Monday, September 24, 2012

Claudio likes Hero whose dad is Leonato who's freinds with Don Pedro....


I think Prof. Mulready’s disclaimer that the relationships between these characters is important BUT confusing is entirely accurate. Their names are what confused me the most, because they're all so familiar sounding. As I was reading Act I and II I found myself stumbling a bit as characters were reading their lines. Many times I had to take a minute to remember who was who. After I finished reading I took another look at the character list and realized just how precise and calculated Shakespeare was when he named his characters. He clearly planned on his audience being confused by their names. I really loved the dynamics of the names and how they played off each other. I think once I figured out a little mnemonic key, the relationships made a little more sense. To me, at least.
Don Pedro has come back to Messina from the war. He is reunited with his old friend Leonato, whose names share a similar ending. With Pedro is Claudio and Benedick. Claudio also shares a similar name to the elder men, but his name is even more significant in its relation to the name of the women he loves—Hero, who is Leonato’s daughter. When Antonio, Leonato’s brother comes into the play, the names become all the more easy to follow, almost like the ending in their names represent their team. Benedick seems to throw a wrench in this theory, except that his character has a unique relationship with Beatrice, who name nearly resembles the female version of his. This is significant because these two characters are nearly mirror images of each other in personality. My theory doesn’t necessarily work when I read about Don Pedro’s brother, Don John (even these two 'teams' are conncected by 'Don'), and his cohorts because of their varied names, but I figure if I keep one team straight, that will help me identify the other.
The audience’s confusion in differentiating the names of the characters becomes a visual confusion, when in the play the characters put on masks on and pretend to be other characters, often for dubious reasons. I find that parallel so clever and entertaining; that the character’s names would confuse the reader/audience and that their very identities would become confusing to themselves and others in the play.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that the similar-sounding names of characters in Shakespeare's plays lead to the audience's confusion, and I'm sure it's intentional on Shakespeare's part. What I always keep in mind, however, is that these plays were meant to be performed and not just read, so connecting an actor's or actress's face to a particular character name would certainly help to make clear who's who. It is interesting to know what the characters' names mean as well as how they correlate to one another. In Much Ado about Nothing, Don John's name confused me most; I can't help but think of Don Juan when I hear Don John, though I'm not sure is Shakespeare would have known anything about the Don Juan legend (El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra by Tirso de Molina, the first written version of the Don Juan legend, was published in 1630, 14 years after Shakespeare's death).

Christine Richin said...

I think this concept of confusing names definitely taps into Shakespeare’s compulsive obsession with role-switching but even more so into his passion for exploring and creating convincible social dynamics for the relationships between his characters/people in general. So far, I don’t think I have read one play by Shakespeare in which all the characters are not intimately interwoven with each other. In a way (even though all these connections are initially confusing) I think he is really trying to help get us to understand what fuses all the different characters together. We already know he was famous for his specificity in language, I wouldn’t put it past him to name each one of his characters deliberately for the purposes of building a foundation for the kinds of relationships that are responsible for driving the play.

Cyrus Mulready said...

It's a great insight that the confusion over names is linked to the problems of identity within the comedy. If we think about Benedick and Beatrice, for instance, their names having a similar meaning points to (perhaps) the similarities between the two of them that eventually draw them together. Christine puts this nicely in her comment--that characters are often shown to be "intimately interwoven" in these plays.