has seen Hero with a man just the night before. Hero collapses in tears while Don Pedro supports Claudio's story. Leonato, shamed and dishonoured, wishes for Hero's death. When the Prince's delegation leave, the scene calms down and both Hero and Beatrice protest her innocence. The priest suggests a plan in which the family will claim that Hero died of shock at the accusation, causing Claudio to realize the mistake he has made.
After the plan is resolved, Benedick speaks to Beatrice as she prays in the chapel. They reveal their surprise at their deep love, and Benedick offers to perform whatever task will make Beatrice happy again. Beatrice's reply: "Kill Claudio." After an initial refusal, Benedick agrees to make the challenge.
In a prison, a sexton writes down the statements given by Borachio (as mistranslated by Dogberry). Conrade calls Dogberry an ass, but the Sexton doesn't get that down.
Encountering Don Pedro and Claudio later, Benedick emphasizes that they have killed an innocent maiden, and issues his challenge to Claudio. When he leaves, the prisoner Borachio is brought forth, and confesses to all the plot to incriminate Hero. Realizing his terrible error, Claudio begs Leonato to choose his revenge. Leonato instructs him to proclaim Hero's innocence by writing an epitaph and singing at the family tomb. Leonato also says that Claudio should marry his brother's daughter and then he will forgive his actions.
At the second wedding scene, Claudio is overjoyed to find that the veiled "niece" that he is to marry is revealed as Hero. Benedick and Beatrice argue, figure out that the others had played a trick on them, then agree to wed. Don John is brought back as a prisoner (without lines, as he does not actually appear in this scene in the play). The film ends with an elaborate shot of the joyous kinsfolk, soldiers and servants dancing (again to "Hey nonny nonny") throughout the courtyards and grounds.
- Don Pedro is the prince of Aragon who arrives in Messina after battle to stay with his friend, Leonato, for a month. He has a kind, noble and chivalrous nature. He arranges to work on the behalf of Claudio in wooing Hero and later works to bring Beatrice and Benedick together. He is along with Beatrice the great facilitators of positive circumstance in the story, despite the fact that he too along with Claudio fall for the false plot in which Hero is falsely accused of relations with another man. His brother is Don John the Bastard.
- Beatrice is the orphaned niece of Leonato, and Hero's cousin and chamber mate. She is a witty and strong-willed woman who uses humor to entertain the family and to keep men at bay. She makes Claudio understand that Don Pedro is working for his best interests and therefore he should not be jealous. Beatrice believed from the beginning that her cousin Hero was innocent of unfaithfulness towards Claudio. Unable to challenge Claudio herself, she forces Benedick to challenge Claudio in order to prove his love for her. Despite all her prickly speech, in Benedick she finds a man who is worthy of her intellect and good humor, and in the end agrees to marry him.
- Benedick is a nobleman in the court of Don Pedro. He is somewhat arrogant and self-absorbed but shows himself to be of a good nature e.g. during the "wedding" scene, as he is the only man apart from the Friar who instantly believes Hero. He is a confirmed bachelor and cannot understand why anyone would marry. He carries on a witty and insulting relationship with Beatrice, who he eventually falls in love with. His pride does not allow him to admit that he loves Beatrice. At the end of the play, Beatrice and Benedick agree to marry.
- Claudio is a young man in Don Pedro’s command, and in love with Hero. He is easily caught up in his passions, as he moves from love to jealousy to raging hate based on what he learns around him. In the end, though it is his intense love for hero prevails when he discovers the truth of events, and offers himself in penance for his emotional and physical reactions.
- Hero is the love interest of Claudio and the sweet, yet respected daughter of Governor Leonato. It is around Claudio’s love for Hero that the story turns. She was accused of being unfaithful towards Claudio the day before their wedding, even though this was false. To protect her, her death is feigned, but she reemerges in order to marry Claudio who thought he was going to marry her cousin.
- Don John is the evil brother of Don Pedro. He graves mischief and sets out to destroy the lives of the people in Messina. First, he shows Claudio that Don Pedro is not just wooing Hero, but wants her for his own, which is false. He then conspires with Borachio and another house member to ruin Hero and Claudio's wedding by pretending that Hero is being unfaithful with another man. When his plot is found out, he attempts to escape Messina but is captured by the sexton and imprisoned.
- Governor Leonato is the governor of Messina and the father of Hero. His kind, noble, idealistic nature is challenged by his daughter's apparent infidelity at a time his daughter Hero is promised to Claudio. All of his good qualities then turn to anguish when he learn of Hero’s infidelity, which proves to be a plot to destroy her, Claudio, and other members the community of Messina. When he learns the truth, he changes his ways, hides Hero away pretending she has died, only to see her remerge and marry Claudio through Leonato’s ruse to have her appear in place of Hero’s cousin who Claudio thought he was going to marry.
