I must have been around 17 years old and was in the audience on a school trip when Maggie Smith's Beatrice spoke these words to Robert Stephens' Benedict.
A pause and a silence that you could have cut with a knife.
As a comedy, Much Ado about Nothing has a dark side. The male rage and vitriol (including that of her much-loved father) heaped upon Hero after her faithfulness is questioned, for one thing. It reminded me of present day newspaper stories about honour killings. Shakespeare did seem to have a fixation on cuckoldry and you wonder (well I do) whether he subscribed to the attitudes he bestows on some of his male characters.
Then I think that he has to have the benefit of the doubt. Any man who can create a such a human, stroppy Beatrice must be all right. She and Benedict are equals, each gradually dismantling their own defences against the possibility of love (with a little help from their friends of course).
Much Ado came to an open air performance in our town last week courtesy of a touring theatre company. Four men and two women, covering several roles each (Beatrice was also Dogberry!). It was played for laughs and the goal was entertainment, text interspersed with asides and banter with the audience. We were eating out of the actors' hands after the first two minutes for they were genuinely funny. A relaxed, enjoyable evening but somehow the light/dark qualities of the play stood out all the more because of it.
Beatrice and Benedict will be OK. Claudio and Hero are heading for the divorce courts.
The night was dark and close and warm. I was the only one walking home, but this isn't a problem here. Houses and gardens. Trees. High hedges. A stream. A pub with drinkers sitting in the gardens, talking and laughing. Several cars went by, then for the last ten minutes, silence. Just the sound of my own steps. Friends were unavailable or away and I was glad I had pushed through reserve and inertia to go to the play on my own - not something that comes easily however often I do it.
I opened the front door and went indoors, locking up behind me.