Shakespeare Uncovered (2012–…): Season 3, Episode 1 - Much Ado About Nothing with Helen Hunt - full transcript

Helen Hunt discusses William Shakespeare's romantic comedy, 'Much Ado About Nothing', with Kenneth Branagh and members of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -

- "Much Ado About Nothing"

is one of Shakespeare's
most joyous and popular plays,

and he was only 35
years old when he wrote it.

But by the time he
writes "Much Ado,"

Shakespeare has
already written 16 plays.

- Shakespeare is still
really young at this point,

so it's this
astonishing productivity

that Shakespeare has.

- "Much Ado" is a play
about love and marriage.

- You come hither, my
lord, to marry this lady.

- It may be a comedy,

but it comes dangerously
close to tragedy.

- How doth the lady?

- Dead, I think.

- He's completely thrown
away an opportunity and killed.

- At its heart is an
extraordinary woman.

- I'd rather hear my
dog bark at a crow

than a man swear he loves me.

- There's a positivity about her

which feels radiant.

- She's breaking the mold.

She's smashing a
verbal glass ceiling.

- Above all, it's
quick-witted and smart.

- I wonder that you
will still be talking,

Signior Benedick.
Nobody marks you.

- What, my dear Lady Disdain!

Are you yet living?

- You couldn't come
up with that line

if you had time
to think about it.

- And it's an emotional
roller coaster.

- Stop talking and kiss.

That's what the audience
have been waiting for.

- Whatever his age,
"Much Ado" is clearly written

by a man at his peak.

- This is the play where
Shakespeare has found

full maturity as a comic writer.

- So what is the "nothing"

that "Much Ado about
Nothing" is about?

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Programming Endowment,

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Mertz Charitable Trust,

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from viewers like you.

Thank you.

- This is Hollywood,
where I grew up,

and the home of the movies.

From the very beginning,

one of the great staples
of the movie industry

has been the romantic comedy,

especially those films that
tell the story of two characters

who don't even seem
to like each other

but who in the end discover

that they are, of
course, in love.

It's been told many times
in many different ways,

but where does this
kind of story come from?

Where does this idea begin?

For many of us, it begins 400
years ago, with Shakespeare,

with a play called "Much
Ado About Nothing"

and a couple called
Beatrice and Benedick.

"Much Ado About Nothing"
may seem like a simple romance.

Don Pedro is approached!

- But it will flirt with
danger and darkness

before allowing us to
enjoy its happy ending.

Oh, my God. It's one sexy
man on a horse after another.

I love this version and how
romantic and unabashed

and how much they're
enjoying each other,

and it's just an absolute...

The opening just says,
"We are in. We are all in.

We're not ironic.
We're not holding back.

We're just in." And I love it.

"Much Ado" takes place in the
villa of one Leonato in Messina.

It begins as a
story of Don Pedro

and his soldiers
coming back from a war

and the women who
are waiting for them.

First, there is an
innocent couple,

a young officer called Claudio
and Leonato's daughter, Hero.

- I find here that Don Pedro
hath bestowed much honour

on a young Florentine
called Claudio.

- And then Shakespeare
introduces us

to Hero's cousin, Beatrice,

and Claudio's best friend
and mentor, Benedick.

- Is Signior Mountanto
returned from the wars or no?

- I know none of
that name, lady.

- My cousin means
Signior Benedick of Padua.

Oh, he's returned,

and as pleasant as ever he was.

- He is no less
than a stuffed man.

- You must not, sir,
mistake my niece.

There is a kind of merry war

betwixt Signior
Benedick and her.

- But behind all the appearance
of merriness and romance,

there are dark forces at
work in this household.

And the action of the play,

which takes place
over only a few days,

is about whether
these two couples...

Beatrice and Benedick
and Hero and Claudio,

will ever get and stay together.

I've played Beatrice twice,

and am interested
in revisiting it

and talking to people
who are chewing on it

and trying to get to the
bottom of what makes it so full

and rich and funny.

And the play has both
the light and the dark,

and I'm interested
in finding out

how people are
wrestling with that.

I am beginning my journey in
the town of Shakespeare's birth,


And the first thing I find
out is a bit of a surprise,

at least for me.

Someone pointed out to me
that the Beatrice-Benedick story

is not really the
main plot of the play,

which I didn't realize
until someone said it.

- Not at all. I mean, nobody's
ever really become a star

by playing either
Claudio or Hero,

but that's the story
that Shakespeare knew.

That's the story everybody knew.
- Where did it come from?

- The version Shakespeare
seems to have known best

is this one by
Matthaeus Bandello.

It was in Italian. Shakespeare
probably knew the Italian,

but it was then
translated into French,

and he certainly
knew the French.

- And then Beatrice and
Benedick come from where?

His imagination?
- They come from Shakespeare.

They're the two star parts
that Shakespeare does add.

They're the sort
of magic ingredient

that's stitched into this story

to completely change
the tone of the thing.

- So Shakespeare's source
was an old Italian story

about Hero and Claudio.

