Category Archives: William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Leonato

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The only thing any good parent wants for their child is to be happy and satisfied. The curve in the road comes when said parent has archaic ideas about their offspring does not followed the preferred path.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato, a wealthy landowner has one child, Hero. She is his heir and his whole world. He loves her and cares for her as any father should. Leonato has also in his care, his niece Beatrice. Unlike her cousin, Beatrice is not as pliant and more than willing to share her opinions.

When Hero gets engaged to Claudio, it seems that nothing will stand in the way of their happiness. But the wedding day does not go as planned. Accused of cheating on her fiancé at the altar, Hero faints and is assumed to be dead. When she wakes up, Leonato believes what has heard and gives her a verbal tongue lashing that is laced with disappointment and anger. He calms down when he is convinced that the accusations are nothing but lies.

Pretending that his child is dead, Leonato goes to Claudio and tells him that forgiveness will only come if he marries Beatrice. Claudio agrees, not knowing that his beloved is alive. The play ends with Hero “returning” to life and marrying Claudio, to the delight of Leonato and the rest of the characters.

To sum it up: In 2021, some would say that Leonato is has old fashioned ideas about men and women. Though it is obvious that he is a good father, he is part of a patriarchal society in which virginity is an unmarried woman’s most valuable asset. Even the hint of his daughter having sexual intercourse before saying “I do” is going to create all sorts of trouble. Though by the end of the play, all seems to be forgotten, this writer has to question why the men who condemned based Hero did not ask for forgiveness to the person they hurt the most.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Hero

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. In a patriarchal society, a women’s value is based on her virginity. If g-d forbid she is not a virgin and without a wedding ring on her left hand, her reputation (and in some places, that of her family) is in tatters. She is called all sorts of not so nice names and becomes an outcast.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Hero is one of the play’s protagonists. Young, innocent, and sheltered, she is smitten by Claudio and he is equally smitten with her. Unlike her cousin, Beatrice, Hero is beholden to her father, Leonato. She is also not so quick to make judgements about others and has yet to be exposed to the potential heartbreak that comes with love.

Claudio and Hero get engaged in a blink of an eye and if all goes well, will be married in a week. But trouble, as it often does, comes in the most inconvenient of times. Accused by her betrothed and Don Pedro of cheating on him at the height of the marriage ceremony, she faints. When Hero wakes up, Leonato excoriates her for being sexually active and unmarried. Believed to be dead by Claudio and Don Pedro, Hero returns to life when Claudio publicly takes back his accusation and agrees to blindly marry her, not knowing that she is still alive. When the curtain falls, they ride off into the sunset, with promises of what will hopefully be a bright future.

To sum it up: Hero is the moral center of the play. She is a truthteller, but innocent of the games the people play and the lies they tell. She is also stronger than she appears to be. She accepts Claudio’s apology and is willing to give their relationship another chance. While another woman may just decide that he is not worth the heartache, Hero trusts him and their love enough to put the past behind them. She also appears to forgive her father, which again for some women would be impossible to do.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Claudio

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. The first blush of young love is an experience that forever stays with us. That experience may also include believing whatever we are told instead of thinking for ourselves.

In Much Ado About Nothing, the audience is introduced to Claudio. He is young, naïve, and the protégé of Benedick and Don Pedro. Upon being re-introduced to Hero, the daughter of their host Leonato, he falls head over heels in love with her. She returns his love and they quickly get engaged. But there is a plot a foot to break them up before their life as a couple has even begun. Tricked twice by Don John that Hero is pretending to be in love with him, he believes that she has been unfaithful the night before their wedding.

Publicly humiliating her on their wedding day, he walks away from the ceremony. She faints from his accusations and appears to be dead. Instead of listening to his fiancé and questioning Don John, he continues (along with Don Pedro) to accept the lies he was fed. Then he is challenged by Benedick receives a thorough tongue lashing. Coming to his senses, he goes to Leonato to beg for forgiveness. In the end, Hero accepts his apology and they live happily ever after.

