Shakespeare in the Digital Age

Editors' Introduction II

Shakeerah Fredericks, Zomayra Jack, Alice Leung, Barbara Rosa, Marielyn Vasquez


20 May 2015

Comedic Play

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play written by William Shakespeare.  It was estimated to have been written between 1598 and 1599 in England, although the play's first publication was in 1600. Shakespeare did not want his works to be published, but audiences in the Elizabethan Era wanted to be entertained and Shakespeare's work served that purpose. The great significance of this play is the altercations that compose the comedy became foundations for the tragedies of his later plays. Shakespeare's four tragedies, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth were all built upon the conflicts in Much Ado About Nothing. The plots he developed in the comedy were modified to fit the tragedies, which changed the ways in which readers understood and reacted to the character's experiences. This was a remarkable way for Shakespeare to keep exploring the same themes using different cultural backgrounds. New readers and familiar audiences of Shakespeare's work can relate the tropes and characters between this comedy and the tragedies. Much Ado About Nothing was a major step in the growth of creativity in Shakespeare's writing style.

The main plot of Much Ado About Nothing revolves around two young lovers, Claudio and Hero. During the midst of their love, Claudio was deceived in believing that Hero was not pure, therefore not fit for marriage. Claudio not only calls of the wedding but publicly announces to everyone that Hero is a whore. This embarrassment caused Hero to fake her death until her name was cleared. At the end Claudio and Hero ended up getting married.

The major themes in this play are love, communication, marriage, humiliation, and deceit. We want to show how these major themes connect with today's pop culture and how much of an influence Shakespeare still has on us today.  The theme deceit appears when Claudio was tricked into believing that Hero was sleeping with different men. This theme then leads to the theme of importance of reputation where Hero’s reputation was shamed when everyone present the day of the wedding believed she was unfaithful . The theme of disgrace was shown when her father believed the lies told about his daughter.

The group decided to use television shows, films, and songs, because even after many centuries, Shakespeare still heavily influences pop culture.  Media plays a big part in today's society. With all the options available in terms of a television shows, there is bound to be at least one show that will appeal to each audience. Anyone and everyone can have access to media as well.  If people watch their favorite television shows and see a connection between the entertainment today and compare it with Shakespeare then  it would make the audience want to pick up one of Shakespeare's work. We believe Shakespeare influenced on today's pop culture because of the variety of genres Shakespeare had with his play and we were able to incorporate these genres into entertainment for us.

In Act 1 of Much Ado About Nothing, Zomayra connects the theme of love and gender to popular culture television shows and songs. The tropes love and gender commonly appear in television shows, for example, Castle. The episode in question reflects a present day version of the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick depicted through flashbacks of the love-hate relationship between Beckett and Castle. In Act II, Alice connects the theme envy to popular culture television shows. She used the Hong Kong drama Eye to The Sky as an example of revenge in pop culture television. Don John was rather envious of Claudio as he was admired and his life was prosperous. Don John communicated many misunderstandings to Claudio leading him to have a rather miserable life. This connects with the television show as Szeto Sun is similar to Claudio, who had a good career and life. Meanwhile his brother Nik Hang, who was separated at birth, struggled to survive. Nik Hang was envious of his brother and caused many misunderstandings for his brother. In act 3, Barbara connects the themes trickery and deceit as Don Pedro tricked Claudio and Don Pedro into thinking that Hero is a whore just to break up Claudio and Hero's marriage. Treachery occurs in act 3 when Borachio and Conrad discuss what Borachio did the night before. He used Hero's maid to make it seem as if it was Hero with another man betraying the trust of Claudio and Don Pedro.  This connects to the play because in act 3 Hero tricks Beatrice in thinking that Benedick is love with her and that can also be a form of deceit. They are deceiving Beatrice because Benedick is not in love with her but they make it seems so. In act 3 Barbara connects tricking and deceiving by Don John with Claudio and Don Pedro into thinking that Hero is a whore just to break up their marriage. Another form of deceit and trickery but also treachery in act 3 is when Borachio is discussing with Conrad what he had done the previous night. He used Hero's maid to make it seem as if it was Hero with another man betraying the trust of Claudio and Don Pedro. The sources Shakeerah chose for Act 4 of Much Ado about Nothing relate mostly to the themes of honor and humiliation in the play. Hero is regarded as dishonorable to her family when Claudio reveals that she has engaged in sexual intercourse with another man, causing her father, Leonato, to turn against her. A women's chastity was taken seriously in Elizabethan civilization, and if she failed to remain a virgin until marriage it would bring dishonor to her family. Patriarchal society dictated how womanhood should be practiced , and should a female rebel against that, she would be humiliated for it like Hero was. This was the same fate Mulan was grappling with because she did not pursue the Chinese tradition of training herself to become a bride. Instead, she wanted to fight in the army in her father's place because he was sick and too weak to go into battle. Mulan was putting her family's legacy at risk by abandoning her duties as woman to be a heroine in her country.  Finally, In act 5, Marielyn connects the themes of disgrace and disappointment to popular culture television show Vampire Diaries. Her work demonstrates that themes from Much Ado About Nothing can relate to pop culture television shows. For example in Vampire Diaries, Caroline’s mother was disappointed when she realized her daughter was not the person she thought she was, similar to Leonato when he heard his daughter was a whore.

Our goal with our edition is to let people see the connection between pop culture and Shakespeare. The purpose of this edition is to express not only does modern art or modern day always connect back to Shakespeare and how he is still relevant in our world.  Hopefully, by using our edition it will attract a young audience who may not fully understand the themes or motifs in Shakespeare’s plays but will appreciate the connections made between pop culture and Much Ado About Nothing.  Shakespeare's work, although is beautifully written, is rather hard to understand due to the language.  Sometimes this can lead to people giving up on even trying to read Shakespeare's, but if they see the connection between today's pop culture with Shakespeare, they would give Shakespeare another chance.  We used references like images, movies, television shows, and music videos because we feel that it will help those better understand the similarities between the pop culture with our play but also with Shakespeare's works in general. Some of the themes both the references and play have in common are jealousy, which is prevalent in Don John, unrequited love between Beatrice and Benedick, and dishonor which is brought to Hero's family; these themes are some of the few that are present but play a big role in the play.  We feel as though everyone goes through one of the themes mentioned at least once in their lives. The ultimate goal is not only to show that individuals directly relate to the play but they can see themselves in the characters as well.

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