- Dogberry is one of the prince's officers and the captain of the guards. He is peculiar, slovenly, dull minded, and near crackers. He and his men catch Borachio bragging about his involvement with separating Claudio and Hero and his men arrest Borachio and his conspiring friends. He ultimately saves the day for Claudio and Hero by doing so. Don John is also arrested because of his company’s deeds.
The Character of Life
Just as you and I have a character, so does life itself. It has ways of functioning, and laws and principles that guide it, -- most of which we are unaware. One of ways the character of life expresses is through the “life response.”
Life Response is the miraculous-like phenomenon where sudden good fortune comes to an individual for no apparent reason, though there actually is a hidden, subtle cause of this instantaneous fortunate outcome. It happens due to a reversal of consciousness or the expression of higher attitudes and aspirations by the person. When one takes to that higher status, life immediately responds with good fortune for that individual. E.g., you change your hostile attitude towards a person, and five seconds later, you receive word from seemingly out of nowhere that you have been promoted on the job.
Life can respond positively, neutrally, or negatively.
The reason this phenomenon occurs is that there is no division between the inner person and the outer life, as we normally have come to perceive the world; but they are both part of the same continuous stream of existence. Therefore, if I change the inner me, the outer instantly or very rapidly responds in kind with an instance of good fortune. This is the principle of "inner-outer correspondence", which is the basis of the phenomenon of Life Response.
In addition to the influence of a person's consciousness to attract a response, the atmosphere around that person can influence events. If it is positive, it can attract positive circumstance, just like reversing one's consciousness can.
Below are several life response instances in the story that will prove to have an overwhelming impact on the outcome of events.
- In Much Ado about Nothing there is an exceedingly positive atmosphere, except for Don John’s malevolence.
- Don John tries to foil Don Pedro’s noble, chivalrous plan to woo Hero on the behalf of Claudio, by making Claudio jealous of Don Pedro. Claudio takes the bait and indeed feels that he has lost hero to Don Pedro.
- However, Beatrice steps in and recognizes Claudio’s jealousy and makes him understand that Don Pedro always had Claudio’s best intention in mind. That he was indeed wooing hero for Claudio's sake. Thus, in this positive social atmosphere, Beatrice steps in and saves the day for Hero and Claudio. Her unexpected intrusion into the matter is a life response enabled by positive atmosphere of the collective that cancels the negative. (We can also say it is Beatrice ’s good will to bring Hero and Claudio's relationship to fruition -- which she subconsciously yearns for herself, despite her constant protestations -- that causes her to be in the right place at the right time to clarify the matter for Claudio.)
- As a result of this happy outcome, Don Pedro decides to help Beatrice and Benedict come together in romance --which would require them to overcome their usual squabbling about the utility of love in general, and love between them specifically. In fact, many of the characters work together to accomplish this, and they succeed in the end when Beatrice and Benedick fall in love. Because Beatrice helps resolve the situation between Claudio and Hero, Don Pedro takes the initiative on Beatrice and Benedick‘s behalf that ends in their coming together. Her good will in the earlier episode attracts conditions from life back to her that helps her overcome her skepticism, and kindles her love for Benedick, and his for her.
- When Don John tries once again to stop the marriage between Hero and Claudio by setting up a fake scene where Hero is allegedly taken bed with someone else, it is again thwarted, when other members of the community overhear the insidious plot. Once again, the positive atmosphere of the community lends support to overcoming Don John’s nefarious ways.
The Herdal View, Human Ignorance
Hardly anyone in the story is rational when it comes to the events that Don John has unleashed. Everyone takes sides, and they are all wrong in their opinions because none realize that there has been a plot to set up Hero for a fall.
Shakespeare is capturing the ignorance of the herdal view -- whether the false beleif is on one side or the other -- which is in essence the inability to think for ourselves. GThus, only the priest and Benedick show a modicum of rationality as the story unfolds.
We humans are the same way taking the herdal view, or are otherwise ignorant of the true truth of a thing. We also follow the herd reverently.
Sri Aurobindo the Indian sage asks us to come out of that essential ignorance by (1) becoming rational, and embracing the many possibilities surrounding an issue: and then (2) becoming spiritually knowledgeable, which enables us to perceive the actualities surrounding a matter and come to the true truth of things through intuitions and revelation and by opening to the spirit.
He also asks us to become true individuals, to think for ourselves. The deeper the consciousness, the more we tend to see our true nature from which we can express our true individuality.
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