The BBC tried to
recreate a villa in Messina

in a TV studio in West London

when they produced
"Much Ado" in 1984.

- Good Signior Leonato.

- But the Royal Shakespeare
Company showed

in their recent stage production

that you certainly don't
have to set the play

in 16th-century Italy.

- Good Signior Leonato.

- Well, clearly,
this is very different.

It's got a sort of "Downton
Abbey" at wartime feel.

- Being gone...

- One of the great
strengths of "Much Ado"

is that wherever and
whenever you set it,

the basic story about the four
main characters always works.

- I think this is your daughter.

- Her mother did
many times tell me so.

- Were you in doubt,
sir, that you asked her?

- Signior Benedick, no.

- Truly, the lady
fathers herself.

- We're introduced to the
young lovers, Hero and Claudio,

who are, I guess, technically
the central story of the play,

but they have nothing to say.

- Hero and Claudio are kind
of the structure of the play,

and she is a bit of a
vehicle, in some respects.

And she's also there a lot,

but she doesn't
have so much to say.

- Hero and Claudio don't
have a lot of lines together.

Everyone else talks
except for them.

And you just have
to kind of work in

whatever interaction.

It's just a locking of
eyes or whatever it is,

and hopefully, the
audience pick up on that.

Look, here she comes.

- The other central characters,
Beatrice and Benedick,

are Shakespeare's invention.

But they've become
the stars of the show.

- I sort of fall in love with all
of Shakespeare's characters.

But I guess it's just...
There's a legacy

to Beatrice and Benedick
that you also take on

when you sort of come
to these characters.

- Shakespeare uses
Claudio and Hero

as the young,
idealistic, main thrust

that other characters and other
elements of the plot bounce off,

which makes it quite fun, in a
way, for Benedick and Beatrice

to be the more kind
of subversive, realistic,

older people going through
a similar kind of journey.

- There's an interesting paradox
in the structure of the play,

which is, everything
happens to Hero and Claudio,

but they have
nothing to say about it.

Nothing happens to
Beatrice and Benedick,

and they have
everything to say about it.

- But at the
beginning of the play,

they don't have anything
very nice to say to each other...

Quite the reverse, in fact.

- I wonder that you
will still be talking,

Signior Benedick.
Nobody marks you.

- What, my dear Lady Disdain!

Are you yet living?

- This is the very
first conversation

between Beatrice and Benedick,

and it sets the tone.

It sets up the chemistry,
and it sets up their love-hate,


clearly, desperation
for each other.

- Is it possible
disdain should die

while she hath such meet food
to feed it as Signior Benedick?

- What Shakespeare is suggesting
is that Beatrice and Benedick

have had some kind of
relationship in the past,

and it didn't end well.

- The play gives us
hints to a prior liaison,

and there's a sense in which
Beatrice and Benedick's wit

is as a cover for
their vulnerabilities.

- But it is certain I am loved
of all ladies, only you excepted.

And I would I could
find in my heart

that I had not a hard heart,

for, truly, I love none.

- A dear happiness to women.

- They go straight
into their routine,

straight into their, you know,
"I can be quicker than you.

I can insult you even better
than you can insult me."

- They would else
have been troubled

with a pernicious suitor.

I thank God and my cold blood,
I am of your humour for that.

- It’s made very
obvious in the writing

that they pick up
where they last left off

as sparring partners

with unfinished business.

- I know you of old.

- I never knew really
where the relationship starts.

Obviously, it starts
before the play,

and it's obviously
gone on and on,

where they've
rejected each other.

But there's definitely
venom in both characters.

- Whatever may have happened
in Beatrice and Benedick's past,

their relationship now
is spikey and wounded.

- I thank God and my cold
blood, I am of your humour for that.

I'd rather hear my
dog bark at a crow

than a man swear he loves me.

- What they're doing
is trying to figure out

how to be in the same
room as each other,

and they don't know how.
And so this sort of banter

that goes back and
forth goes fathoms deep.

It's years deep of
history with them.

- God keep your
ladyship still in that mind,

save some gentleman or other

shall 'scape a
predestinate scratched face.

- Scratching could
not make it worse,

an 'twere such a
face as yours were.

- There was a time where we
wanted to feel, in that scene,

in that opening scene, like we
were both the most hard done by

by that situation,
and it is their fault

that we are both like this.

- When I played Beatrice in 2010

at the Kirk Douglas
Theatre in L.A.,

my Benedick was
the actor Tom Irwin.

I think we're very
right for the parts.

I think he's smart
and a little bit cranky.

- Thank you, thank you.
- And she is ruining everything

with her "wit." She's
impossible be with

because of her... You
know what I mean?

- He's an ass,
and he's a showoff

and tries to be man's man

and God's gift to
women or what have you.

But underneath all of that,
there's a real vulnerability

and a kind of loneliness
to it that I thought,

"This will be fun."
- And being lonely

and longing for each other.
- Yeah.

Whatever happened
when they first met,

whatever it was,
it was haunting.

- Yeah.

