Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing and As You Like It 9781350388642, 9781349891337

Much Ado About Nothing presents a battle of the sexes in more ways than one: as both a lightning-fast skirmish of wits b

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Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing and As You Like It
 9781350388642, 9781349891337

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spelling of Jaques as 'Jacques' has been corrected throughout. [Ed.] 2. As You Like It, edited by the Rev. C. E. Moberly (1872), PP. 7-9. 3. C. A. Brown, Shakespeare's Auto6iographual Poem (1838), p. 283.

Algernon Charles Swinburne ( I 880) On Much Ado About Nothing If it is proverbially impossible to determine by selection the greatest work of Shakespeare, it is easy enough to decide on the date and name of his most perfect comic masterpiece. For absolute power of composition, for faultless balance and blameless rectitude of design, there is unquestionably no creation of his hand that will bear comparison with Much Ado About Nothing. The ultimate marriage of Hero and Claudio . . . in itself a doubtfully desirable consummation, makes no flaw in the dramatic perfection of a piece which could not otherwise have been wound up at all. This was its one inevitable conclusion, if the action were not to come to a tragic end; and a tragic end would here have been as painfully and grossly out of place as is any but a tragic end to the action of Measure for Measure. As for Beatrice, she is as perfect a lady, though of a far different age and breeding, as Cilimkne or Millamant; and a decidedly more perfect woman than could properly have trod the stage of Congreve or Molikre. She would have disarranged all the dramatic proprieties and harmonies of the one great school of pure comedy. The good fierce outbreak of her high true heart in two swift words-'Kill ClaudioY1-would have fluttered the dovecotes of fashionable drama to some purpose. But Alceste would have taken her to his own. . . . SOURCE: A Study of Shakespeare (1880), pp. 153-4.

spelling of Jaques as 'Jacques' has been corrected throughout. [Ed.] 2. As You Like It, edited by the Rev. C. E. Moberly (1872), PP. 7-9. 3. C. A. Brown, Shakespeare's Auto6iographual Poem (1838), p. 283.

Algernon Charles Swinburne ( I 880) On Much Ado About Nothing If it is proverbially impossible to determine by selection the greatest work of Shakespeare, it is easy enough to decide on the date and name of his most perfect comic masterpiece. For absolute power of composition, for faultless balance and blameless rectitude of design, there is unquestionably no creation of his hand that will bear comparison with Much Ado About Nothing. The ultimate marriage of Hero and Claudio . . . in itself a doubtfully desirable consummation, makes no flaw in the dramatic perfection of a piece which could not otherwise have been wound up at all. This was its one inevitable conclusion, if the action were not to come to a tragic end; and a tragic end would here have been as painfully and grossly out of place as is any but a tragic end to the action of Measure for Measure. As for Beatrice, she is as perfect a lady, though of a far different age and breeding, as Cilimkne or Millamant; and a decidedly more perfect woman than could properly have trod the stage of Congreve or Molikre. She would have disarranged all the dramatic proprieties and harmonies of the one great school of pure comedy. The good fierce outbreak of her high true heart in two swift words-'Kill ClaudioY1-would have fluttered the dovecotes of fashionable drama to some purpose. But Alceste would have taken her to his own. . . . SOURCE: A Study of Shakespeare (1880), pp. 153-4.

Comments and Critical Reactions before 1900 NOTE I . I remember to have somewhere at some time fallen in with some remark by some commentator to some such effect as this: that it would be somewhat difficult to excuse the unwomanly violence of this demand. Doubtless it would. And doubtlessit would be somewhat more than difficult to extenuate the unmaidenly delicacy of Jeanne Darc.

Georg Brandes ( I 895) O n Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare has taken the details of his plot from several Italian comedies. . . . Only for a much cruder habit of mind than that which prevails among people of culture in our days can this story provide the motive for a comedy. The very title indicates a point of view quite foreign to us. The implication is that since Hero was innocent, and the accusation a mere slander; since she was'not really dead, and the sorrow for her loss was therefore groundless; and since she and Claudio are at last married, as they might have been at first-therefore the whole thing has been much ado about nothing, and resolves itself in a harmony which leaves no discord behind. The ear of the modern reader is otherwise attuned. He recognises, indeed, that Shakespeare has taken no small pains to make this fable dramatically acceptable. He appreciates the fact that here again, in the person of Don John, the poet has depicted mere unmixed evil, and has disdained to supply a motive for his vile action in any single injury received, or desire unsatisfied. Don John is one of the sour, envious natures which suck poison from all sources, because they suffer from the perpetual sense of being unvalued and despised. He is, for the moment, constrained by the forbearance with which his victorious brother has treated him, but 'if he had his mouth he would bite.' And he does bite,

Comments and Critical Reactions before 1900 NOTE I . I remember to have somewhere at some time fallen in with some remark by some commentator to some such effect as this: that it would be somewhat difficult to excuse the unwomanly violence of this demand. Doubtless it would. And doubtlessit would be somewhat more than difficult to extenuate the unmaidenly delicacy of Jeanne Darc.

Georg Brandes ( I 895) O n Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare has taken the details of his plot from several Italian comedies. . . . Only for a much cruder habit of mind than that which prevails among people of culture in our days can this story provide the motive for a comedy. The very title indicates a point of view quite foreign to us. The implication is that since Hero was innocent, and the accusation a mere slander; since she was'not really dead, and the sorrow for her loss was therefore groundless; and since she and Claudio are at last married, as they might have been at first-therefore the whole thing has been much ado about nothing, and resolves itself in a harmony which leaves no discord behind. The ear of the modern reader is otherwise attuned. He recognises, indeed, that Shakespeare has taken no small pains to make this fable dramatically acceptable. He appreciates the fact that here again, in the person of Don John, the poet has depicted mere unmixed evil, and has disdained to supply a motive for his vile action in any single injury received, or desire unsatisfied. Don John is one of the sour, envious natures which suck poison from all sources, because they suffer from the perpetual sense of being unvalued and despised. He is, for the moment, constrained by the forbearance with which his victorious brother has treated him, but 'if he had his mouth he would bite.' And he does bite,