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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: MUCH ADO Explication
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0355.  Saturday, 11 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Keith Richards <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 May 1996 12:52:58 -0700
        Subj:   Much Ado

(2)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 May 1996 15:46:45 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0348  Re: MUCH ADO explication


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Keith Richards <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 May 1996 12:52:58 -0700
Subject:        Much Ado

On Tuesday April 8th, P. Groves wrote, in response to F. Amit's Hebrewization
of _Much Ado_ , that "surely April 1st was weeks ago?" I think that this is a
poorly thought out and, frankly, insulting response. While I sometimes think
that Professor Amit goes over the top, her comments are always suggestive, and
she has always responded to my enquiries to her with a great deal of
professionalism and willingness to become involved in constructive debate.

I have at times been guilty of assaulting members of this list with
underformulated replies and polemics, but always privately (off the list). The
fact is, (as I have learned from painful experience), posts like this make the
sender, rather than the recipient of the criticism, look bad.

If there is a constructive argument to be made against F. Amit's post (which I
think there may be) then it should be made publicly. While I know that some
listmembers disagree with me on this point, replies of Peter Grove's nature
should be sent privately.

Keith Richards

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 May 1996 15:46:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0348  Re: MUCH ADO explication
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0348  Re: MUCH ADO explication

Though I agree with Bill Godshalk, Jeff Myers and Joseph Lockett's explanations
of the Don John line in question (that DJ is both pointing out the inadequacy
of euphamisms as well as slyly absolving himself from blame and further
interrogation here), I believe that this reading is only good on the "plot" or
"story" level of the play (the level at which such "close readings" as Harry
Berger would engage in would be condemned as too "ironic" by those he calls
"the new histrionicists"). Now, certain- ly Don John should be PLAYED (acted)
as Joseph Lockett suggests, but on another level, I'd like to consider the way
the language here exceeds the plot or story level. On this point, I find
Margaret Brockland-Nease's comments helpful. If, as Myers writes, Don John "is
lamenting the absence of euphamisms", he's also calling attention to the
euphemism that have been used throughout the play (by Claudio, Don Pedro and
Leonato), and especially in this scene, to reductively characterize Hero,
whether she's seen as "chaste" or not. On this level Don John's function (for
US), is as much as a minor character exposing (to us) the CRIME of Don Pedro
and Claudio as much as he is a "villain" on a plot level. In an attempt to make
this clearer, I want to take another look at the scene (4.1) up to this point.
The scene begins with Leonato saying to the Friar "BE BRIEF, ONLY TO THE PLAIN
FORM OF MARRIAGE". Aside from showing Leonato's HASTE (which I think is at
least as much to blame for the failure of the arrest of Borachio to come to
light in the previous scene as Dogberry's alleged bumbling), I would underscore
the words "PLAIN FORM" here. The valuing of "plain form" (whether of marriage
or or language) is something this scene turns on its head. Then there's
language confusion over the friar's use of words. Benedick, in line 20,
comments specifically on CLAUDIO's new use of language (interjections), a use
that had been alien to Claudio up to this point. Claudio's CYNICAL use of the
language he earlier in the play employed unironically, and unselfreflectively,
then occurs (contrast the obviously cynical use of "RICH AND PRECIOUS GIFT"
with "CAN THE WORLD BUY SUCH A JEWEL" in act 1) and accelerates the process.
Then he says "I NEVER TEMPTED HER WITH WORD TOO LARGE". And Hero's response, IS
MY LORD WELL THAT HE DOTH SPEAK SO WIDE", also deals with the idea of language
bursting the bounds of "chastity" (enforced chastity?). Earlier in the play, we
were told about how an ILL WORD can POSION LIKING. This is exactly what is
happening in this scene. It even seems that this poison becomes NECESSARY for
Claudio (and maybe Hero) to drive his liking to the name of love. What is
revealed here seems to be that his language had been TOO CHASTE throughout, and
the violence here unleashed, becomes the desperate measures needed in such a
situation, and mindset as Claudio's, and also serves to show why Beatrice and
benedick's attitude may be ultimately more balanced. By the end of the play
Claudio is not "redeemed" per se, but he does undergo a change. In fact, where
he ends is quite similar to where Benedick STARTED. Chris Stroffolino
 

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