Much Ado about Nothing / Edition 2

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Overview

Much Ado About Nothing boasts one of Shakespeare's most delightful heroines, most dancing wordplay, and the endearing spectacle of intellectual and social self-importance bested by the desire to love and be loved in return. It offers both the dancing wit of the "merry war" between the sexes, and a sobering vision of the costs of that combat for both men and women. Shakespeare dramatizes a social world in all of its vibrant particulars, in which characters are shaped by the relations between social convention and individual choice.

This edition of the play offers in its introduction and commentary an extensive discussion of the materials that informed Shakespeare's compositional choices, both those conventional sources and other contexts, from cuckold jokes to conduct books, which inform the ideas and identities of this play. Particular attention is devoted to Renaissance understandings of gender identity and social rank, as well as to the social valences of Shakespeare's stylistic choices. A treatment of staging possibilities offers illustrations drawn from the earliest and recent theatrical practices, and a critical history examines the fate of the play in the changing trends of academic scholarship.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up–These books depict Shakespeare’s plays through black-and-white paneled storytelling. Much Ado is set in Italy during the late 1800s, using Victorian clothing to set the scene. Vieceli uses different styles of manga art with great effect, from “chibi” or “super-deformed” characters to show excessive cuteness or childish banter to the dramatic, overflowing tears that exaggerate a character’s grief. This play is an excellent choice for adaptation, given its comedic moments and over-the-top emotions, and Appignanesi adapts it beautifully. King Lear is more challenging to convert to the style, made no less so by the choice of setting: the North American frontier, with Lear himself cast as an Algonquin chief. The traitorous Edmund is cast as one of the few African Americans. He is more sympathetic than in other productions, but he remains a villain. Ilya works hard to wrap real historical and cultural details into the panels, attempting authenticity instead of stereotypical images that too often accompany Native Americans in comics. However, there are some questions about the accuracy of the appearance of the fools particularly; they are costumed as “clowns,” one with a vaguely Southwestern appearance and the other wearing the entire hide of a wolf. In addition, Ilya places some gratuitous nudity and cleavage into the script, and the depiction of Lear’s daughter Regan as sometimes pale and sometimes dark-skinned is confusing. Still, both books are likely to draw manga readers further into Shakespeare’s plays, and students of the Bard may get new ideas about how his works can be presented to modernaudiences.–Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521825436
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2003
  • Series: New Cambridge Shakespeare Series
  • Edition description: Updated edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 188
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's.Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.
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Read an Excerpt

Shakespeare's Life

Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading — especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible — and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratford-upon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven, students wrotetheir own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament.

Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammar-school experiences — for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s.

We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody of a line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron.

It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s.

In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays — among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest — presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall.

Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio).

The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy — the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge — who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?").

As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds — both North and South America — were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs — religious, scientific, and philosophical — cannot be overstated.

London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London — the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade — was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London — the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon — references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.

That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It — and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories.

Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend — or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records — some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by an aristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries — and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems.

Copyright © 2003 by The Folger Shakespeare Library

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Table of Contents

Introduction, with new section by Angela Stock on recent stage and critical interpretations; Note on the text; List of characters; The play; Supplementary notes; Textual analysis; Appendixes: The time-scheme of Much Ado About Nothing; Lewis Carroll's Letter to Ellen Terry; Benedick's song; Reading list.
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    Love it!!!

    This is a really good version of Much Ado About Nothing. I got a .99 ¿ version and it had a lot of typos in it but this one is magnificent! I am only twelve but I love it immensley. I highly recommend this this thrilling shakespearian story to anyone who loves a good novel with lots of big words (i'm really glad that Nook has a built-in dictionary!) Happy reading!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    Ily beatrice

    Sje is funnttt

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    Love

    Run for the hills!! We must run from this terrible athuor!!: (

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2013

    H

    Zys.m
    Ffggghkkk

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  • Posted May 18, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Great classic that every literary mind should have the pleasure

    Great classic that every literary mind should have the pleasure of reading at least once in their life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

    Love Shakespeare but....

    Why is this in Manga??

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2012

    A great book if you can under stand it.