- And he couldn't let go of it.

I think he's threatened
by how smart she is

and probably smarter than he is.

- So where did Shakespeare
get the inspiration

to write this smart,
wisecracking woman?

Paul Edmondson from the
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

has invited me to Holy Trinity
Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

It's the church
where Shakespeare

and members of
his family are buried.

He wants to show me the grave

of Shakespeare's eldest
daughter, Susannah.

- One of my favorite
epitaphs of any

is that of Susannah Hall,
Susannah Shakespeare,

because it says,
"Witty above her sex."

And it's that word witty, Helen,

which, just, I
see in it Beatrice

and the whole host of
Shakespeare's heroines.

So by calling her witty,

we're also being reminded
of all of Shakespeare wit...

"wit" at this time
meaning intelligence

as well as sense of humor.

- Is your sense that the
women in Shakespeare's life

inspired these characters,

or what do you think
the connection is?

- I think the women
in Shakespeare's life

were a pretty strong lot

who could look after
themselves, thanks very much.

And, you know, perhaps
maybe Shakespeare tried out

some of the female speeches

with the members of
his own family, very likely.

Other members of
Shakespeare's family acted.

Edmond his brother was an actor.
- Right, the family business.

- And one of my favorite
comments about Beatrice

is, "I love Beatrice
'cause she says most of all

what you wish
you'd say yourself."

- Yes, absolutely.
- And that's what we mean by wit.

That's what we mean by
being witty above one's sex.

- Wherever she comes from,

Beatrice has become
an audience favorite,

and the role has appealed
to all of the greatest actors.

Dame Maggie's
Smith's performance

was long thought to
have been lost by the BBC,

but a copy was recently found

at the Library of
Congress in Washington,

and it's just been restored.

- I pray you, is
Signior Mountanto

returned from the wars or no?

- I know none of
that name, lady.

- My cousin means
Signior Benedick of Padua.

- Ah, he's returned, and he's
as pleasant as he ever was.

- I pray you, how many hath he
killed and eaten in these wars?

But indeed, how
many hath he killed?

For I promised to
eat all of his killing.

- Oh, my God. She's
just perfect in every way.

As Maggie Smith's
performance demonstrates,

when Shakespeare
created Beatrice,

he wrote a
groundbreaking character,

a new woman for
the English stage.

- By my troth, niece, thou
wilt never get thee a husband,

if thou be so
shrewd of thy tongue.

- For the which blessing
I am at him on my knees

every morning and evening.

Lord, I could not
endure a husband

with a beard on his face.

I'd rather lie in the woollen.

- What's striking is the
extraordinary loquacity

of Beatrice. She
never stops talking

A respectable woman was
supposed to keep silent in public.

Beatrice certainly
isn't like that.

- He that hath a beard
is more than a youth.

He that hath no beard
is less than a man.

He that is more than a
youth, I am not for him.

He that is less than a
man, he is not for me.

Therefore, I will hire
myself out for sixpence a day

as the virgin in the proverb.

- She talks about sex

and about sexual choices
that she wants to make.

Women are not supposed
to have any choice

or any desire in this matter.

- "Oh, get you to
heaven, Beatrice.

Get you to heaven. Here's
no place for you maids."

- So for Shakespeare's
audience, she's breaking the mold.

She's smashing a
verbal glass ceiling.

- The last time the
modern Globe Theatre

staged a traditional production
of "Much Ado about Nothing"

was in 2011.

This theater was
designed to look and work

exactly like the theater
in Shakespeare's time.

And I want to meet
some of the people

who were involved
in that production.

- What's brilliant
about this space

is that it's not like
an indoor theater

or a theater with a roof
or theater with lights.

And the audience just
love that direct contact.

And the audience is, like, such
a great resource in this space

that you'd be foolish
not to harness that.

- I would just feel terribly
worried about them being bored

if they're standing
on their feet.

Do you know what I mean?
You're always a little worried.

- Yeah. You've got
to be loud enough.

Your voice work
has got to be strong.

Your kind of
sense of physicality

has got to be really present.

But ultimately, once
you've done all of that work,

then it's over to
Shakespeare himself.

- Perhaps we should remind
ourselves that "Much Ado"

starts out as the story
of a young couple,

Claudio and Hero.

And the love-struck
Claudio probably unwisely

turns to his best
friend Benedick

for some help and advice.

- Benedick, didst thou note
the daughter of Signior Leonato?

- I noted her not,
but I looked on her.

- Is she not a
modest young lady?

- Do you question me, as
an honest man should do,

for my simple true judgment,

or would you have me
speak after my custom,

as being a professed
tyrant to their sex?

- With Claudio, you've got
a guy who is brilliant at war.

And suddenly, he's in
this world of Messina,

which is the opposite of that.

And then coupled with
that, he then falls in love.

And for him more than any
of the others, even, I think,

it's a bigger step
into the unknown.

- Thou thinkest I am in sport.

I pray thee tell me
truly how thou likest her.

- Would you buy her,
that you enquire after her?