To sum it up: Love at first sight is wonderful, but logic ultimately must intervene. Claudio does not use logic. He quickly gets engaged, not really knowing the woman he is to wed. He also goes along with Don John, not realizing that both he and Hero are being used as pawns to get back at Don Pedro. Though he learns from his mistake and is able to walk into the sunset with the woman he loves, the question of whether he truly learns his lesson still lingers.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Beatrice

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When the one we love walks away, the emotional wound that is created by that loss does not always close quickly or easily. It sometimes festers, creating a wall to prevent future heartbreaks.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice comes off as a confident, smart mouthed, and distrustful of romance. When she meets up with her ex, Benedick, her response is to call him on what she sees as his bullshit. While everyone around them is enjoying their banter, they do not see that she is afraid of being vulnerable, especially in front of the man who she is not quite over. When she hears that he is in love with her, Beatrice loses her armor and becomes hopeful that their relationship will begin again.

Unlike her cousin, Hero, Beatrice is not willing to submit to marry whomever her father approves of. She will only walk down aisle if she can respect herself and be in an equal partnership. In her world, a married woman is legally the property of her husband. She has no right to property, to any income, or even to her own children. The only way to remain in control of her fate and maintain control of financial and/or material assets is to remain single.

The turning point for her narrative is after the aborted wedding of Hero and Claudio. Angered that her beloved cousin’s name and reputation has been blackened, Beatrice rages that the sexist and misogynistic ideas that have ruined her cousin. Though she is unable to challenge Claudio, she and Benedick walk into the sunset. She is no longer afraid of love and more importantly, in love with a man who will not force her to submit the traditional idea of what is it is to be a woman.

To sum it up: Being vulnerable is never easy. It is harder when the person we want to be vulnerable with is the person we love most. The fear of rejection is so prevalent that the immediate reaction is to put up emotional walls and pretend that the we are fine. Beatrice’s initial reaction to Benedick is hide her heart to protect herself. But she eventually learns that putting your heart on your sleeve is not a bad thing. We just need to trust our gut and hope for the best.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Much Ado About You Book Review

When life throws us a curveball, we generally have two choices. The first is to curl in a ball and let the grief take over. The second is to take a chance and try something entirely new.

Samantha Young‘s novel, Much Ado About You, was published at the beggining of the year. Chicago area thirty-something Evangeline “Evie” Starling has had it. After working for the same company for a decade, the promotion she has been hoping and praying for is given to someone else. Then the guy she has been seeing stands her up. Needing a change, she replies to an advertisement for an opportunity to temporarily run a bookstore in a small town in the northern English county of Northumberland. The package also comes with an apartment above the store. Entitled Much Ado About Books ( a play on the Shakesperean play Much Ado About Nothing), this lifelong fan of the bard leaves the US for a much-needed break.

What she finds is a new career opportunity, new friends, and an attraction to  Roane Robson, a local farmer who seems equally interested in her. But Evie is not looking for romance and tries to resist, knowing that giving in will result in another broken heart. But the more she tries to ignore the feeling, the more it grows until she finally has no choice but to give in.

What I appreciated about this book was the diversity of some of the characters and the subtle nods to some of Shakespeare‘s most famous and beloved plays. But ultamitely, the narrative is nothing more than a few notches above a Hallmark Channel movie. I have nothing against these films, but they are just a little too simple and predictable for me. The problem I have is mainly with Roane. He is a little too perfect. I needed him to be just a little more human and less cut from a generic romance novel.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Benedick

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. Love, as wonderful as it is, can be a bit scary. We want to put ourselves out there, but the fear of having our heart returned to us in pieces can sometimes lead us to lock ourselves away as a form of protection.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick is man’s man. A respected warrior fighting under the flag of Don Pedro, he gets along well with his fellow soldiers. But there is one area in which his bravado is challenged: women. That challenge, to be more specific is in form of his sort of ex, Beatrice. When they meet again after some time apart, they are quick to play a verbal insult game of “top that”. This leads to Benedick advising young Claudio on a possible engagement to Hero, the daughter of their host, Leonato.