    Awsome book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    Horrible

    This book made me lose my mind. Heres a tip: watch the movie instead

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2004

    Much Ado About Nothing

    Much Ado is one of Shakespeare's greatest comedies. It is set in Italy and tells the love story and conflict that the four lovers must overcome in order to be wedded and united forever.THis stry will make you laugh and cry at the same time. It is a universal and timeless story for all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2003

    Funny

    it was funny and i loved the charcters and everything that beatrice and benideck tell each other

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2003

    One of Shakespear's best comedies

    This is a great play. It's got all the elements for a great story, including the all important comic relief (taking the form of Beatrice and Benedict). It's the classic story of match-making with a twist. An evil villan is ploting to sabotage the happy couple. But you'll have to read it to see how it ends.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    Awesome

    I really liked the book it help me with my reading level.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2002

    Masterful Manipulation!

    Many people are intimidated by Shakespeare's grammatical form, thou art⿝ and all those large words just confuse the normal reader. Do not be intimidated by Much Ado about Nothing, this play may have all the confusing words of Shakespeare, but I must say that it was very easy to understand and to read through, it keeps the reader very interested. The Characters, plot, and mood influence the story, conflicts, and resolutions. To start off, the characters effervescent personalities and attitudes helps to convey the idea of constant merriment. All except for, Don John, the antagonist of this play, he shows callousness for other's feelings and beliefs. He also can be called the foil of Don Pedro, his brother, one is mean while the other goes out of his way to help his friends. Then there's the issue of Benedick and Beatrice, two of the main characters, who have merry wars⿝ with each other, they insult each other because of their past when Benedick left Beatrice. All the Characters influence the story of Much Ado about Nothing by keeping their secrets, learning new secrets, and manipulating other characters to get what they want. Secondly, The Plot of Much Ado about nothing is influenced by manipulation and deception. Beatrice and Benedick are manipulated to fall in love. Don John uses deception to get Claudio to leave Hero. Just when one thinks that everything has fallen apart, one of the characters comes out with the truth and everything falls back the way it was going. The plot of this play is much different from any other plays that I have read in a long time. Finally, The mood of Much Ado about nothing is always merry, that's what I enjoyed the most, the cheery atmosphere. There was few moments in this play when someone was sad or upset. It was much different than the depressing moods of Hamlet, or Macbeth. The mood influenced the story by adding to the characterization of many of the characters, and also adding to the main conflict between Beatrice and Benedick. In conclusion, I strongly recommend this play to anyone, it is Masterfully written and an instant favorite. Though some of the words may throw the reader for a loop, stick with it, the main idea is very easy to catch on to!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2002

    Masterful Manipulations

    Many people are intimidated by Shakespeare¿s grammatical form, ¿thou art¿ all those bulky words leave the reader perplexed. Do not be intimidated by Much Ado about Nothing, this play may have countless confusing words, but I must say that it was extremely easy to understand and to read through, it kept me as a reader very interested. The Characters, plot, and mood influence the story, conflicts, and resolutions of Much Ado about Nothing. To start off, the characters effervescent personalities and demented attitudes help to convey the idea of constant merriment, and also add to the comedy in the play. All except for, Don John, the antagonist of this play, he shows callousness for other¿s feelings and beliefs. He also could be considered the foil of Don Pedro, his brother; one was mean, while the other goes out of his way to help his friends find their loved ones and get married. Then there was the issue of Benedick and Beatrice, two of the main characters, who have ¿merry wars¿ with each other, they insult each other because of their past when Benedick left Beatrice. All the Characters influence the story of Much Ado about Nothing by keeping their secrets, learning new secrets, and manipulating other characters to get what they want. Secondly, manipulation and deception influence the plot of Much Ado about nothing. Beatrice and Benedick are manipulated to fall in love. Don John used deception to get Claudio to leave Hero in stead of marrying her. Just when one thought that everything has fallen apart, one of the characters comes out with the truth and everything falls back the way it was going. The plot of this play is much different from any other plays that I have read in a long time. Lowmaster 2 Finally, The mood of Much Ado about nothing was always merry, that was what I enjoyed the most, the cheery atmosphere. There were few moments in this play when someone was sad or upset. It was much different than the depressing moods of Hamlet, or Macbeth. The mood influenced the story by adding to the characterization of many of the characters, and also adding to the main conflict between Beatrice and Benedick. If the mood was any different, it might be thought that the two characters loathed each other, instead of secretly being in love with one another. In conclusion, I strongly recommend this play to anyone, it is Masterfully written and an instant favorite. Though some of the words may throw the reader for a loop, stick with it, the main idea was very easy to catch on to, also very enjoyable, and a great read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2000

    Way good!!!

    it is the greatest book ever!!!Beaitrice and Benidict are great caraecters!!!I love it!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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