- Can the world
buy such a jewel?

- Yea, and a
case to put it into.

- In mine eyes, she
is the sweetest lady

that ever I looked on.

- Benedick's feeling
elbowed out, actually.

Claudio is no longer the
chum he thought he had.

He was a good soldier.

He was a, you know, guy
to go and have a pint with.

Now he's not
interested in any of that.

He's only interested in Hero.

- I hope you have no intent

to turn hus... hu-h-husband.

Have you?
- I would scarce trust myself,

though I had sworn
to the contrary,

if Hero would be my wife.

- Is't come to this?

- This conversation does
give Benedick a chance

to get onto one of
his favorite subjects.

- He's very vocal on
his views about women.

And those come from fear...

Fear of commitment,
fear of women,

of not understanding women,

of not quite knowing how
to behave around women.

- That a woman
conceived me, I thank her.

That she brought me up,

I likewise give her
most humble thanks.

But all women shall pardon me.

I shall do myself the
right to trust none.

- I don't think that
Benedick hates women,

but he's cynical about the
idea that other people have

of marriage,

and of what life should be.

I think that, a little
bit like Beatrice,

he doesn't want to
be like everybody else.

- And the fine is, for
which I may go the finer,

I will live a bachelor.
- I will see thee,

ere I die, look pale with love.

- With anger, with sickness,
or with hunger, my lord,

not with love.

- And Beatrice, too, is clear

that the last thing she
wants is a husband.

- Well, niece, I hope to see you
one day fitted with a husband.

- Not till God make men of
some other metal than earth.

Would it not grieve a
woman to be overmastered

with a piece of valiant dust?

- I think her experience
of men is incredibly limited,

so she's taken one
isolated incident,

a very particular
relationship with Benedick,

and made it general.

That's her pain,

and I think the way she
has dealt with her pain

is to protect herself.

It's all men, and it's
love, and it's dangerous.

- Would it not grieve a
woman to be overmastered

with a piece of valiant dust,

to make an account of her
life to a clod of wayward marl?

No, uncle, I'll none.

Adam's sons are my brethren,

and, truly, I hold it a sin
to match in my kindred.

- I don't think she's
really anti-man.

What's really going on is that
she's in love with Benedick,

so she's got to make
it very, very clear

to everybody who listens

that she really can't stand
the sight of any men at all,

and she particularly
hates men, "by the way,

and did I tell you
how much I hate men?

Because I really hate men,

and just the last thing
in the world I want to do

is have any man come
anywhere near me at all.

They drive me all
completely nuts,

and did I tell you how
much I hate men?"

You sort of begin
to think, "Well,

what's really going on?"

- His grace hath made the match,

and all grace say Amen to it!

- Amen!
- Amen!

- By the beginning of Act II,

Hero and Claudio
do get together.

And almost immediately,
preparations are made

for the marriage of
the tongue-tied lovers.

- Speak, count, 'tis your cue.

- Silence is the perfectest...

herald of joy.

- So, in Shakespeare's
Sicilian villa,

we have one couple
about to get married

and another couple who
almost certainly never will.

But Shakespeare is about
to turn all this on its head.

- It's a very interesting world

of a household that seems
to be perfectly ordinary.

And yet underneath the
surface, there's all of this plotting

and counter-plotter
and manipulation.

- You have this
wonderful, sunny world

of "Much Ado About Nothing"...

Frivolity and parties
and dressing up

and men and women
flirting with each other.

And then you just have
this injection of pure evil.

- The play is about to
get really complicated.

And to achieve that,
Shakespeare falls back

on a device as
old as theater itself.

Every play has a bad guy.

But instead of taking
pages and pages and pages

to figure out that the
bad guy is the bad guy,

in this play, the bad
guy comes out and says,

"I am a plain-dealing villain."


- But I am a
plain-dealing villain.

- It must not be denied but
I am a plain-dealing villain.

- But I am a
plain-dealing villain.

- In this world of romance,
comedy, and humor,

there is a
Machiavellian character,

a villain who wants
to create trouble,

a dark character

by the name of Don John.

- So just as Claudio
and Hero's friends

think they have succeeded
in bringing the couple together,

Don John, the villain,

will plot to drive them apart.

- What news, Borachio?

- I can give you intelligence
of an intended marriage.

- Will it serve for any
model to build mischief on?

What's he for a fool that
betroths himself to unquietness?

- Marry, 'tis your
brother's right hand.

- The most exquisite Claudio?
- Even he.

- For Don John, it's only
about spoiling everything.

That's all that he wants to do.

- Come, let us thither.

This may prove food
to my displeasure.

- We would call him a sociopath,

because he has
no interest at all

in the feelings or fates

of anybody in his
world except himself.

And of course, the
guys who work for him

are completely in his thrall,

so we have a little
sociopathic gang at work.

- Don John is about to hatch
a truly dark and cruel plot

to split up Hero and Claudio.

But Shakespeare
with exquisite balance

now allows Beatrice
and Benedick's friends

to hatch a lighthearted
plot to bring them together.

