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Much Ado about Nothing: in Performance

Explore how Much Ado about Nothing is performed and interpreted, from original stagings to the modern day, with this free course.

12,694 enrolled on this course

The view from the stage inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre - the venue for the current production of Much Ado about Nothing (Love’s Labour’s Won)
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Shakespeare’s much loved play, Much Ado about Nothing, is read and studied all over the world. But it was written to be staged, and can only be fully appreciated and understood through performance.

In this free online course, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will welcome you to Stratford-upon-Avon - the home of William Shakespeare and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Learn from actors, academics and an RSC director

Learning from actors, academics and the director of the RSC’s current production, the course will explore Much Ado about Nothing in performance, with a different area of focus for each of its four weeks:

- Week 1: Dr Nick Walton from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will discuss original performance conditions, looking at how Much Ado about Nothing was staged in Shakespeare’s time; how his role as an actor shaped his writing; and how he reflects the age in which he lived.

- Week 2: Dr Abigail Rokison from the Shakespeare Institute will look at the different ways in which the play has been interpreted for the stage throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, focussing on how the darker side of Much Ado about Nothing has been explored.

- Week 3: Christopher Luscombe, Director of the RSC’s current production of Much Ado about Nothing, will discuss his role, as he worked on the play from initial rehearsals to its culmination on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.

- Week 4: Michelle Terry and Edward Bennett, who play Beatrice and Benedick in the current production, will discuss their approach as actors, and how they use the text to create performances with depth, coherence and energy.

Interpret Much Ado about Nothing (Love’s Labour’s Won)

By the end of the course, you’ll feel confident in commenting analytically on the interpretations and staging choices made in the RSC’s current production of Much Ado about Nothing. This sets the play in a new era, just after World War 1, and sees it performed as Love’s Labour’s Won - a title possibly attributed to it during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

This course is an excellent accompaniment to the production, which can be watched: on DVD from the RSC; in production at the Chichester Festival Theatre 24 September 2016 – 29 October 2016; and at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London from 9 December 2016 – 18 March 2017.

You can find out more in Jacqui O’Hanlon’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Much Ado about Nothing: why there’s no right or wrong way to interpret this play.”

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds JACQUI O’HANLON: Born and educated in Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare went on to write some of the most famous plays in the English language. For over 400 years, those plays have been performed all over the world, interpreted in many different ways by many different companies. And we think that around 50% of school students in the world study the man and his plays every year. Welcome to the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education. This evening, on this stage, there will be a performance of one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays, usually known as Much Ado About Nothing and in our season, called Love’s Labors Won.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds You can join us over four weeks, starting on the 2nd of March, 2015, for a MOOC, a massive open online course, exploring Much Ado About Nothing in performance. Ideal for 16 to 19 year olds in full time education, the course will explore the many ways in which this play has been performed and interpreted from its original staging right through to the modern day. Ultimately, we’ll invite you to analyze the Royal Shakespeare company’s current production, informed by your learning over the four weeks. You will learn alongside leading experts, including Dr. Nick Walton from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. He will look at the original staging conditions of the play. Dr.

Skip to 2 minutes and 25 seconds Abigail Rokison from the Shakespeare Institute will consider how different 20th and 21st century productions have interpreted Shakespeare’s texts for their audience. We will also hear from the director of our current production, Christopher Luscombe who, along with members of the acting company, will share and explore the creative process and choices that they made in staging base production for 2014. Michelle Terry and Edward Bennett, who play Beatrice and Benedick in our production, will give you insights into how an actor uses the text in order to create a performance with depth, coherence, and energy.

Skip to 3 minutes and 5 seconds Whether you’re a student studying this play, a teacher looking for new insights into it, or anyone who is interested in the process of moving a text from the page to the stage, we hope that you will join our online conversation. By the end of this course, you’ll have a deeper understanding of Much Ado About Nothing as a play in performance. We look forward to you joining us on the same journey that our creative teams take in bringing any of Shakespeare’s plays to life for the stage.

What topics will you cover?

  • Shakespeare’s influences as a playwriting Actor
  • The original performance of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’
  • The darker side of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ in the C20th and C21st
  • The resolution of the play in modern performance
  • Contemporary approaches to Beatrice and Benedick
  • The influence of filming a production
  • Exploring the Actors’ approaches to Beatrice and Benedick
  • Interpreting key moments in the play and performance choices

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss different interpretative choices in relation to Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing and the ways it has been performed from its original staging through to the present day.
  • Compare different directorial approaches and concepts throughout the C20th using academic references and images.
  • Explore the ways in which responses to text have altered over time and how directors and acting companies are performing Shakespeare's work for modern audiences.
  • Interpret text in your own way after exploring the Director and Actors' approaches looking at key moments in the play.

Who is the course for?

This course is open for anyone to join, but will be ideal for 16-19 year olds in full time education - either as an introduction to Much Ado about Nothing or as a revision aid.

We advise you to prepare for the course by familiarising yourself with Much Ado about Nothing. Copies of the text are available online - either in printed form or free digitally. The RSC’s education resources can help you explore the play if you’re preparing for the course in school.

Who will you learn with?

I am Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company. We work with young people, teachers, schools and theatres across the UK and the world transforming experiences of Shakespeare's work.

Who developed the course?

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is a public research university, consistently listed as a leading UK university and ranked among the top 100 in the world.

Royal Shakespeare Company

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Learning on FutureLearn

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Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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