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Leonato: "You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her; they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them."
—Much Ado About Nothing I.i
A forerunner to the Romantic Comedy genre by William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing's plot centers on two couples: Hero and Claudio, whom the villain Don John spends the play trying to drive apart, and Beatrice and Benedick, whom most of the other characters spend the play trying to bring together.
The most well-known adaptation is probably the 1993 film featuring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson as Benedick and Beatrice. On 10/23/2011, this site announced that Joss Whedon has just finished principal photography on a new contemporary version of Much Ado, featuring Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker as Benedick and Beatrice, and Nathan Fillion as the bungling constable Dogberry. This new version is expected to be released in 2012.
Benedick is the source of the word "benedict," for a man who marries after a long bachelorhood.
Tropes from the original play:
- Badass Boast: "O THAT I WERE A MAN, I WOULD EAT HIS HEART IN THE MARKET PLACE.”
- Bastard Bastard: Don John.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Benedick and Beatrice. Possibly the Ur Example.
- Berserk Button: Dogberry reacts this way to being called an ass.
- Oddly, in the film it's an Insult Backfire
- Beta Couple: Beatrice and Benedick role-wise; Hero and Claudio in terms of stage time.
- Bluff the Eavesdropper: Used to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love with each other.
- Bride and Switch: Inverted. Claudio has been led to believe that Hero has died of grief over his accusations of sluttery, and to atone he has promised to marry her cousin sight unseen. But it turns out that it really is Hero.
- Captain Obvious: Benedick helpfully tells us that Claudio rejecting Hero and calling her a slut "looks not like a nuptial".
- Cool Big Sis: Beatrice to Hero.
- Counter Zany
- Deconfirmed Bachelor: Benedick more or less embodies this trope.
- Disorganized Outline Speech: Dogberry, in that trope's page quote.
- Does Not Like Men: Beatrice, at least at first.
- Double Entendre: Even in the title, which is possibly a sextuple entendre. As noted under Get Thee to a Nunnery, "nothing" was Elizabethan slang for the female genitalia, and noting (a homophone with nothing in the Elizabethan period) was Elizabethan slang for sex. Noting was also used to refer to singing (especially sight-reading). Shakespeare also used noting as a synonym for noticing in multiple passages (1.1.131-132 and 4.1.154-157), and the meaning of a note as a written message is referred to at various points in the play as well.
- The Dragon: Borachio, whose antics with Hero's lady-in-waiting give credence to Don John's claims of Hero's infidelity.
- Due to the Dead
- Easily Forgiven: Claudio
- Everyone Can See It
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Well, sort of.
- Expy: Friar Francis is Friar Laurence all over again. He's the one who suggests that a girl faking her own death will make everything better (although his Zany Scheme fares better than that of his counterpart).
- For the Evulz: Don John is pretty one-dimensional for a Shakespeare villain. Biding his time to re-consolidate his power would probably have been a better move than petty vindictiveness.
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: The title itself has an obsoleted Double Entendre, "nothing" being a sixteenth-century euphemism for "lady parts". And "noting" being a sixteenth-century euphemism for "doing the deed". So it's "much ado about noting" as well...
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Dogberry and his troop.
- Heroic BSOD: All over the place after the slandering ("Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?")
- Hurricane of Puns: in scenes with Beatrice and Benedick.
- Idiot Ball: Claudio
- Imagined Innuendo
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Benedick trying to escape a conversation with Beatrice, by means of a series of insane quests. Later in the same scene, and even more obvious, Leonato sends Beatrice to "look to those things I told you of" to get her out of an awkward conversation with Don Pedro.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Benedick (Played for Laughs) and Claudio (Played for Drama).
- Malaproper: Dogberry
- Mandatory Fatherhood: One reason Benedick cites for Deconfirmed Bachelor.
- Masquerade Ball: In which Don Pedro pretends to be Claudio and courts Hero.
- Meaningful Funeral: The memorial service (of sorts) given by Claudio and Don Pedro.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Claudio thinks Hero is cheating, thanks to Don John's plots.
