Tag Archives: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado: Comedy and Marxism


I gave a short lecture as an extension exercise for y11…


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Much Ado: Deceit planning


One of the joys of working in such a strong department as I do is finding evidence of the work left behind.  This is Miss Boyle’s classroom wall this morning.  I attach a PDF copy for closer scrutiny. Thank you.


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MAAN: on Comedy and Marxism

I am due to give a talk for Year 11 next term. It is a MAAN lecture and I want to move beyond the basic plot retrieval and character sketch mode…


There is a screencast and I have covered this material before in some of the earlier posts on the blog…

Still, I hope it is useful

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Knowledge Organiser MAAN for KS4

After the brilliant blog post by James Theobald here, I am sharing my Knowledge organisers as I make them… I will not share his – follow the link for many, many more, and I will add mine to his collection.

Here is Much Ado for KS4



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Setting at IGCSE: MAAN and TKAM


A screencast to look at the approach to an essay about setting at IGCSE

The youtube link to the department channel:

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Writing a character essay at KS4

This post considers a technique for writing about character at KS4 for IGCSE or GCSE.  It takes a straightforward question: “How is the character of ….. represented?” and applies a 10 minute plan to produce an essay.

The video screencast is on the department YouTube channel here

The powerpoint I will use to teach this in class is here:

character 10 min plan

I hope it is useful.  The focus is on Benedick in MAAN but the technique is widely applicable.


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Setting in TKAM and MAAN

A short revision lesson on the two set texts for the Year 10 exams later this summer.

setting in TKAM

other setting links can be found here:https://jwpblog.wordpress.com/?s=setting

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2 lessons: planning round table

Sound files of two lessons with year 11 discussing aspects of TKAM and MAAN.

courage in MAAN, suffering in TKAM, Boo Radley, friendship in MAAN…


A few boys missed these lessons and these are for them to catch up from as study leave begins… help yourselves and feel free to use the reply thread to begin a conversation.

Lesson 1:

Lesson 2: 

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The theme of friendship in MAAN

Again, this question comes from the Edexcel IGCSE paper for January 2016.  And very interesting it is too.  Probably most students want to move away from friendship towards other more obvious themes such as honour and noting and try to engage from there, but I feel the theme does stand up on its own.

1: I want to establish an arc of friendship from 1.1 to the end in 5.4 Certainly 1.1 is all about friends – Leonato and Pedro have obviously known each other for a while and whilst Leonato can be seen as sycophantic, there is genuine friendship between them, as there is between Leonato and his niece, Beatrice, who is given full licence to display her wit and who is treated equally well by Pedro.  Into this mix comes Benedick and Claudio – best friends and the whole scene reeks of happy times and friendship – with the exclusion of Don John.  By the end of the play, friendship reigns again and even though Pedro is somewhat removed form the atmosphere of rejoicing, Benedick’s instruction to “get thee a wife” could be seen as some form of an attempt at reconciliation.  He has no idea that Don Pedro had once proposed to Beatrice, of course.

So friendship can be seen as surviving trials and tribulations.  Time to look closely at a few friendship groups.

2: Leonato and Pedro: these old friends get on well and represent a wealthy older generation whose power is derived from status at birth and wealth.  They seem well attuned to one another and sufficiently close for Pedro to stake his reputation on the marriage of Hero to Claudio.  So close is the friendship that Leonato is minded to believe Pedro over his own daughter once John’s plot has been put into action.  Only the Friar can persuade him otherwise at this point and Leonato’s courageous challenge to Claudio is the low point of this friendship.  But it does not break.  By the end all are reconciled and forgiven and the pair are friendly again.  Benedick seems to have control and Pedro is something of an outsider, perhaps indicating that though friendship has survived, the old social order is creaking somewhat.

