Here’s Where You Can Stream Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing

There may be a temptation when staging Shakespeare to unintentionally push one’s actors toward oratory and recitation. As Shakespeare’s language is so poetic and gorgeous, one might want to make sure that every syllable is heard, every moment of poetic rhythm communicated. Branagh understands that the poetry will exist regardless, and — throughout his various Shakespearean projects — has encouraged his actors to speak in their own voices. Washington, Reeves, Keaton, and Leonard — the film’s Americans — do not affect English accents, and speak their lines with a casual ease rarely heard with the Bard. What emerges from this approach is clarity. The characters become clearer, the relationships become clearer, the jokes become clearer, and the plot is laid bare and simple. 

For any youths struggling with Shakespeare, “Much Ado” will be a salve. It reveals that Shakespeare is not only easy but natural. The dialogue in “Much Ado” feels like witty people saying scintillating things in a clever way. Every actor is comfortable with the language and seems relieved to be speaking such gorgeous lines. It is the opposite of dry recitation. 

“Much Ado” was arguably the high point of the Branagh/Thompson collaborations. The two divorced in 1995, and each continued to make interesting, sometimes amazing films. Branagh would make a full-scale version of “Hamlet” in 1996, one of the best Shakespeare films ever, and Thompson would win an Academy Award for writing an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” in 1995. They would also both eventually dip into blockbusters, and they would both appear in “Harry Potter” films. By curious coincidence, they each remarried in 2003. 

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