A-Z Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

“Patch grief with proverbs.”

William Shakespeare

I interrupt this scheduled Shakespeare post to broadcast my (possibly unshared) excitement over the fact that North Korea has agreed to show Doctor Who on state TV. Any show better to break a dictatorship I cannot imagine, not because it tells people to bring down the government but because it encourages original thought and compassion and general awesomeness and perhaps I’m being overly optimistic but letting in science fiction cannot be a bad thing.

Anyway. Much Ado About Nothing.

Awesomeness: 9/10

Because…Benedick and Beatrice. Dogberry and the Watch. And a happy ending.

Colour: Gold

Date: 1598/9

Events: Don Pedro the prince defeats half-brother Don John in war. Don John is angry, so conspires to sabotage wedding of Don Pedro’s friend Claudio to Hero by claiming, and appearing to prove by swapping Hero for servant Margaret, unfaithfulness. As a result, Claudio spurns Hero at the altar, she faints, her angry friends pretend she is dead to make everyone sorry. The Watch overhear Don John’s co-conspirators discussing the deception and arrest them; the deception comes to light, Don John flees, Claudio and Hero marry. Meanwhile, the prince and his friends conspire themselves to trick Benedick and Beatrice, whose favourite mutual occupation is “a sort of merry war”, into confessing their mutual love and marrying.

First line: “I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina.”

Genre: Comedy

High point: The fraught marriage-scene at the beginning of Act 4.

Interesting fact: Dogberry reminds me somewhat of Nobby Nobbs of the Discworld series.

Joke: “He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! if he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.

Killed: Hero, but only temporarily.

Laughed at: Dogberry and his incompetent Watch.

Musical: Yes. Balthasar, servant to Don Pedro, sings, albeit badly.

Number of scenes: 17, spread over 5 acts.

Obscurity: 5/10

Place: Sicily

Quote: “Every one can master a grief, but he that has it.”

Role I’d play: Beatrice.

Stolen from again, nowhere in particular; the Hero/Claudio plotline is an old one, and Benedick and Beatrice’s story appears to be Shakespeare’s own invention.

Time: Around Shakespeare’s.


Voiced in my head by: Jim Carrey as Benedick. Why? I don’t know.

Would I see it in a theatre? Yes.

X: The Tenth Line: “I find here that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.”

“Yes? Hello? What?” (The Snappy Quip): “Comparisons are odorous.”

Z: The Last Line: “Strike up, pipers.”

Panorama: Inside North Korea

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

George Orwell

It seems like everything’s about North Korea at the moment. This Panorama documentary involving undercover filming on a tourist trip in that benighted country has been the subject of calls for it to be pulled from the schedule, which makes me even more pleased to have watched it, because there’s nothing I hate more than censorship.

Since the North Koreans didn’t actually notice John Sweeney was filming until he had left the country, they are more deluded than I thought, since he spent most of the programme talking to a camera in a very newsreader-y fashion which must have been very hard to pass off as the usual tourist obsession with capturing every single moment. Not that it makes much difference, because it should be obvious to every halfway sceptical viewer in the West that something is wrong even with the officially sanctioned visitors’ version of North Korea: the hospital empty of patients (“they’ve all gone to work,” says the guide. Yeah, right. Because hospital patients do that all the time), the generator factory with a power cut, the propaganda blasting out of every speaker in a distinctly Fahrenheit 451 turn of events. It’s kind of scary to realise that such a world does exist outside the pages of a book. And this is only the propaganda version: we get tantalising glimpses of the real North Korea in short bursts which are quickly silenced (“no photos! No photos!” the guides squawk hurriedly as the tour bus passes empty markets and barren fields).

As I said earlier, I’m glad that the BBC decided not to pull Inside North Korea. Because this sort of tyranny should not go unknown. The country is ruled by a corpse, for heavens’ sake. A nation that barmy could, one feels, do anything. Including blasting seven kinds of hell out of America – or, at least, trying to.

Doctor Who: Cold War

“We are expendable, comrades. Our world is not.”

Doctor Who

Doctor Who gets topical this week as Clara and the Doctor end up on a Soviet nuclear submarine at the height of the Cold War (as suggested by the fabulously original title of the episode). With North Korea gearing up to have a nasty argument with South Korea (and, quite possibly, the rest of the world too), presumably this is the BBC’s way of reassuring the British public. “It’ll all be fine if we just talk to them nicely! Failing that, MAD is our friend!” Yeah, right.

This being Doctor Who, the Soviet submarine also contains something unsavoury – an Ice Warrior from Mars (yes, really) who is essentially threatening to blow up the world. We know the submarine has nuclear weapons aboard because, in a textbook bit of info-dumping, the captain says “Prepare to launch nuclear weapons.” Surely there would be a codename for the warheads? Even if it was just “the missiles”? Somehow “nuclear weapons” doesn’t sound like something a military man would say. Too general.

There was plenty wrong with this episode, actually, info-dumping aside. For example, why does the Ice Warrior speak Russian? Why? I don’t think Ice Warriors have foreign-language lessons.

The reason for the TARDIS’ inevitable disappearance sans Doctor is contrived (it thinks it’s being attacked by the sea? Really?), but what’s even worse is where it turns up again: the South Pole. Right. So, with the whole Universe to choose from, it somehow miraculously returns to Earth, “an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet” “in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western spiral arm of the galaxy”, as Douglas Adams had it, and not only on Earth, but on land (which is a massive achievement when you consider that Earth is actually mostly water), and not only on land but at a significantly symbolic point on Earth?

Now that I find hard to believe.

And I didn’t find the Doctor’s attempt to persuade Fearsome Ice Warrior not to blow up the world very convincing, either. It would have been a cop-out if the other Ice Warriors had not conveniently turned up at precisely the right moment.

All in all, a disappointing turn of events after The Rings of Akhaten. This one, I think, was doomed from the start. And I’m not feeling much better about North Korea, either.