I was first introduced to this play through Kenneth Branagh’s film version, and I hated it because of that stupid “Hey Nonny Nonny” song. It used to drive me crazy, since it was one of those songs that stays in your head and never dissipates. I remember once singing it in my head all day long—and I never knew the lyrics other than “hey nonny nonny.” ;) Having now finished reading the play, I now know all of the words, but at least I don’t remember the tune. :)
I have a love-hate relationship with this play. I absolutely love the burgeoning romance between Beatrice and Benedick, two individuals who had previously sworn off love and marriage, but through the crafty work of their friends, are brought together. I think more than any of the other Shakespeare plays that I’ve read this is truly a match between equals. Because of that I think this play deserves a special place on my favorites shelf. And I love Beatrice and Benedick’s little verbal sparing matches, which are slightly reminiscent of the heated interactions between Kate and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew—though here, they’re more developed than in that earlier play.
However, when I think about that “romance” between Hero and Claudio, I don’t know… something just doesn’t sit right. Even though Hero gets what she wants in the end, it’s not a satisfying conclusion. To me, Claudio just seems like a fickle jerk, whose affections blow with the wind. In the beginning, he professes love at first sight, when he meets Hero, yet is too shy to declare his intentions. He proves to be a jealous lover, easily persuaded and dissuaded by friends of his intended’s behaviors. I find it creepy, especially his decision at the end, which was made with no hesitation.
Personally I wished someone else would’ve piped in and said that he was in love with Hero, and was constant in his affections, even when Hero’s innocence was put into question. I was initially hoping for a Cyrano de Bergerac type ending, since there is a sort of Cyrano type scenario at the beginning when Don Pedro speaks to Hero on Claudio’s behalf. I wonder if Edmond Rostand might have had this play in mind when he crafted his own play.