How can Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" relate to modern audiences?
Everyone enjoys a good love story, or at least most people do. Even if one's name is Benedick or Beatrice, one might eventually conclude that all sexual bravado, drenched in barbed innuendo, is a mere denial of latent desires. At least, that's what many critics think about the Beatrice and Benedick 'side' story.
In regard to Claudio and Hero, however, we know that 'the course of true love never did run smooth.' Modern audiences know that any good love story is filled with initial conflict which resolves itself as the story approaches denouement. Even if we have not experienced drama in our relationships, many of us probably know a couple who are definitely attracted to one another, but choose to deny this attraction. In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare has chosen to address transcendent and timeless themes of gender conflict, infidelity, unrequited love, and the role of deceit in romance. As such, the sexual tension between Benedick and Beatrice is nothing new, and this tension is often highlighted in modern romances.
Additionally, the ambiguity surrounding Hero's sexual purity (due to the machinations of the sly Don John) plays upon the modern male's fear of female infidelity. In the play, Shakespeare also takes aim at the practice of deception in the context of love. When the masked Beatrice denounces Benedick to another masked man, she has no idea that the masked man she is complaining to is actually Benedick himself. Meanwhile, Don Pedro, masked himself, tries to woo Hero on Claudio's behalf. A modern audience can certainly relate to the idea of utilizing emotional masks to disguise certain perceived inadequacies from potential mates.
The relevance of Shakespeare's themes in Much Ado About Nothing is further highlighted in a number of adaptations of the play in modern cinema. Here are a few:
Joss Whedon's 2013 Much Ado About Nothing.
Dil Chahta Hai, the Bollywood version, loosely based on Much Ado About Nothing. This link also includes examples of modern movies based on the Bard's play.
With all the fanfare about romance, Much Ado About Nothing certainly lays bare all the maddeningly delicious challenges the pursuit of love entails in our modern world.
"Much Ado About Nothing" is incredibly relevant to today's audiences. Shakespeare addresses several issues, including the importance of reputation, the lack of respect for women's position in society, and the problem of misunderstanding.
When Hero is wrongly accused by Don John and Claudio as being impure and unfaithful, her reputation is completely ruined. Claudio, assuming he had all of the facts as told to him by the devious Don John, made an immediate judgement that was incorrect about Hero. At that time, a woman's reputation was all she had, and once soiled, she was rendered useless. In our current society, when someone is caught doing something most of us would consider distasteful, or is accused of doing something that many would consider "bad", their character is called into question and they immediately are judged or shamed despite people not having all of the details surrounding the accusation. This problem is timeless because human beings will always make quick decisions about people without knowing all of the facts.
As another example of the play's relevance, Beatrice voices the frustration of women who just want to be in command of their own lives. Women during Shakespeare's time could not choose their own husbands or do just about anything without the permission of their father or male guardian. Additionally, if women weren't married by a certain age, they were considered somewhat useless and a burden to their families, as if something must be wrong with them if they weren't able to attract a man. Although women have much more freedom today, they are still judged by society based on their attractiveness to men and generally have to work harder than men to climb corporate ladders. Many women share their frustrations on media platforms working to change these societal constraints.
Lastly, misunderstandings have been a problem for just about anyone during any point in time throughout human history. The "accidental" romance between Benedick and Beatrice was built completely on misunderstandings and miscommunications, as was the happy discovery of Borachio's plan to hurt Hero by Dogberry. As long as humans communicate in some way, shape, or form, there will be misunderstandings. That will never change. Therefore, this play will always be relevant.