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Much Ado About Nothing

Theatrical poster
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Produced by Kenneth Branagh
Stephen Evans
David Parfitt
Written by William Shakespeare
Kenneth Branagh
Starring Kenneth Branagh
Richard Briers
Michael Keaton
Keanu Reeves
Emma Thompson
Denzel Washington
Kate Beckinsale
Robert Sean Leonard
Imelda Staunton
Jimmy Yuill
Music by Patrick Doyle
Editing by Andrew Marcus
Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Company
MGM (DVD release)
Release date(s) May 7, 1993
Running time 111 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $11,000,000
Gross revenue $22,549,338

Much Ado About Nothing is a 1993 film based on William Shakespeare's play. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also played the role of Benedick.

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 most financially successful Shakespeare films ever released. It was also entered into the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

Contents

Plot

Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon and his noblemen are visiting their good friend Leonato in Messina after having quashed the uprising led by Don John, the prince's bastard half-brother. Among the victors are the misogynistic and witty Benedick, erstwhile flame of Leonato's equally sharp-tongued and somewhat fierce niece Beatrice (who is something of a misandrist), and Benedick's "sworn brother" Claudio, a young count. Claudio has been thinking fondly of Leonato's gentle and lovely daughter Hero since before he went to war, and returns to find her as attractive as ever. Don Pedro, learning of his young friend's feelings, arranges the match at a party. As an anxious Claudio watches Don Pedro talking earnestly to Hero, Don John and Borachio come to him and tell him that they "heard [the Prince] swear his affection" and "[swear] he would marry her to-night." Claudio, heartbroken, leaves, but comes back when bid by Don Pedro to find Hero and the Prince waiting for him. Upon seeing his distressed expression, the prince asks, "Why, how now, count! wherefore are you sad?" Beatrice observes, "The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion." Hero then goes to Claudio and it is revealed that she, too, has been thinking of him in his absence. Claudio, overcome with joy and love, tells Hero, "Lady, as you are mine, I am yours." They then kiss, and their wedding is planned to take place the following week. Using the excuse of needing something to pass the time until the wedding day, Don Pedro decides to arrange a similar fate for Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, both parties being such “professed tyrant[s]” to the opposite sex, this match will take a little more ingenuity.

Leonato, Claudio and the Prince stage a loud conversation containing a fictitious account of how much Beatrice is in love with Benedick; all the while, they know Benedick to be hiding well within earshot. Hero and her gentlewoman Ursula play the same trick upon Beatrice. Each of them believes the story they hear about the other. In the midst of all of this good-natured scheming, Don John and his men have been casting about for ways to stop the intended marriage between the man who “hath all the glory of [Don John's] overthrow” and the woman for whom one may suspect he has cherished some tender feeling. The night before the wedding, his servant Borachio arranges to meet with Hero's gentlewoman Margaret at Hero's chamber window. John shows his half-brother and Claudio the rendezvous and makes them believe that they are seeing Hero in the act of infidelity.

Against the revelry of the evening, the constable Dogberry appoints a watch to keep the peace. The three hapless watchmen happen to hear Borachio bragging to his colleague Conrade about how he and Don John had finally succeeded in wrecking the wedding plans. They make the arrest and send Dogberry in the morning to fetch Leonato for the examination, but the old gentleman is in too much of a hurry to try to decipher what the constable would say to him. Amidst the confusion, the villain has managed to escape to parts unknown before he can get his comeuppance.

At the wedding, Claudio publicly disgraces his would-be bride and storms away along with all of the guests except for Ursula, the Friar, Leonato, Beatrice, her father Antonio, and Benedick. They all agree to the Friar's plan to publish the tale that Hero, upon the grief of Claudio's accusations, suddenly died. Beatrice and Benedick linger a moment, and wind up confessing their love to one another. In the wake of this declaration, Beatrice asks Benedick to do the one thing that will satisfy her outrage with what has just happened; she asks him to kill Claudio. He agrees, but it is with a heavy heart. Just after the challenge is issued, the story of Don John's deception comes to light, and the Prince and Claudio are sorely grieved for their grave mistake. Leonato forgives Claudio on the condition that he marry Hero's cousin on the next morning. When the bride is brought forth, she is revealed to be none other than Hero herself! They then profess their true and undying love for each other, as do Beatrice and Benedick when faced with written evidence (acquired and produced by Hero and Claudio) found in the pockets of each, Benedick's in the form of a song, Beatrice's in an unknown style. All are reconciled and Don John is discovered and promised punishment. The movie ends with the whole of Leonato's household dancing in the courtyard, with the newlyweds at the center of them.

Reception

The film received generally enthusiastic notices from critics, with most of the negative criticism focusing on particular casting choices, notably Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Michael Keaton as Dogberry.[2]

Main characters

  • Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) is a nobleman in the court of Don Pedro. He is very arrogant but shows himself to have a good character during the "wedding" scene, as he is the only man apart from the Friar who implicitly believes Hero. His pride does not allow him to admit that he loves Beatrice, but at the end of the play, Beatrice and Benedick agree to marry.
  • Don John (Keanu Reeves) is the evil brother of Don Pedro. His dissatisfaction with his own lot in life leads him to his attempts to foil the happiness of his perceived enemies. There is also an unspoken suggestion that he did once or does still have some kind of romantic interest in Hero. He conspires with his men Borachio and Conrade to ruin Hero and Claudio's wedding by casting severe doubt upon Hero's honor. When his plot is found out, he attempts to escape but is captured and imprisoned.
  • Don Pedro of Aragon (Denzel Washington) is remarkable for being one of the few "marriageable" men in the piece who does not get married by the end of the play. He helps his two friends Claudio and Benedick to marry, but finds no lady for himself. He believes, with Claudio, in Hero's alleged infidelity, but is earnestly sorry when he learns the truth.
  • Beatrice (Emma Thompson) is Leonato's niece, and Hero's cousin and chambermate. She is a strong-willed woman whose strongest trait is her wit and cleverness. Beatrice believes from the beginning that her cousin Hero has never been unfaithful to Claudio. Unable to challenge Claudio herself, she impels Benedick to challenge him 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.
  • Governor Leonato (Richard Briers) is the father of Hero. He loves his daughter but upon hearing the false news that she was being unfaithful to Claudio, he wishes she had never been born if that would mean that he would be spared the pain of her disgrace. He is party to the plot of saying that Hero has died in order to reunite Claudio and Hero.
  • Dogberry (Michael Keaton) is the local constable. He is not half so clever as he thinks he is and specializes in hilarious malapropisms. He and his men catch Borachio boasting about his involvement with separating Claudio and Hero and his men arrest Borachio and his conspiring friends. He ultimately saves the day by doing so.
  • Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) is a close friend of Don Pedro, and in love with Hero. He is rather gullible and naive. He does not believe Hero when she protests her innocence and casts her off, but later realizes his mistake and apologizes to Hero vehemently.
  • Hero (Kate Beckinsale) is in love with Claudio and is the sweet and only daughter of Governor Leonato. She is falsely accused of being unfaithful to Claudio on the night before her wedding. At the end of the play, Don John's plot against her and Claudio is revealed and they are happily married as was planned in the beginning.
  • Antonio (Brian Blessed) is the brother of Leonato and Beatrice's father. He is very goodnatured, but is deeply aggrieved by the accusations leveled against his niece.
  • Margaret (Imelda Staunton) is a rather worldly maidservant who is tricked by Borachio, and mistaken for Hero by the Prince and Claudio.

References

External links

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