3: Claudio and Benedick undergo the same trajectory, though if Beatrice is to be believed, this was always going to happen due to Benedick’s appalling record of loyalty.  They are close in 1.1, teasing each other, yet there is something unkind and selfish in Benedick’s response to Claudio’s first declaration of his love for Hero.  This is freindship but it seems to be on Benedick’s terms.  In 3.2 the boot is on the other foot with Claudio joining forces with Pedro to tease Benedick mercilessly about falling in love.  In 4.1 the friendship is ended and in 5.1 Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel – he is pained by this and his cry in 4.1: “not for the wide world” shows the pain he feels at having to challenge his friend in this way.  Claudio and Pedro mistake Benedick’s arrival in 5.1 for that of their old friend and are surprised.  Benedick is coldly formal to Pedro and challenges “Lord Lackbeard” appropriately.  by 5.4 they are reunited, though there is an underlying tension – “I did thought to have beaten you” between them and one senses that the friendship will not be as carefree as it once was.

4: The gulling scenes are perhaps the most carefree examples of friendhsip in the play, yet we should recall Balthazar’s warning song that “men are deceivers ever”, is found in 2.3 and casts a darker note to the scene than one based simply on the gulling taking place.  Still this is a near as the play comes to genuine fun and we should celebrate the scenes which help to heighten the fun prior to the shock of the wedding morning.  A similar scene is 3.5 when Hero is given her one and only scene of command in a room of excited women – including Margaret, the woman and friend who has betrayed her.  This scene is complex when looked at through friendship!

5: Hero and Beatrice are true friends and they survive – the one supported by the other through think and thin.  The girls share their hopes and fears throughout the play and it is beatrice who sets in motion the eventual rehabilitation of Hero by her staunch refusal to countenance her cousin’s infidelity.  An aside – where did they both spend the night?  Beatrice says she was not with Hero, but Hero cannot have been in her bedroom for obvious reasons…

So friendship seems to span the play, framing the events of the middle section and surviving relatively unscathed.  What is Shakespeare saying here?  I find it interesting that the female friends are the strong ones and that the male friendships are so prone to breaking.  I wonder if there is a message here.  Beatrice has so many characteristics of the Queen that this might be a message about her and her loyalty to friends when so many courtiers are scheming behind her back.  She stands tall and proud.  Who knows.  In short, friendship survives when one least expects it to do so, and that is worthy of note in this play about noting!


The sound file of a discussion lesson can be found here:




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Who is the most courageous character in MAAN?

This question comes from the January 2016 Edexcel IGCSE paper. It is unusual because it is so open to individual interpretation and possibly comes as a result of having asked all other available combinations of questions in previous years. I like it because there really is no right answer and as long as focus is clearly on character rather than event there is ample opportunity to develop ideas and to compare characters.

In order to discuss it with Year 11, I am gathering my thoughts here:

I want to consider 2 aspects of courage in the main: Moral and Physical courage.

I will begin with Characters in order of appearance – no other logic being used here.

Messenger: Low on both counts – not involved in the fighting as a messenger and can’t wait to get out of the skirmish of wit that Beatrice so willingly begins.

Beatrice: Physical courage. Beatrice is not a fighter, due to her gender, but she is clear in 4.1 that she would be if given half a chance – “I would eat his heart in the market-place”. She never gets the chance.
Moral courage she has in spades: She is courageous enough to admit in public that all her bravado is in vain and that she loves Benedick. Prior to this it is her advocacy of her cousin’s innocence which enables the Friar to intervene on Hero’s behalf. In the context of the play she shows remarkable courage when she refuses Don Pedro’s proposal – even having the presence of mind to turn up so many well chosen images relating to clothes that he seems not to be offended by such an honest breach of court etiquette. She is driven by a wish to uphold honour and though she can’t fight, she makes Benedick realise his own honour and challenge Claudio to a duel.