To do this, he creates two
of his most famous scenes,

classics of comic

The so-called gulling scenes,

named after the Old
English verb "to gull,"

meaning to trick or to deceive.

The fun begins

when Benedick decides to
hide himself in the garden.

- See you where
Benedick hath hid himself?

- Of course, he
thinks he's hiding.

The others know
exactly where he is.

And they're making sure that
he hears everything they say.

Come hither, Leonato!

What was it you
told me of to-day,

that your niece Beatrice was
in love with Signior Benedick?

- The play is called
"Much Ado About Nothing."

The way that the word
"nothing" was pronounced

in Shakespeare's time
would have been "noting."

Noting suggests overhearing.

- You amaze me!

- Constantly, people
are listening in

on other people's conversations.

But are you sure that
Benedick loves Beatrice

so entirely?

- The overhearing is the
absolute key to the play.

- So says the prince

and my new-trothed lord.

- Are you sure that
Benedick loves Beatrice

so entirely?

- So says the prince
and my new-trothed lord.

- And did they bid you
tell her of it, madam?

- They did entreat me
to acquaint her of it.

- There I am, hiding.

I'm hearing these two
girls talking about me

as if I'm not there,

and they're saying
some whole truths.

They're talking about how
I'm always against men,

how I insult men,

and how tough I am,
and how heartless I am.

And it hurts.

- She cannot love, nor take no
shape nor project of affection,

she is so self-endeared.

- Such a brilliant comic device,

because they're
both being gulled

into hearing each
other's real thoughts.

- Hath she made her
affection known to Benedick?

- No, my lord, and
swears she never will.

That's her torment.

- I will go to Benedick
and counsel him

to fight against his passion.

And, truly, I'll devise
some honest slanders

to stain my cousin with.

- Or are they real thoughts?
They're not quite sure,

but they desperately
want to believe it's true.

- "Shall I," says
she, "that hath so oft

encountered him with scorn,
write to him that I love him?"

- This says she now when
she's beginning to write to him.

- These are characters
of great pride.

They take pride
in not being in love.

It's only when
they get the illusion

that the other one
is in love with them

that they can then
acknowledge their own feelings.

- It seems her affections
have their full bent.

Love me?

Why, it must be requited.

- What fire is in mine ears?

Can this be true?

- When Beatrice learns
or thinks she learns

that Benedick loves
her, the whole part turns,

and all of Beatrice's
swagger comes undone,

and this tiny, little
speech carries so much.

- "What fire is in mine ears?

Can this be true?"

This is like... It's,
like, straight from...

She's in love, and then,
"Maybe we'll get married,

and then we'll have
a beautiful house,

and, oh, it'll be a
white wedding, and..."

You know, I mean,
she's completely...

Whoo! She's...

She's intoxicated
by the whole...

But, of course, it's what
she's always wanted.

- And, Benedick,

love on.

- And it's all in a
small amount of lines.

It's a huge moment
for this woman.

And at this moment,
Beatrice is on stage alone,

for the only time
in the whole play.

- What fire is in mine
ears? Can this be true?

- And she has just 10
lines of verse to play with.

- Stand I condemn'd

for pride and scorn so much?

- It's a challenge
for any actor.

- Contempt, farewell,

and maiden pride, adieu!

No glory lives behind
the back of such.

- I was having a tough
time with the speech.

I tried lots of
different things.

And then I looked down
and caught the eye of a girl

who was standing about as far
away as you are standing to me.

And she had an
expression on her face

that she was completely with me.

I don't know whose hand
reached out first to whose,

but, anyway, we held
each other's hand.

That moment of
physical contact...

Suddenly, the speech unlocked

and made beautiful
and perfect sense.

- And, Benedick, love on.

I will requite thee...

taming my wild heart
to thy loving hand.

If thou dost love, my
kindness shall incite thee

to bind our loves
up into a holy band.

For others say thou
dost deserve, and I...

believe it!

- She can do anything, Eve Best.

She can do anything.

- When Benedick's told
that Beatrice loves him,

he, too, is tempted into verse.

♪ O god of love ♪

- But Shakespeare makes
Benedick write a really bad song.

- ♪ That sits above ♪

♪ Who knows me ♪

- Gradually, you do become aware

that the audience were
finding it very funny,

so you do start to respond

and get annoyed that they're
laughing at your singing.

- ♪ Who knows me ♪

♪ How pitiful ♪

- It was a very personal moment,

because it was revealing
something about him

that was very private,

and I think the audience
enjoyed sharing that.

- ♪ I deserve ♪

- We are now being
tantalized by the prospect

of Beatrice and Benedick
finally getting together.

- Yea, signior, and
depart when you bid me.

- So we're all set up
for a happy ending,

and Shakespeare
chooses that moment

to say no.

It's time for Don John to
put his plot into practice.

On the night before
the planned wedding,

he tells Claudio
that Hero is not

the innocent virgin she seems.

- What's the matter?
- Means your lordship

to be married to-morrow?
- You know he does.

