I am writing about the post of Director in your upcoming production “Much Ado About Nothing” which has become available at your theatre. If given the chance to direct this traditional five act Shakespeare play, I would take note that it is a comedy with tragic elements and make sure that the two elements come together seamlessly. I will also take note of the main themes of the play, deception and trickery, the abuse of language, overhearing and characters judging other characters by appearance. Each individual character has varying stronger aspects of one or more of these main themes, for example Don John the Bastard uses deception and trickery throughout the duration of the play; while the watch is always using malapropisms causing confusion with other characters, but adds vital elements to the overall plot. Most of the characters follow stereotypical roles, such as Hero being a typical female heroine, not standing up for self and always doing as she is told without opinions of her own. There is also a more ‘serious’ theme to this play, the role of woman in Shakespeare’s time, which I will go in more detail with later.
To give an example of my directing skills I will look at Act 4 Scene 1 in more detail, as this is obviously a pivotal scene in the play. The accusation, when Claudio fulfils his intention of publicly shaming Hero; The plan, where Friar Francis explains his plan to pretend that Hero has died to make Claudio guilty; Beatrice and Benedict’s revelation, where they declare their love for each other.
This scene is a vital turning point of the play; it brings out the tragic element, which is connected to the main plot. The watch in the scene before are crucial to allow this scene to work. They overheard Borracho and Conrade discussing the plot to deceive everyone about Hero’s disloyalty. When they try to tell Leonato of their plan, Dogberry confuses Leonato so that he doesn’t understand because of his constant abuse of language and his malapropisms. Also the deception of Beatrice and Benedick to make them believe that they are in love with each other comes together at the end of this scene.
The first part, when Claudio publicly shames Hero when he accuses her of being unfaithful. The scene should open with a typical outside modern wedding, seating, an alter and flowers for example; guests should already be in their seats when the scene opens; the lighting should be soft, with colour correction to make the white seem even whiter and a little orange and red to make it seem like a summer storm is approaching. A few seconds after the scene starts, Leonato enters with Hero arm in arm, the ‘wedding march’ starts to play, all the guests stand up as they walk down the aisle.
When they arrive at the altar Friar Francis starts the ceremony in a very cheerful manner, maybe welcoming the guests before asking Claudio “You come hither, my Lord, to marry this lady?” Don John, Don Pedro, and Benedick are on one side while Beatrice and Hero’s ladies in waiting are on the other. The ceremony continues, lighting gradually getting brighter, as Claudio begins to make his accusation “Oh what men dare do! … not knowing what they do!” He should still be talking in a joking manner. As soon as he asks the Friar to “Stand thee by…” he begins to raise his voice and gain more anger, the lighting begins to fade, and there is a rumble of thunder in the distance. By the time he gets to saying “Sweet Prince…Give not this rotten orange to your friend…she knows the heat of a luxurious bed…” he has a lot more anger in his voice; this is vivid language that appeals to all the senses.
As the accusation and the argument of whether or not Hero is guilty of being unfaithful to Claudio continues, the audience begin to become restless, and the occasionally rumble of thunder becomes louder and louder. In the accusation Claudio uses numerous metaphors and smiles such as ” Give not this rotten orange to your friend. Behold like a maid she blushes here!” showing Claudio has obviously thought about this before. He also uses puns to get his point across “Oh Hero! What a hero hadst thou been…” this brings back the comic element, as this is a comedy, Shakespeare quite often follows a serious moment/scene with a comedic one to lighten the atmosphere.
At the point where Hero faints the storm should be right over head and at it’s loudest, as Don Pedro, Don John and Claudio leave the storm begins to calm, but we can still hear the patter of light rain in the background, at this point all the wedding guests have left while only Benedick, Beatrice, Friar Francis, Leonato, Hero and Hero’s lady’s in waiting are left. Leonato is furious at this point, as he starts his blank verse speech he should be shouting furiously as he wishes he never had a daughter “… Oh one too much by thee! Why had I one?” but by the time he starts using metaphors and imagery “She has fallen into a pit of ink, that the wide sea hath drops too few to wash her clean again…” there should be a lot more sarcasm in his voice. The rage in Leonato shows that his character is very two dimensional as he is quick to judge Hero and quick to believe Claudio’s accusations. When Friar Francis explains his plan the storm has completely gone, and we can hear bird song in the background, and as he continues Leonato’s expression slowly changes to one of more sadness than anger. After the plan explanation Benedick shows his point of view for the first time in this scene, “Signor Leonato, let the friar advise you…Yet by mine honour, I will deal in this…” this should be spoken with confidence and he should step in to the group surrounding Hero, as he has been outside the group until now.