Benedick: As discussed above he finds his moral and physical courage in 5.1 when he challenges Claudio, having been tested in 4.1 by Beatrice on this matter. This is especially courageous since a duel may well have meant death to either party and also because it would have removed him from “society” for ever. Prior to this, if Beatrice is to be believed in 1.1 he might not be the most courageous soldier, though students should compare her boast to “eat all of his killing” with the messenger’s slightly bemused ” a good soldier too, lady”. Whatever the case, he gets a chance to show genuine physical courage and he does not disappoint. It is clear from Beatrice in 1.1 that moral courage is not his strong suit – he always ends “on a jade’s trick” after all- but as he develops through 2.3 and 3.2 he shows a range of courage in tricky social situations which seem to suggest that he will “come good”. He is clearly terrified of seeing Beatrice in 2.1 after the humiliation of being called the “prince’s jester”, yet he is courageous enough in 4.1 not to side at once with Pedro and Claudio during the wedding. From this point his courage grows, fired by love until he runs the show at the very end.

Hero: Poor wronged Hero has little chance to show her courage. Her moral courage does show itself by the end of the play when she emerges triumphant from the grave to take Claudio’s hand, but to many 21st Century viewers, this is not courage, so much as a failure to do the really courageous thing and tell him to lump it. At the wedding she seems to respond to threat by total collapse and gets no chance to show much courage of any sort because she is in a swoon. Her arranged marriage is simply too easy and Beatrice’s advice to only accept a husband “if he please me” is not needed because Claudio does please her.

Claudio: Physical courage he has over and above all: “in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion”. he is a proven soldier at a young age. A true hero. His moral courage is less certain. Beatrice teases Benedick about his fickle attitude to friends, but Claudio, it seems, utterly lacks the courage of his convictions, swinging from melancholy to joy and back again at the drop of a hat. For me his true lack of courage is seen in his inability to stand up for the woman he loves and to resist Don John and Don Pedro once they have made their decisions. It is not courageous to vow to “shame” someone publicly for a perceived fault without seeking to gather any real evidence. He accepts the duel grudgingly and is remorseful by the end, but courageous? NO. Neither he nor Hero are meant to be courageous – their roles are the classical archetypes and do not develop beyond that point. That is where B&B come in.

Leonato: Although too old to fight and although he is presented until 5.1 as an obsequious sycophant around wealth and status, Leonato does find his courage when the honour of his daughter is at stake.. Socially his challenge of Claudio is highly significant and would probably have resulted in death. It may be late, but he finds his courage, helped by Antonio whose indignant wrath in 5.1 is one of the joys of the whole play.

Don Pedro: Is not a courageous man. A character used to getting his own way due to his rank and wealth and who rarely needs to see life through any other lens. his regular use of indicative tenses when arranging Claudio and Hero’s marriage is as clear indicator of his expectation that all will be as he wishes as any we could find – “I will break with her father and thou shalt have her”.

His brother Don John (the bastard) is much more interesting. Definitely courageous in challenging his brother in war prior to the play and seeking to address the unfairness of society, it is a moot point whether his continuation of the plot is courageous within the play. Certainly his fleeing once the truth is known is cowardly in the extreme. Courage in deceit is hard to express and I do not find him courageous even though he is battling against society itself and facing huge odds.

The Friar is courageous to halt the wedding and risk the wrath of Leonato, his employer, but from this point he becomes a voice of sanity and sagacity rather than a voice of courage.

Dogberry and the watch: Little evident courage on a physical scale here, but then they do “comprehend” the miscreants. This is a brave act and is carried out swiftly and efficiently. I am not convinced that Dogberry is brave when he tries, but fails, to alert Leonato – that is his job after all. Whilst I will happily argue that Dogberry represents a low social order which can challenge the highest in a bid to alter the hierarchy of society, it seems to me that this is done as part of the comic necessity of plot, rather than from any desire to show him as a secretly courageous man.

So my essay would focus on Benedick and stress the way in which he develops courage, both moral and physical, as the play moves on. I might bring in other characters as contrast, but would not move far from this idea.

Others will not agree.

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