So, I have a blog, and I have given it a rather pretentious name, Much ado about Shakespeare. I think that I'm either incredibly stupid, or very brave...most likely I end up somewhere in the middle, hopefully I end up somewhere in the middle.
I have loved the plays by Shakespeare since I was about nineteen, and now...some years later...I have a few thoughts both concerning the plays and the man, the myths and the speculations.
Since I've given my blog a name after one of his comedies, I thought it best to start off with the lovely story about love, deception, lies, imagination, silliness, and love, oh, did I mention love?
My first encounter with Benedick and Beatrice was through Kenneth Branagh's wonderful film, and I fell head over heals in love with Ken, Ken, Prince among men...and having watched Frankenstein just now, where he walks around with tight, tight pants, no top, a clearly toned body, and long curly hair, well, my crush was confirmed, so to speak. But this is not a blog about Frankenstein, though that is a story to both read and watch, as it is one of the key novels of the Romantic period. I suspect, however, that this blog will, from time to time touch the genius that is Kenneth Branagh, and by the way, Thor was brilliant.
Here he is...pure and young...and tricked into believing he's Beatrice is in love with him, making him fall in love with her!
So, we're in Italy, and soldiers are fighting, and the girls are getting ready for the brave men to return. And, as they should in the Italy we would like to think still exist (all though Berlusconi has taken it upon him to shatter this impression), they are all in love. Some of them do not know, or accept, that they are in love, and have to be tricked into declaring their love. Benedick and Beatrice find themselves at the mercy of the all knowing friends and family who knows only too well that the two need to marry. Love all around, they are, like I said, in love. All of them, except Keanu Reeves... how blunt was that? Keanu Reeves' character is the brother of Don Pedro. The evil Don John. Don Pedro is the Prince of Aragon, and Don John is his bastard brother. He's a mean, scheming snake, blaming all the wrongs in his life on his brother, on Benedick, on everyone and everything but himself. I can only imagine being the bastard sibling of a Prince, and a good and noble Prince, as such, if you then carry any kinds of demons within, they would eventually get to you. And in Don John's case, they do. Taking down his brother is his aim, a quite transparent character, as evil is his only trade. Still, to get to his brother, like really hurt him... he destroys his brothers best friends love life. A classic!
The heroes in Shakespeare's plays are often victims of evil slander, hostile takeovers, magic, you know the everyday way to acquire ones goal. And the funny thing is that the good guys believe every word from the bad guys, without even questioning it. I mean, a man like Don Pedro should know not to trust his half brother. Don Pedro is such an intelligent man, such an honest man and he comes across as a good leader, so why is he so easily corrupted, so easily fooled? It is the same with Othello. At the word of a man who silently hates him, he murders his young wife...a story for another blog... But to play out the drama, Don Pedro and his friend Claudio are tricked into believing they are looking at the fair maiden Hero jumping ugly the night before her wedding day. And as a true Greek tragedy Claudio turns Hero down at the altar, claiming she's no virgin, basically dishonoring her and her family.
And as this tragedy enfolds Beatrice and Benedick are quarreling and bickering their way towards true love, and in the back Balthasar is serenading.
Leonato, the governor of Messina (Hero's father and Beatrice's uncle), and his brother, Antonio, the two oldies of the story, are showing their worth as two old foxes. Where Don John schemed and plotted to destroy, they scheme and plot to put things right, to save Hero. They tell every soul that she is in fact dead, and that a funeral will be held. She's not dead, she is very much alive, awaiting the time for her name to be cleared. In the end she's presented to Claudio as Hero's cousin, he agrees to marry her even though she's covered up. At the altar she unveils, and Claudio get his Hero. Balthasar serenades. And Benedick, well, he stops Beatrice's always blabbering moth with a kiss...the only way to fly! Don John, you ask, my Keanu? Like the true coward, he runs, never to be seen again.
So, why Shakespeare, you might wonder? There are so many writers, from times gone by as well as contemporary, that write both more understandable and better, even. Why am I stuck with this almost mythological writer? To give you the short answer, I think Shakespeare simply set the standards. He is, in my mind, the inventor of how to tell a good story. Heroes, enemies, funny elements (in this particular play we have Dogberry and his men, who in spite of their overly difficult way of doing the simplest of tasks, end up solving the puzzle and clearing Hero's name. She at this time is "dead", but at least her name is cleared, and Claudio can morn her, very poetically as such, at her grave - this is before he finally get her as a wife...complex and sublime.), divine intervention, supernatural aspects, spirits, ghosts, dragons, fairies, music...Shakespeare has it all. And that's what this blog is about, it all!