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“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever.
One foot on sea, and one on shore,
to one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so
But let them go
And be you blithe and bonny,
Your sounds of woe
Into hey, nonny, nonny.”
Ah, William Shakespeare. The Bard. The muse of many. Stratford-Upon-Avon’s golden boy. The man who put humanity to prose and through his many poems, songs and plays revealed the nature of –
I had a feeling this would happen.
Now that I have your attention, let me say that I get what many of you are feeling right now. Chances are you were forced to read Shakespeare in your high school English class and you most likely found it the most dull indecipherable piece of literature to be praised as art since…well, take your pick of the other classics you probably had to read. Sadly, that’s the trap most English teachers fall into. Shakespeare wrote poetry, which is prime for studying and easy enough for most folks to understand, but he’s primarily famous for his plays, and plays aren’t supposed to be read like any other book – they’re supposed to be seen. Even I in my obsessive bookworminess had difficulty understanding what was really happening while reading Hamlet and Macbeth unless I read the side notes or my teacher put on film versions of the plays that we were reviewing.
I had a general grasp of how important the works of Shakespeare were and even had some interest in learning more about them unlike my bored classmates, but I was never quite able to appreciate the works of Will ’til long after I left the classroom setting. Much of that is primarily thanks to the videos of Kyle Kallgren and Overly Sarcastic Productions. Both reviewers have very distinctive styles – one an in-depth analysis that balances familiarity with the subject with pop culture playfulness, the other a speedy anime-drawn recap marked by a few snarky asides and often a gentle acoustic cover of a song related to the subject played over the end credits – but they both made me realize the reason why Shakespeare has persisted for over 400 years and is taught ad nauseum: his stories are universal. Be it love, war, vengeance, betrayal, magic, history, religion, family, legacy, the transition from youth to adulthood, gender and societal roles, or the very nature of being, the Bard has covered most every genre and theme known to man, and created some of the most popular stories and characters that have been revisited countless times by an infinite parade of directors, actors, cultures, and storytellers. One particular auteur was singled out by Kyle for revitalizing Shakespeare for the silver screen in the much latter half of the 20th century.
Kenneth Branaugh, the finest slice of Northern Irish ham you’ll ever see on stage or screen, and one of the most highly regarded Shakespearean thespians of our time, having both directed and starred in lavish film versions of Henry the Fifth, Hamlet, Love’s Labors Lost, As You Like It, a filmed stage adaptation of The Winter’s Tale and the movie I’ll be reviewing today, Much Ado About Nothing – or as I like to call it, the blueprint for every future rom-com ever made. There’s fanciful innuendos, a main couple and a smaller less important couple that we both want to see hook up, a black best friend providing both sage advice and comic relief, misunderstandings that could easily be cleared up in a matter of seconds if they stopped to think about it, and much of it hinges around a “will they-won’t they” plot that you could probably guess ends with “they will”. Branaugh can be beautifully subtle in both acting and style, but boy can he bring on the bombast whether we want it or not. In this case his over-the-top hamminess and obvious love for the material makes this outing a fun ride.
If you’re concerned that this review is going to be too highbrow compared to my usual work, there’s no need to worry. In some ways I’m on the same level as you guys. I confess that I’ve never seen any of Shakespeare’s plays performed live, I’m not very familiar with some of the language and phrasing outside of what little I remember from high school and some Youtube videos explaining select passages, and sadly my Cine-Kyle is still in the mail, but that’s never stopped me from enjoying many of the Bard’s works as seen on film (nor has it stopped me from trying to sound smarter than I really am). Once you understand the actions behind the flowery language, though, it’s pretty simple to take it from there. Never fear, I will be acting as your translator in my own unique way throughout this review.