Seminal Romantic Comedy (05:13)
Actress Helen Hunt credits Shakespeare and “Much Ado About Nothing” with creating one of Hollywood’s go-to genres: the romantic comedy. She describes the story’s central couples—Benedick and Beatrice, and Hero and Claudio—and what she loves about Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film version. She has played Beatrice twice and wants to talk to other actors to talk about their experiences with the play.
Main Plot and Source Material (03:36)
Hunt begins her search in the town of Shakespeare’s birth: Stratford-upon-Avon, England. She is surprised to learn that the Benedick-Beatrice story line is not “Much Ado’s” main plot and that the Claudio-Hero plot is borrowed from a well-known, Renaissance-era story by Italian writer Matteo Bandello.
Beatrice and Benedick (03:31)
Beatrice and Benedick don’t have anything nice to say to each other at the beginning of the play, hinting at a past fling gone wrong and setting up their love-hate dynamic. Hunt talks to Tom Irwin, the Benedick to her Beatrice in 2010.
Inspiration for Beatrice (03:37)
Hunt visits Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare and members of his family are buried. Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust suggests the playwright’s daughter, Susanna, may have inspired Beatrice and other strong, female characters in his work. Hunt revisits Dame Maggie Smith’s BBC portrayal of the character.
Hunt Visits Globe Theatre (05:26)
The last time the historic theater put on a production of “Much Ado About Nothing” was in 2011. Hunt visits director Jeremy Herrin and actors Philip Cumbus and Charles Edwards (the production’s Claudio and Benedick). Actors Edward Bennett, Michelle Terry and Eve Best also weigh in on the play’s lead roles.
"Plain-Dealing Villain" and Gulling Scenes (12:20)
Historian Gail Kern Paster discusses the play’s “plain-dealing villain,” Don John, who hatches a slanderous plot to split up Hero and Claudio. Hunt revisits the play’s iconic “gulling scenes” during which Beatrice and Benedick overhear conversations that expose their true feelings for one another.
Uncomfortable Wedding (08:02)
Dogberry and the Watch fail to thwart Don John’s evil plan, leading to what Hunt calls “maybe the most uncomfortable wedding in any play ever.” Actors Philip Cumbus, Oni Uhiara, Tunji Kasim and others revisit this iconic scene during which Beatrice demands extreme justice for Hero.
Claudio's Redemption (06:14)
The play is much closer to tragedy than comedy at the beginning of the fifth act; Don John’s plot is exposed, but Claudio thinks Hero is dead. Hunt and others describe Claudio’s redemptions and how Shakespeare overcomes “a stunning shift in tone.”
Happy Ending (04:57)
Benedick nearly blows it as the play draws to a close by asking Beatrice to declare her feelings publicly; but they can’t hide how they feel, which is exposed by love poems they’ve written about one another. Hunt and Irwin contemplate whether they could play the contentious lovers again.
Credits: Much Ado About Nothing with Helen Hunt (01:01)
Credits: Much Ado About Nothing with Helen Hunt
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