Much Ado About Nothing Film Versus Theatre Presentations
Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing is a witty play that is interpreted in many different ways for many different audiences. Branaugh’s movie rendition, compared to the Shenandoah Shakespeare Company’s play, have many separately emphasized points. If we look at elements such as use of space, costuming, and love relationships we find that Kenneth Branaugh emphasizes the separation of the military from the domestic which eventually heads down to the separation of men and women, while in the stage production, the director emphasizes the relationship and friendship between Claudio, Benedict, and Don Pedro.
In Branaugh’s movie version of Much Ado About Nothing there is much emphasis placed visually upon the military and the domestic atmosphere. From the beginning of Branaugh’s interpretation the clear distinction between the two groups is visually portrayed. The movie begins with Emma Thompson, Beatrice, reading aloud to her friends and family in a relaxed laid back setting. The first domestic scenes lay out the tranquility of Leonato’s home compared to the rough and public military scenes. The first military scene shows Don Pedro and his comrades riding up to Leonato’s house. The scene is visually pleasing with the soldiers striding up to the house on horses with their arms raised in the air in slow motion. A strong sense of military valor is established through the soldier’s actions, and the movie has already established a sense of military and domestic space, which the play did not capture.
The Shenandoah Shakespeare Company’s version of the play began very differently. There was no domestic or military atmosphere at all and the way the company chose to interpret the characters was extremely interesting. Leonato and his brother were dressed in business suits and the women were all in either colored dresses or skirts. The military men were still dressed in their suits but did not seem as out of place as they did in the movie. The distinction between the domestic and military space was not emphasized as it was in the movie and having all of the characters sitting on the stage at one time made the two groups mingle together as a whole. The company chose to act the play in this manner, but I felt that having the two separate groups made the plot more realistic.
The movie emphasized the two separate groups well when both meet after the first scene for dinner. The two groups come in from different sides of the courtyard and meet in the middle. The soldiers enter in a perfectly shaped ‘V’ with their uniforms on while the domestic people enter in an awkwardly shaped ‘V’ almost impersonating the military. The sense of form and power is established at this point in the movie. The domestic group enters the masquerade before the soldiers in an intermingling line of men and women with no established order. The military enters the masquerade in a perfectly shaped form allowing the audience to see the sense of order and conduct within the soldiers. The military are also wearing identical face masks so that they cannot be distinguished from one another, but can be distinguished as a group.
The play does not emphasize either the meeting for dinner or the masquerade as well as the movie. It allows the two groups blend in as a whole resulting in the soldiers having a lesser feeling of authority and power. The masquerade begins in the play with the characters about to dance and the wonderful sense of space is lost due to the lack of distinction between the two groups. Beginning the scene without the characters entering in separate groups takes away the sense of distinction between the groups and allows the soldiers to begin to blend in with the domestic atmosphere.
The opening scene of the movie showed the masculinity of the soldiers right away where as the play did not. This was easier to show because the movie allowed for the use of more space and props, which the play could not. Showing the masculinity of the military right away in the movie established a sense of power and authority that the play did not quite capture, which makes the humiliation of Hero