Birds flying overhead hear the murmurs of the crowdgathered for a wedding of gentry. Shakespeare could never have planned the first scene of Act IV in MuchAdo About Nothing so well. The serene sky overhead symbolizing the beauty andjoviality of the occasion; dark rain clouds looming in the distanceforeshadowing the mischief to come. Despite his inability to control weatherpatterns, Shakespeare developed marvelous scenes which he displayed in his owntheater, The Globe.
How did Shakespeare portray the emotional aspects of hischaracters and their strife to his audience? How did he direct the actors andwhat did the open air stage of The Globe look like?Imagine yourself in London circa 1600, a short year after the completionof the Globe Theater and perhaps a few months after the completion of the playMuch Ado About Nothing, Act IV has just begun. Claudio and Hero are facing eachother in front of a simple, yet anciently beautiful altar, garbed in Elizabethancostume fit for the occasion. Hero is wearing a long white dress with trailerand high neck which is adorned according to the fashion trends of the time. Claudio has donned a royal looking doublet with silver trim and hose to equallyas majestic. Sitting on either side of the couple in ancient pews, shrouded insolemn silence, are Don Pedro the Prince of Aragon, Don John the Bastard,Leonato, Benedick, Beatrice and the attendants of Beatrice and Hero.
Facing thecouple, positioned in between them so the audience may hear him, is FriarFrancis wearing a simple white robe and golden cross, his only posessions. DonPedro wears a doublet ornately embroidered with golden designs. He is the onlyperson on stage looking finer than Claudio, marking his royal blood to all. Theothers wear fine doublets and dresses, although not decorated elaborately, toshow their respect for the wedding pair. Scene IV actually begins when Leonato stands and makes his brave butrespectful request to the Friar to be brief with the ceremonies (IV i,l1).
Knowing his duties, the Friar continues square-faced with the wedding by askingClaudio of his intentions to marry Hero (IV i,l5). Without hesitation Claudioresponds, “No. ” (IV i,l6) He means that he does not intend to marry Hero. Theaudience and the attendants of the wedding are slightly shocked. Murmurs runthrough the crowd of people standing on the floor of the theater asking whetherthey heard correctly or not.
Leonato stands up from his seat meaning to correctthe Friar by informing him that the Lady is to be married to the Count, and notvice versa (IV i,l7). As relief spreads through the audience, the tension iscleared. The audience knows of Don John’s plan to ruin the ceremonies of theday, but they hope his schemings do not come to fruition. As the audiencecontemplates the possibilities, building up more tension than was washed awaymerely seconds ago, Hero continues the scene with the affirmation that she hascome to be married to Claudio (IV i,l10). She bows her head in humility andgives her response to the Friar’s question, deeply aware of its meanig, hervoice soft with love and compassion. The audience is now waiting for the Friarto continue.
They wish that Friar Francis would hurry and be brief asinstructed by Leonato, even though he speaks no slower or faster than anyonenormally does. Francis goes on telling the couple to speak of any reasons thatthey should not be married, or risk their souls to eternal damnation (IV i,ll11-3). Claudio quickly responds in a cynical voice by asking Hero if she knows ofany such reasons not to be wed(IV i,l14). His quick jabbing remark sets theaudience on edge once again. Perhaps Don John succeeded in his vile plot tofoul the wedding! Conrade and Borachio may not have been simple drunkardsconfessing fictitious stories to one another in a dark alley.
The tension hasmounted and Hero’s negative answer to the Count’s inquiry cannot cut it back. Friar Francis’ repitition of the question, directed at Claudio brings thetension to a peak in the play. When Leonato stands again and boldly intercedeshe only succeeds in holding the tension at its current level. The audience iscurious what his remark could bode for the characters being wed. The play is atits climax and everyone feels the need to know how the scene will close. Claudio turns on his host crying, “O, what men dare do! .
. . What mendaily do, not knowing what they do!” (IV i,l18-9) Referring to Leonato’srecent remarks. The wedding attendants all jump to attention, franticallylooking around to see if they are not having nightmares. Benedick tries to savethe situation with a jest but even his remarkable wit cannot rescue thesituation.
Claudio’s idignance has surfaced and his iron will has turned toboiling water fitfully puffing into the air. Asking the Friar to stand aside sothat he may confront Leonato as the father of the bride, Claudio lashes out atHero. “There, Leonato, take her back again. Give not this rotten orange toyour friend. She’s but the sign and semblance of her honor. .
. ” (IV i,ll30-3)Turning to the audience to continue his defilation of Hero, Claudio unleashesthe vile plans of Don John, to run loose among his companions and the audience. Shocked, the audience can only listen more eagerly to the deliberations ofClaudio, Leonato and Claudio’s would-be bride, Hero. Leonato faces not only hisdaughter’s shame, but the shame she has brought upon his house. Valiantly hepersists in defending his daughter until he is forced to capitulate to the sheerimmensity of fact supproted by evidence.
Very little scenery is present on stage, but one feels the immenseemotional tension and confusion that is present in the play. Even the costumesare unimportant, because the actions and the words of the actors are the meat ofthe scene. Indignant voices, hands thrown into the air and violent wheelingaround are all examples of the actions that could be made by the actors. Thevital characteristics of this scene are the characters themselves. If theactors remain unseen throughout the scene, and only the characters shine through,the true emotions and thoughts of the scene must be felt by the audience.