Reading a play, novel, or poem creates an image in our minds that depicts how we see what we read. The characters come to life, we are suddenly in the middle of the scenery, and we begin to feel what the characters are feeling. All these images help us understand and get wrapped up in what we read. However, sometimes when these plays, novels, and poems are put into movies or pictures, they change. The actual storyline and characters themselves often stay the same but the way they are portrayed changes how we view it. For example the plot of Mucho Ado About Nothing is the same in both the play and movie, but Branagh’s depiction of the characters’ and scenes differ from how Shakespeare originally wrote them. A movie depiction of a character may be completely different than how we had imagined when we were reading. This is how I felt about Much Ado About Nothing. As I read the play certain images came to mind for certain things. I imagined characters a certain way. Yet when I watched the film by Branagh, many things were not as I had pictured. The differences in the characters’ personalities and appearances, the way certain scenes played out and the overall emotions that the film chose to exaggerate altered how I had imagined the play would be.
We imagine the characters in a play like Much Ado About Nothing to be like people we know. We picture them to look and behave a certain way. The differences between my idea of how the characters would be and how they were actually portrayed proved as a great example of how viewing the movie altered the play. For example, as I read the play I imagined Hero and Beatrice to be very different. Hero comes across as someone who is very shy and soft spoken when reading the play. Her language in the play hints that she is very polite and respectful. In Act II, scene I when the subject of marriage comes up, Beatrice mocks Hero for always doing what will please her father. Beatrice quotes Hero saying, “Father, as it please you” (II, I, 52-53). Hero cares deeply for her cousin, father and Claudio. She proves this by helping set Beatrice up with Benedick saying, “I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband” (II, II, 365-366). Through reading you can sense that Hero is very kind and genuine. This is similar to how she was portrayed in the film; however, in the film of Much Ado About Nothing she is a lot younger than I imagined. Hero looks like a young teenage girl in the movie, not a woman who is about to be married. As for Beatrice, the same spunky personality was shown in the play as well as the movie. The difference was that in the movie Beatrice seems much older and more cynical. The flirty undertone in her insults to Benedick more often sounded like genuine putdowns as opposed to her way of hiding her true feelings for him. For example, in Act I scene I, the exchange between Benedick and Beatrice seemed more flirtatious in the play than how it was shown in the film. “I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick, nobody marks you” (I, I, 114-115). In the film Beatrice sounds angry when she says this to Benedick instead of in a more playful tone. These were subtle changes that Branagh made to the characters’ in the film but they did make a difference.
The staging during the scenes and the emotions we expect from them are also very important when reading. With the play we imagine how it would be acted out, where it would be acted out and the kind of emotion the character would be saying the lines with. Of course, there will be differences when the play is turned into a movie since there are no stage directions; however, there were a few specific scenes that stood out to me. The first scene that played differently than I had anticipated was the scene at the masquerade party. In the play Don Pedro and Claudio devise the plan to disguise Don Pedro so he can talk to Hero for Claudio; however, in the film, Don Pedro was hardly disguised. To me it seemed perfectly clear that it was not Claudio. I thought it would be sneakier than how it was portrayed since in the play it seemed that Don Pedro was going to lead Hero to believe that he was Claudio. Don Pedro said to Claudio:
I will assume thy part in some disguise
And tell fair Hero I am Claudio,
And in her bosom I’ll unclasp my heart
And the conclusion is, she shall be thine
(I, I, 311-321). Since Don Pedro stated that he would tell Hero he is Claudio in the play, when I saw the film it surprised me to see how obvious the distinction was. Another scene that played out differently than in my mind was the wedding. When Claudio finds out about Hero being unfaithful in the play, the anger and hurt he feels is clear through the text however; in the film, this scene seems to be much more dramatic. Don Pedro practically has to hold Claudio back from attacking Hero and at the altar Claudio screams at Hero and acts very violently. Claudio says mean and hurtful things to Hero in the play, and in the movie these words are very dramatic. For example when Claudio says, “There, Leonato, take her back again/Give not this rotten orange to your friend” (IV, I, 30-33). I had imagined him being more hurt or upset and less angry during this scene. Leonato reacted similarly in the wedding scene when he jumped after his daughter because he was so embarrassed by her behavior, even telling her, “Death is the fairest cover for her shame/That may be wished for” (IV, I, 122-124). The ending was the biggest difference between the play and film. In the play everything just ends, whereas, in the film it ends with people dancing and singing happily around the town. I think this ending was better than the play because it brought more closure for the audience since it was less abrupt. By showing a ‘happily ever after’ ending to the film it helps the audience feel as if they have fully understood and enjoyed the entire play.
No matter how closely a movie may follow the plot or script from a novel or play, there will be differences between the two. The reason for this is simple. People want to see drama. Especially with Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, where many readers may not fully understand the story. The dramatic over exaggeration of certain characters and scenes are not because the director was bored with the play. Branagh understood that in order to fully make the audience understand Shakespeare while being faithful to the script, certain scenes and characters would have to be altered. Whether it is the dialogue, the scenes or the characters that end up changing, it always makes for an interesting comparison. At times we find ourselves loving the movie version and other times we hate it. In Much Ado About Nothing I loved the movie despite the fact that things did not always turn out as I had imagined. Overall seeing the movie helped me understand the play better as a whole.