- Mood Whiplash: Goes from zany romantic comedy to drama in a matter of seconds when Claudio jilts Hero at the altar, and then bounces about from sweet romance (Beatrice and Benedick) to comedy (Dogberry's interrogations) to tragedy (Claudio mourning what he thinks is Hero's death) until everything is finally resolved.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Claudio to Hero.
- Poor Communication Kills: Okay, it doesn't really, but we need to guilt trip Claudio, so play along, 'kay?
- Pun-Based Title: Believe it or not, among the many possible meanings of the word "nothing" in Shakespeare's day, the word was sometimes a reference to female genitalia. Making this seemingly harmless title possibly an, erm, quite colorful one, to say the least. "Nothing/Noting" can also refer to music (songs play a decently large part, and the play ends by striking up the pipers), eavesdropping (the heart of both the matchmaking plot and the evil plot), actual physical notes (the play opens with a letter, and right at the end Benedick and Beatrice are shown their own love letters to stop their playful bickering), and noticing or understanding (which the Friar, Benedick, and Beatrice are good at, thank God). It is also important to note that the audience never sees the pivot point in the play: the observation of Borachio and Margaret (dressed as Hero) that leads to the accusations of adultery. It happens right in the middle and everything else grows from it, but it is not actually shown. So the play literally revolves around nothing. Basically, the title contains a Hurricane of Puns in one word.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Benedick to Beatrice
Peace! I will stop your mouth.
- Invoked by Beatrice (for the other couple) even earlier in a bit of foreshadowing:
Speak, cousin, or if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss and let him not speak neither.
- Slap Slap Kiss: Beatrice and Benedick. As with Belligerent Sexual Tension above, possibly the Ur Example.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
- Spirited Young Lady: An early example: Beatrice is independent, intelligent and has quite the rapier wit.
- They Do
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "YOU ARE AN ASS!"
- Tsundere: Beatrice
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Benedick and Beatrice. "There's a double meaning in that!"
- What the Hell, Hero?: Literally, as the one being called out is actually named Hero.
- Don Pedro and Claudio were the ones doing it, but under false information. Then immediately after they are told that Hero has died and don't really care. It's their turn to get called out on for this, by both Hero's father and Benedick.
- You Meddling Kids: "What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light."
- Zany Scheme: The plan to convince Beatrice and Benedick that they're in love certainly qualifies; arguably, having Don Pedro court Hero for Claudio does as well.
- And faking Hero's death, just because... just because.
Tropes from the 1993 Adaptation:
- Adaptation Distillation: Trimming longer scenes and a bit of reorder as well as removing obsolete words.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: All the good male characters wear uniforms with blue lapels and blue jeans, while the evil male characters have black lapels and black leather pants.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Other than envy towards his half-brother Don Pedro and towards Claudio being in Don Pedro's favor, it seems that Don John may had or have an interest in Hero, Claudio's love interest, possibly adding to another reason for Don John's attempts breaking apart Claudio and Hero.
- Happy Dance: In celebration of Beatrice's supposed "love" for him, Benedick splashes around in the pond.
- Large Ham: Michael Keaton as Dogberry. Also, the film does feature Brian Blessed in a minor role.
- And don't forget Kenneth Branagh! Especially his hilarious monologue about the benefits of marriage, ending with this line:
"THE WORLD MUST BE PEOPLED!!
- Keanu Reeves practically gnashes his teeth as the "plain-dealing" villain. He even gets a cackling getaway once his plan comes to fruition.
- Monochrome Casting: Averted with the casting of Denzel Washington. Who is Keanu Reeves' half brother.
- Nobody Here But Us Birds: Benedick eavesdropping on Pedro and Claudio's chat. (It doesn't fool them for a second)
- The Oner: The tracking shot at the end of the film doesn't add anything to the plot, but it sure is festive. Lasting a good 2 and a half minutes, the camera zooms between all of the principal characters as they sing and dance, finally ending on an aerial shot of the entire villa.
- Race Lift: Denzel Washington is cast as the prince. The blatant anachronism is ignored by all and justified by nothing--other than perhaps the Rule of Cool.
- Shower Scene: The opening credits, which doubles as Ho Yay and/or Les Yay.
- Walk and Talk: Don John is perpetually on the move, forcing Borachio to hurry behind him while talking.