Historical Background

The Commedie of much A doo about nothing a booke was entered in the Stationer's Register, the official record book of the London Company of Stationers (booksellers and printers), on August 4, 1600 as a play of My lord chamberlens men (Shakespeare's acting company) and stayed (not published) without further permission, to prevent unauthorized publication of this very popular play. This quarto text, generally regarded as having been set from Shakespeare's own manuscript, was the copy used for the First Folio of 1623, which is lightly annotated, with minimal and mostly typographic emendation. Since Will Kempe, the great comic actor who played Dogberry, left the Chamberlain's Men in 1599, it is generally agreed that Shakespeare completed this play no later than 1598-1599. Although scholars have attempted to trace the play's roots to Ariosto's tragedy, Orlando Furioso, to Bandello's twenty-second story from the Novelle, or to Spenser's poetic work, The Fairie Queen, in truth, no play ever existed quite like this one, with its interwoven plots, the wit and verve of Benedick and Beatrice, and the highly inventive comic element of Dogberry and his watch, which gives the Claudio-Hero plot most of its vitality. Much Ado About Nothing is a subtler version of Taming of the Shrew, transposed from farce to high comedy, and it is the scaffolding upon which Othello is built.

Well known and often presented to packed houses before its publication, Much Ado...

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