Much Ado About Nothing
'A festive play, but with a serious ring to it,' that is how Jack Nieborg describes the romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare wrote the comedy round about 1598-1599, shortly after he had finished the two parts of the history play Henry IV, performed in Diever in 2006. Apparently Shakespeare wanted to show life from the sunny side again.It has worked out superbly. Much Ado About Nothing is a well-constructed play, everything is perfectly in its place and the various narratives are intertwined ingeniously and at the same time easy to follow. Time and again the audience is surprised by unexpected twists, which, when considered in retrospect follow each other consistently. ''To me, the play is about a Cupid shooting his arrows wildly about him,' says Nieborg. 'It is quite fascinating to try and make a smoothly running performance out of such an apparent mess.' In his translation and consequently also in his production this smoothness will play an important role. 'For instance, take a look at the couple Benedick and Beatrice. They are constantly flying at one another, but the audience should realize that these pungencies are more play than reality. For, they end up together finally, so they could not have been so very unfriendly after all. They should not therefore be shown as two sulking, grumpy people. Their verbal skirmishes are intended to amuse the audience.' Next to these more or less ripened lovers there is this other couple: Claudio and Hero. Very young and madly in love. There too much fun is to be experienced, even though for some time, by some dirty trick, it is suggested that Hero has a relation with another man. Claudio is so upset by this that he repudiates poor Hero. But, don't worry, everything will turn out right in the end. What remains are the numerous characters that play their parts around these two couples: noblemen who never seem to understand what is actually going on, and down-to-earth, straightforward simpletons, who immediately understand how the wind blows. The scene is set in Messina, an important port in the Italian island of Sicily. On the stage the southern atmosphere will be clearly recognizable in the scenery. Many gardens, lots of greenery, many hedges and behind all this the house with its many rooms, windows and balconies. A wonderful collection of places for eavesdropping, for concocting little plans together, for pulling people's legs, in order to finally come to the conclusion that it was all much ado about nothing.Shakespeare once again held up to us the mirror of life.
Sicily … Spanish?
At the beginning of the play we meet Don Pedro, prince of Aragon. He is paying a visit to Leonato, governor of the Sicilian port of Messina. It is conceivable that Don Pedro has come to Sicily to see if everything is well in 'his' island. But, wait a minute, Don Pedro sounds rather more Spanish than Italian. And, Aragon, isn't that in Spain? Is Sicily Spanish then? Yes, it was at the time, but not any more now. Today, Sicily, at the southern tip of Italy, is part of the republic of Italy. However, from 1325 Sicily was part of the kingdom of Naples, which in turn belonged to Aragon, a mighty kingdom, which stretched from the Pyrenees as far as Valencia and Alicante and beyond. In 1479 Aragon and Castile were united, which in 1516 led to the Spanish kingdom as we know it now.
Shakespeare was born in 1564, so if he situated a play in the 'old' Sicily of 50 years earlier, the relationship with a Spanish prince doesn't seem so strange.