When Friar Francis, Leonato and Hero exit, leaving Beatrice and Benedick alone the lighting should be full again as it was at the start of the scene. They walk around and talk to each other confessing each other’s love for the other “I do love nothing in the world so well as you, is not that strange?” Beatrice is more interested in the accusations made towards her cousin, Hero, though so as she speaks she begin to get annoyed with Benedick as he is more interested in their love. She speaks louder to get Benedick’s mind back onto the accusations, until he says he will fight Claudio as she asked him to, “Enough I am engaged I will challenge him…” As well as this Beatrice is angry because she cannot defend Hero as she is not a man, but she is also upset, as Hero has to be away pretending to be dead for a while. So, in this part Beatrice is constantly having mood swings, and just before the end she seems to be confused, but at the end all becomes clear. She should be constantly lowering and raising her voice because of this, and maybe stuttering just before the end, at the end her voice should regain ‘normality.’
Benedick has a major role in this scene. So I am going to focus on his character. He is a strong contrast to Claudio, he is not a romantic, earlier in the he play he is very cynical towards all aspects of romantic love “…I will live a bachelor.” His behaviour is the source for much of the comedy of the play, especially in the scene I focused on he lightens the heavy mood. He displays self-awareness and ironic self-commentary while learning several lessons about himself and others throughout the duration of the pay. His character is very three-dimensional compared to Hero or Claudio, he is the one who shows the inconsistency of human nature, and his character shows the ‘Mature understanding of the working of mankind.’
Overall he is witty, self-aware and cynical. In the scene I focused on his language he is very calm compared to everyone else, he is able to take a step back and look at the situation he immediately see’s that it is the work of John the Bastard “…The practice of it lives in John the Bastard…” He is present throughout the scene and key to it, even though he isn’t contributing to the main accusation or defence very much. When he is talking to Beatrice we are able to see his ‘true self’ he shows himself to be a loving caring man, who is willing to do anything for the one he loves (Beatrice) This is totally against his normal self. He is silent, when he would normally be commenting on every thing, he steps back from ‘the action, where he would normal be involved and he is horrified and unbelieving from the accusation made by his most trusted friend.
In the Elizabethan era woman were treated as second class citizens, this is because they believed Eve was responsible for the fall from grace in Eden. This is shown in the key scene as the men control the action. Even Beatrice, who usually has a say and is accepted by the men, can’t voice her opinion because she is a woman, and she gets quite upset about this. She portrays her anger to Benedick “Oh God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market place.” She is a very three-dimensional character, she has opinions and her own point of view; her mind is not controlled by men, or the plot. Hero on the other hand is a very stereotypical Shakespearean heroin, always doing what she is told and never having her own opinions. She never stands up for herself, even when she is accused at the wedding she doesn’t make any effort to defend her self, to reinforce her stereotyping she even faints at the shock of being accused.
In the original Shakespearean play this scene probably would have been staged without lighting or sound effects, the audience would have had to use their imaginations as there would be no backdrops or scenery, and there would be no actresses so men would have to dress up as women. This would have required a lot more skill on the actor’s behalf, as the only thing they would have had to aid their character representation would have been costume. The audience should feel tense at the beginning of the scene I directed, as dramatic irony means that they know that Claudio is going to shame Hero, but they don’t know how or exactly when. They should feel the anger from Claudio but also the dismay and shock from Hero, Beatrice and Benedick. When the Friar is announcing his plan they should be intrigued to how they will carry out. At the end of the scene Beatrice and Benedick revealing their love to one another should lighten the heavy atmosphere. There sympathy should lie with Hero throughout this scene, and they should hiss when Don John re-enters as they know it was him who set Hero up, again due to dramatic irony.
I hope you will consider my application and that this letter will help you in making your choice.