Day 6: “Give not this rotten orange to your friend”

Marcello Cruz and Matthew Needham in Much Ado About Nothing
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Earlier in the week I had a look into the role of Hero, as she should really be seen as the principal female character in Much Ado – so, with day 6 marking my final Much Ado of the week, it seems only fair to think about Claudio. As with Hero he is often overlooked, with Benedick and Beatrice taking centre stage, but his actions are absolutely pivotal.

He’s also a rather interesting character. Seeming to fall for Hero without ever really spending much time with her (even before going off to fight – he’d seen her but not gone any further), he allows Don Pedro to woo her on his behalf but very easily backs down when he thinks he’s been double-crossed. They do eventually get engaged, and prior to their marriage he assists in the plan to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with one another. But when Don John (or Donna Juana, in this production) seems to prove her unfaithful he resolves to humiliate her in front of the congregation, afterwards returning to Don Pedro’s company. Once he realises he’s been tricked he is repentant, singing an epitaph to Hero at her grave and vowing to undertake anything Leonato asks of him; Claudio agrees to marry Leonato’s ‘niece’, though Hero then reveals herself to facilitate a happy endong.

Much Ado About Nothing
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

What is clear is that Claudio is something of an innocent, lacking worldly experience, and so is perhaps more easily swayed than someone like Benedick would be. He also seems to live by a code that puts male friendships over other relationships, blaming himself for not talking to Hero himself and giving up without a fight:

“This is an accident of hourly proof,
Which I mistrusted not. Farewell, therefore, Hero.”

As I mentioned before regarding Hero, he could easily be portrayed as a bit of a drip – easily manipulated and unwilling to stand up for himself. And that’s again where direction and the interpretation of the actor come in. Obviously Claudio is a soldier in the play anyway, but something like the Mexican Revolution does suggest fighters will be a bit more fiery and have a little more about them, meaning their actions may come more out of hot-headedness rather than being easily manipulated. It is here that I think Marcello Cruz excels. His Claudio shows more faith in Hero and is visibly doubtful over what he’s told; obviously the story still goes the same way, but his actions are suggestive of hope for Claudio’s character, and back up his later reform.

Steve John Shepherd and Marcello Cruz in Much Ado About Nothing
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Thanks to Cruz, you do still hope that Hero and Claudio will end up together, as at the heart of it he seems to have genuine feelings for her – despite his jealousy leading him to make a catastrophic decision. Make no mistake, Claudio is still a far from being a perfect person, but having an engaging and exciting actor in the role absolutely makes all the difference.

There’s not long left, but you still just about have time to enter my Shakespeare quiz to win a groundling experience this season. I’m at the last day! To celebrate, I’m treating myself to a meal in the Swan prior to what should be a riproaring Read Not Dead.

2 thoughts on “Day 6: “Give not this rotten orange to your friend”

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