At the masked ball, he begs his boss to give him any job that will send him away. But Don Pedro has another idea. He, along with Leonato, Hero, and Claudio, will make Benedick and Beatrice believe that one is in love with the other. That seems to go well, until the marriage ceremony of Hero and Claudio does not go as planned. After everyone else has left, they declare their love for one another. But there is still one obstacle to their happiness: Beatrice declares that if he truly loves her, would kill the man who left her cousin defiled at the alter.

Benedick takes up this charge and the culprit, Don John is brought to justice. The story ends with two weddings, Beatrice and Benedick (who finally publicly declare their love for another another) and Hero and Claudio.

To sum it up: Benedick is a man who loves completely and is loyal to those who love him in return. But that gets complicated when it comes to romantic love and the woman who is his equal, Beatrice. Their mutual past and the internal bruises that have not yet healed hide the true feelings they have for one another, but their hearts are revealed to create a happy ending for all involved.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Ophelia Movie Review

The good thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is the room to find a new narrative angle. The bad thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is how quickly it can go wrong.

The 2018 movie, Ophelia is a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.

Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Ophelia is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Halston Series Review

Every decade has its own unique style. In the 1970’s, there was one name that represented the height of women’s fashion: Halston.

The new five part Netflix miniseries, Halston, stars Ewan McGregor as the the iconic fashion designer. The viewer is initially introduced to Halston in the early 1960’s. His salon in New York City is besieged by customers after he designs the hat that Jackie Kennedy wears at her husband’s inauguration in 1961. We then flash forward to 1968 when the business has dried up. Despite being a talented designer, it appears that his once thriving career is in the past.

Then the 1970’s dawns and his wildest professional dreams come true. But as his star grows, Halston’s past and his demons begin to catch up with him. Addicted to drugs and pushing away even the closest of his friends, it appears that his genius and talent will be eclipsed by the shadows he can never get away from.

*Warning: the trailer above contains strong language and images of drug use.

The narrative is nothing short of a Shakespearean tragedy. This man is brilliant, driven, funny, eccentric, and devoted to his friends. Among them is Liza Minnelli (a fantastic Krysta Rodriguez) and the recently department jewelry designer Elsa Peretti (Rebecca Dayan). He is also selfish, full of it, arrogant, and thinks that he has all of the answers. McGregor is superb as the title character, painting a complete picture of a man who myth and mystique is still with us three decades after his passing. It is one of the best roles I have seen him play in a long time.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Halston is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Vandalization of Those Synagogues in NYC Will Not Change My Faith

Hate is akin to an insidious disease. It takes over you, changing everything about your world and how you see it.

Over the weekend, four different synagogues were vandalized in the Bronx in New York City.

Whomever these people are, if they think that this act will scare me into changing my faith, they have another thing coming. I could go on, but I am going to let two wise men speak instead. Their truths are more powerful than anything I could ever write.

Pin by Cheryl Harris-dowling on Inspirational quotes | Yoda quotes, Fear  leads to anger, Fear quotes

Though I am sure that the justice system will do it’s job, it may not be enough to change the perspective of the perpetrators. I say, drop them in Auschwitz for a night. Let the spirits of those who were murdered teach the ultimate lesson.

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Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet Review

Romeo and Juliet is one of those plays that we all know. The convergence of young love, hate, and violence come together in a potent mix that has been irresistible to audiences for centuries.

Last night, Great Performances aired a new adaptation of the Shakespeare play. Starring Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley as our iconic lovers, the play is set on a sparsely decorated theater stage.

This production is fantastic. Emphasizing the narrative and the emotions of the characters, it is one of the best re-creations I have seen in a long time. It also, in my mind, proves that one does need to clothe the actors in Elizabethan era costumes or film somewhere in Europe that looks like 16th century Italy to be true to the text.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Romeo & Juliet can be watched on the Great Performances website.

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