Westminster Abbey, Much A’do, etc.

Westminster Abbey is one of the main churches in England. It is the location in which royal coronations, weddings, and funerals are held. It also houses the tombs of my past English monarchs and other notable figures such as politicians and writers. Several significant figures who are not entombed there still receive recognition in the form of memorials. Since the Abbey contains these types of people, it was built with majesty in mind. The building is stunning. Every piece of space is uniquely ornate, or has been left open for a future dedication.

To me, though, what is most significant about the Abbey is the union between religion and monarchy. In the past, of course, the monarch had to be confirmed by a religious leader to become king or queen. These were the days of divine right, or the king or queen is the king or queen because god willed it to be so. The monarch is the ruler on earth, and the church gives the monarch the okay. The problem with divine right is that it is no longer law. Currently, the monarch is simply the monarch because they inherited from a family member. Granted, the monarch is now merely a figurehead without any actual governing power, but they are still considered a monarch. They are the head of state, if not the head of government, whereas in the U.S. the President fills both roles. Since I first learned about divine right and its abolishment I’ve wondered why countries still have monarchs. I know some people feel pride in the monarchy, for a sense of history or nationality, but it is uncomfortable for me. Granted, I come from the U.S., which gained freedom from a monarch through what is called here the “colonial insurrection,” so I may never fully understand why anyone would still want to acknowledge a monarch, even if only for show, since, at this point, providing resources for the monarchy is just another national expense that could be put to better use elsewhere.

I’ve mostly completed my entry at this point, but I’d like to make a brief comment on the play we saw, Much A’do About Nothing. I’m a fan of this play–it’s not my favorite but I like that it has some drama to go with the heaping dose of comedy. I do wish Don John was given more motivation to be a villain that merely being a bastard. I don’t like bastard=villain. That’s weak plot. The best part of the play is obviously the verbal sparring between Benedict and Beatrice. The wit is delicious, and the characters are able to easily become humorous when caught off guard (while eavesdropping). A sophisticated character falling is always funnier than a fool falling. Equally, this version of the play had a powerful moment of tragedy for Dogberry, which I had not seen in other interpretations. It might have been the most moving single moment in the play. He’s left alone in his cramped room saying to himself that he is an ass as the scene closes.

The biggest problem I have with this play, besides Don John’s lack of motivation, is how easily everybody believes the worst about Hero. I’ve seen depictions of the play in which you can see Don John’s flunky with Margaret, who’s wearing Hero’s clothes, and he is calling her Hero. That helps us accept Claudio and the  Prince’s reaction. What’s worse is when Hero’s father so easily accepts the lie. Maybe I’m complaining about the reality of the lack of faith men have in women, which Shakespeare wanted to portray. Maybe it’s not a plot flaw, but just a societal flaw. I’m not sure it’s gotten much better either. There are still so many double standards.





One thought on “Westminster Abbey, Much A’do, etc.

  1. I think many Americans (maybe most) are uncomfortable with the concept and reality of a monarch, but, as least as many Brits LOVE their queen. It’s also true that many progressive Brits find the whole system antiquated, classist, symbolically oppressive, etc. We just don’t get to hear much from them. I agree with a lot regarding your reading of Much Ado. I guess they were trying to suggest that Don John had some kind of PTSD (shell shock as they called it) from his WWI experience. But they never really did anything with it. That could’ve been really interesting; it was a great idea. I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare’s comedies. Of the lot I like this one best.


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