- I know not that, when
he knows what I know.

- If there be any impediment...

- The lady is disloyal.

- Who, Hero?

- Even she... Leonato's Hero,

your Hero, every man's Hero.

- We cannot overstate
today how catastrophic

sexual slander is for a woman.

What Don Jon sets up, in
forcing Claudio to believe

that Hero has been
sexually active,

is catastrophic in
Elizabethan terms.

There is no greater disaster
that could befall a woman

than to be or to be
considered unchaste.

- Wonder not till
further warrant.

Go but with me to-night.

You shall see her
chamber window entered,

even the night before
her wedding-day.

If you love her then, well...

to-morrow wed her.

- Don John sets up
a sadistic deception.

- If you dare not
trust that you see...

- He stages a scene
for Claudio to witness

in which someone disguised
as Hero sleeps with another man.

Shakespeare makes
this happen offstage.

The audience doesn't see it.

- Hup, hup, hup, hup,
hup, hup! Hyah, hyah...

- But what we do see are
the forces of law and order

in Messina, who
could disrupt the plot...

Dogberry, Verges, and the Watch.

- Hyah!

- You can see Shakespeare
saying to himself,

"Right, I need
some light relief."

- Bear you the lanthorn.

Bear you the lanthorn.

- They're a bit like the
Keystone Cops in a way.

The forces of law and order
are completely unreliable,

totally shambolic, can barely
string a sentence together.

But even so, they find out
that Claudio has been fooled.

- For all their incompetence,
they do arrest the plotters.

- Let us obey you
to come with us.

- But it's too late.

By now, Claudio
has been convinced

that Hero has been unfaithful,

and this is the morning
of their wedding.

Dogberry and the Watch set off

to try and tell Leonato
what has happened.

- Brief, I pray you,

for you see 'tis a
busy time for me.

- Marry, this it is, sir.


- Yes, in truth it is, sir.

- It's a very Shakespearean ploy

to put you just on the
verge of an "if only" moment.

The play brings us very close

to Dogberry and Verges' just
telling Leonato what happened.

- One word, sir! Our watch, sir,

have indeed comprehended

two... "Aah"...
Aspicious persons,

and we would have them
this morning examined

before your worship.
- And because they can't

spit it out articulately,

Leonato in exasperation says,

"Oh, you just examine
the characters yourself,

because I've got a
wedding to go to."

- Uh, take their examination
yourself and bring it me.

I am now in great haste,
as may appear unto you.

- Dogberry and the Watch
totally fail to inform the authorities

of the plot they've uncovered.

So what follows is...

maybe the most
uncomfortable wedding

in any play ever.

The scene begins beautifully.

You might even think that
it's all going to be all right.

But you know that it isn't.

Claudio believes what
Don John has told him...

That the woman he loves
and is supposed to marry

has completely deceived him.

He's being torn apart.

- He's brewed up all
these feelings of anger

and rage and frustration

now he's learnt what
Hero's done to him.

And then he's met with Hero

and suddenly has
to look into her eyes

when they meet at center stage.

- He's had this kind of
image planted in his head,

and then to be faced
with the woman,

but just to have
that back-and-forth.

- There, Leonato,
take her back again!

Give not this rotten
orange to your friend!

- It just flips continually
between foul and fair,

beautiful and ugly,
tainted and pure.

And he's leaping
between the two,

between the love
that he felt in his heart

and the rage that
he felt in his gut.

- You seem to me
as Dian in her orb,

as chaste as is the
bud ere it be blown.

But you are more intemperate
in your blood than Venus,

or those pamper'd animals
that rage in savage sensuality!

- Is my lord well, that
he doth speak so wide?

- Sweet prince...
- When Claudio perverts

a wedding ceremony
into a shaming,

I think it absolutely
shocks us all.

The first time you see it,

you just are in the
emotion of the moment,

and often, you
just hate Claudio.

- Her blush is
guiltiness, not modesty.

- What do you mean, my lord?
- Not to be married,

not to knit my soul to
an approved wanton.

- You have to tread
quite a fine line

of being honest with
what's written on the page

and the brutality of
what he does to Hero,

'cause it is brutal.
- Would you not swear,

all you that see her,
that she were a maid,

by these exterior shows?

But she is none.

- It's like a stoning
or something.

- She knows the heat
of a luxurious bed.

It's violent.

It's really violent.

- How now, cousin!
Wherefore sink you down?

- Her world just kind
of crumbles, and it's like

there is nothing...

It's like the air's
taken out of her,

and that's why she faints.

- How doth the lady?

- Dead, I think.
- Dead, I think.

- Dead, I think. Help, uncle!

- The idea of death

in the midst of a
wedding ceremony,

it's deeply, deeply shocking.

- Claudio has already
stormed out of the church.

Only Benedick
remains with the family.

Hero does not die,
but she is disgraced,

and she is taken into hiding.

So Benedick is left
alone with Beatrice.

And it leads to the scene
we've all been waiting for.

