Much Ado About Nothing

Literary sources include Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) from his “Orlando Furioso” (1516) of which the English translation by John Harington published in 1591 would have been a good source, and from Matteo Bandello, (1485-1561) in his “Novelle” (1554-73) it being the 22th story. As well as Edmund Spenser (c.1552-99) from “The Faerie Queene” (1590), and Francois de Belleforest (1530-83) who wrote; “Histories Tragiques” (1568) Book 3, as well as George Whetstone, who wrote; “The Roke of Regard” (1576) in particular, Clauido’s rejection of Hero at her own wedding and some reference to Baldassare Castiglione, (1478-1529) who wrote the Italian court manual “The Book of the Courtier” (1528). The American author, Charlton Ogburn suggests that a play performed at court in February, 1583 entitled “A Historie of Ariodante and Genevora” was an early version of this play which was originally written by Edward de Vere. This is a problem or riddle play with two intertwined narratives where a lover is deceived into thinking that his beloved is false and where in another instance mutual contempt can be revealed to constitute the basis of sexual attraction. These themes that embrace the relative virtue of strength and weakness, although combined in one play are found singularly in numerous folkloric tales and dramas from an earlier period. Of which Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queen or Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso (1516 and then translated into English by Sir John Harrington-1591) are just two prime examples which, in themselves drew much from Matteo Bandello’s 22nd tale La Prima Parte de le Novelle. His work was translated into French by Francois de Belleforest (Histoires Tragiques – 1559-82). On the 12th February 1583 the Queen attended a performance of Ariodante & Genevra enacted by the Merchant Taylor’s Boys directed by Richard Mulcaster which might have been the inspiration later for Much Ado About Nothing. A line from that play by Don Pedro was taken from Thomas Watson’s “Hecatompathia”, the Passionate Century of Love. This volume was dedicated to Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford in 1582. A year later the Earl acquired the sublease of the Blackfriar’s Theatre which he transferred to his secretary, John Lyly who was responsible for the merger of St. Paul’s Boys and the Chapel Royal boy players. Charlton Ogburn in the Mystery of William Shakespeare (Cardinal Press) suggests that the Earl might also have been a contributor to some of the poetry. Indeed, a decade later in 1593 Watson published a volume of poetry (Tears of Fancy) that included de Vere’s “Who taught thee first to sigh, alas my heart…” as well as some parts of a poem from A Hundreth Sundrie Floweres.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Pathenogenesis” are as follows:


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