Shakespeare must have come across another great feisty female star around 1599, for this was the time he created Portia in Merchant of Venice and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. This is a lot more enjoyable romantic comedy than Taming of the Shrew or Loves Labor Lost, although it has elements of both: a squabbling couple, three male friends who get up to romantic adventures, Italian setting, etc. It’s full of good nature and fun, with plenty of action and a wonderful romantic pairing in Beatrice and Benedick. I’m surprised they haven’t adapted this into a teen film yet (surely there’s a script doing the rounds somewhere).
It’s misogynistic – look at the treatment of poor Hero when she is accused of adultery, not only from Claudio but also her dad (at least dad doesn’t kill her, like Titus). Some tidbits: Beatrice was Hero’s bedfellow for twelve months (maybe that’s why Beatrice took so long to get married; once Hero decided to tie the not she gave in. You could argue Beatrice doesn’t like Benedict at all and only goes along with it to get him to kill Claudio; Beatrice and Benedick go very quickly from “I love you” to “please kill your friend for me.”). The character of Don Pedro is interesting- he’s keen on Beatrice, but gets snubbed; you’re never really sure what his true motivation is. The mystery is resolved quite quickly by Dogberry; I think we miss out not seeing the fate of Don John, the villain. Claudio thinks Hero is dead, and when he realises his mistake he agrees to marry her cousin - only to find out Hero is alive. (Again, a Friar is involved in faking a death.)