- Lady Beatrice, have
you wept all this while?


And I will weep a while longer.

- I will not desire that.

- You have no
reason. I do it freely.

- Surely I do believe your
fair cousin is wronged.

- Ah!

- She's so passionate
about her cousin,

about what's just happened to
her cousin, she's ready to kill.

"If only I were a
man, I could do it."

How much might the
man deserve of me

that would right her?

- Is there any way to
show such friendship?

- A very even way,
but no such friend.

- There's this tempest in a
teacup of her heart going on.

She's so conflicted.

- May a man do it?

- It is a man's office...

but not yours.

- And then they're suddenly
speaking very, very quietly

to each other.

- I do love nothing in
the world so well as you.

Is not that strange?

- As strange as...

the thing I know not.

It were as possible
for me to say

I loved nothing so well as you.

But believe me not.

And yet I lie not.

I... confess nothing,

nor deny nothing.

- You've got love and hate

absolutely, you know,

in a tight embrace
in this scene.

- I protest...

I love thee.

- Why, then, God forgive me.
- What offense, sweet Beatrice?

- You have stayed
me in a happy hour.

I was about to
protest I loved you.

- And do it with all thy heart.

I love you with so
much of my heart

that none is left to protest.

- I remember thinking of
the audience going through

that lovely moment
of, "Ahh, at last.

It's going to be the
end of the play now.

Going to be lovely."

- Come, bid me do
anything for thee.

- "Tell me. I'll do
anything for you.

What can I do for
you?" It's this, whoosh,

this huge wave that has broken,

and then she just says...

- Kill Claudio.

- And it came
like a razor blade.


- Well, I mean, it just knocks
the wind out of his sails.

It's his greatest friend.

Not for the wide world.

- You kill me to
deny it. Farewell.

- Oh, tarry, sweet Beatrice.

- No, I am gone.

- Benedick is going to
have to make a choice

between his blood
brother Claudio

and his beloved Beatrice.

- Think you in your soul

that Count Claudio
hath wronged Hero?

- Yea,

as sure as I have
a thought or a soul.

- He loves her so much that...

she convinces him
that's the right thing to do,

and he decides to do it.

- I will challenge him.

I will kiss your hand,

and so I leave you.

- There's been three
acts of merriment

and flirtation and cleverness,

and it's a stunning
shift in tone.

And I remember feeling like,

"How do we come back from this?"

At the beginning of Act V,

we are much closer to
tragedy than comedy.

Claudio has been
told that Hero is dead

of a broken heart,

killed by slander.

And Benedick is out for revenge.

But Benedick will not
have to kill Claudio.

The men arrested confess
their role in Don John's plot

and inform Claudio that
he was indeed deceived.

Hero is entirely innocent.

- Don John incensed me
to slander the Lady Hero,

how you were
brought into the orchard

and saw me woo Margaret
in Hero's garments,

how you disgraced her,
when you should marry her.

My villainy they
have upon record.

- Claudio does still
think Hero is dead.

Effectively, he has killed
the woman he loved.

Can he atone for
what he has done?

This is a dark and
dramatic moment.

But "Much Ado" is not
a tragedy. It's a comedy.

So to get to the ending
the audience is hoping for,

Shakespeare comes up
with a ludicrously comic plot

to contrive a resolution.

- To-morrow morning
come you to my house,

and since you could
not be my son-in-law...

be yet my nephew!

My brother hath a daughter...

almost the copy of
my child that's dead...

and she alone is
heir to both of us.

Give her the right you
should have given her cousin,

and so dies my revenge.

- This is, of course,
yet another deception.

The new bride, of
course, will be Hero.

But since Claudio still
believes her to be dead,

father Leonato insists

that before the new
wedding can take place,

Claudio must first
visit Hero's tomb

and there make a public
declaration of her innocence.

- There has to be
some real penance.

Shakespeare gives us ritual.

He gives us a public recitation

so that this man who
has publicly shamed Hero

can be the one who publicly

turns that shame to fame.

- Once he realizes
that this woman

he accused of such
ghastly things is innocent,

there's something inside
him that breaks a little further.

He's killed an innocent woman.

- Much as I love "Much
Ado About Nothing,"

I'm never entirely
satisfied by the ending.

It seems to me that
the character of Claudio

hasn't really undergone

a sufficiently strong
journey of redemption

to merit the second
chance that he gets.

- The ending of this
play is very difficult

for modern audiences,

because it's hard to
imagine a circumstance

in which any contemporary
female would take Claudio back

after what he has done.

So how do we deal with that?

A production at the Globe
had the actress of Hero

lie on her own tomb under a veil

so that she was in
effect overhearing...

In a play about overhearing...

Claudio's penitence.

- "Done to death by
slanderous tongues

was the Hero that here lies.

Death, in guerdon of her wrongs,
gives her fame which never dies.

So the life that died with shame

lives in death with...
glorious fame."

- She then became
convinced of his sincerity

and, in one way,
gave her permission

for Shakespeare's
plot to continue.

- The time has come for
the play's final deception.

Hero will be disguised
as Leonato's niece

rather than his daughter

and will be offered
as a bride for Claudio.

But Claudio is not allowed
to see this mysterious woman

until he has formally
agreed in front of everyone

to marry her.

- When Claudio decides
to accept an unknown wife,

I think there's definitely
a repentance there.

I think there's a
conscious choice...

"This is the way I will go,
and this is the way to repent,

and this is the way to win
back my soul in some way."

- Before this holy friar,
I am your husband,

if you like of me.

- And when I lived, I
was your other wife.

And when you loved, you
were my other husband.

- Another Hero!
- Nothing certainer.

One Hero died
defiled, but I do live.

- Once Claudio
realizes that Hero is alive

or a Hero is still alive, and
they're going to be together,

and it's a happy ending
for the two of them,

there's a kind of
huge mood shift,

and it suddenly very quickly

then becomes almost
a party atmosphere.

- Soft and fair, friar!

Which is Beatrice?

- So the only thing left is
for Beatrice and Benedick

to make it a double wedding.

And they almost blow it.

- At the vital moment, Benedick
makes the foolish mistake

of asking Beatrice to say
she loves him... in public.

Do you not love me?

- Why, no. No more than reason.

- This is a way of being
able to be, in public, still,

the one who is loved,

not the one that has to love.
So it's about making sure

that you're the one
who was loved first.

- Because you could have
gone, "Which one is Beatrice?"

and she goes, "That's
me. What do you want?"

- "You know I love
you, don't you?"

- Yeah, it could have been that.
- "So, will you marry me?"

Absolutely, yeah, but then
you wouldn't love me so much

if I did that.

- Why, then your
uncle and the prince

and Claudio were deceived.
They swore you did.

- Do you not love me?

- Troth, no. No
more than reason.

- Why, then my cousin Margaret
and Ursula are much deceived,

for they did swear you did.

- They swore you
were almost sick for me!

- They swore that you
were well-nigh dead for me.

- 'Tis no such matter.
Then you do not love me?

- No, truly, but in
friendly recompense.

- All right.
- Fine.

- But the they're
about to be betrayed

by love poems they have
secretly written about each other.

- And I'll be sworn
upon it that he loves her,

for here's a paper written
in his hand, a halting sonnet

of his own pure brain.
- No.

- Oh!
- No!

- And here's another,
writ in my cousin's hand...

- No! No! No, please!
- Stolen from her pocket,

containing her
affection unto Benedick!

- Beatrice and
Benedick have thrived

on their banter,
on their argument,

on their their sparring
with each other.

How do you stop them

from constantly quarrelling,
teasing each other?

Well, the only way
you could stop them

is by making them kiss.

- Come, I will have thee.

But, by this light,
I take thee for pity.

- I would not deny you.

But, by this good day,

I yield upon great persuasion,

and partly to save your life,

for I was told you
were in a consumption.

- Peace! I will stop your mouth.

- Strike up, pipers!

- There's no doubt about it
that Beatrice and Benedick

are one of the great
Shakespearean couples.

They've become the paradigm.

- I think we have to
believe in the power

of wit and independence.

There's something so seasoned

and wise and mature
about these lovers.

- Oh!
- Oh!

- Hey!
- You can be as smart

and intelligent and
as witty as you want,

but until you open yourself
to emotion and to risk,

then none of it makes sense.

And that's what "Much
Ado About Nothing" is about.

- Whoo!
- Whoo!

- The two lovers who are
sparring with each other

but whom we know are
really in love with each other...

It's a great comic theme.

It goes right the way down

to the great screwball comedies

of the golden age of Hollywood.

- I was just asked
by our friends,

"Would I play it again?" Which
I would love to play it again,

but am I old? But in truth,

I think they are older.

- Well, at what point
do you cross a line?

- Yeah, I don't know.
- Can you do it in wheelchairs?

- But there was something
that you said to me

really early on.

Like, what's there to lose?
- Who cares? Yeah.

- Who cares?
- It's really true.

- You know? Which is,

when will I have an
opportunity to play this role,

and when will I
have an opportunity

to play opposite you, you know?
- Yeah, so fun.

- If it's a huge failure,

let's go down in flames.
- Yeah. Completely.

So we should do it again.

I would love to
play Beatrice again.

She's very special.

And so is enduring message
of "Much Ado About Nothing"...

That however old you may
be, when it comes to love,

you'll never win

unless you're prepared to
take the risk of losing everything.

"Much Ado" is a story
about trying to find love,

about being open to love.

What's not to like?

- Funding for
"Shakespeare Uncovered"

was provided by...

The Joseph & Robert
Cornell Memorial Foundation...

The National Endowment
for the Humanities...

Exploring the human endeavor...

The Polonsky Foundation,

Dana and Virginia Randt,

Elaine & W. Weldon Wilson,

the Lillian Goldman
Programming Endowment,

the LuEsther T.
Mertz Charitable Trust,

Jody and John Arnhold,

and by contributions
to your PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.