Much Ado about dating

Stafford Festival Shakespeare is marking its 25th anniversary, and to celebrate they’ve come up with some special Shakespeare dating advice we thought we’d share with you.

We reckon it’s a fair wager that, at one stage or another, we’ve all sought dating advice. Be it from friends, family, or your sister’s copy of Cosmo, we’ve all reached out because we just didn’t know how to ‘break the ice’ – a term coined by Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew, by the way – with the woman/man/both at the bookshop.

However, we’re going to put it to you that the world has been looking in all the wrong places for advice. Or rather, we’ve been reading the wrong kinds of literature. There’s only one man’s timeless poetry you need to heed. No, not Kanye West: we’re talking about William Shakespeare.

So here’s five dating and life lessons we can learn from one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, Much Ado About Nothing.

1. Slaying ‘the green-eyed monster’

A phrase originally coined by Shakespeare in Othello, about how letting the beast that is jealousy dictate your relationship and your life is rarely healthy. In the play, Don John is jealous of his brother and friends and seeks to makes their lives miserable. His plots are discovered and he awaits punishment by the end of the play.

Jealousy also causes fallout between best friends Claudio and Don Pedro, when the former believes the latter is trying to win Hero’s heart for his own. Although the rift is quickly mended, jealousy can kill a relationship. Trusting your partner, not playing games and lengthening the leash are all good relationship practice.

2. Don’t let pride get in your way

When Claudio wrongly believes his wife-to-be has been unfaithful, he decides against sitting her down to have a chat and instead opts for a good old fashioned public humiliating at the altar.

Claudio’s pride gets in the way of the truth and distorts his perceptions of innocent Hero, which leads to her own dad wishing her dead. It would certainly seem that men are a prideful bunch, but anyone can see from the scenario outlined above that a good chat and showing a bit of trust would have resolved the issue earlier.

3. Infidelity doesn’t pay

Shakespeare often focuses on infidelity in his comedies, especially when it comes to the ladies. Claudio, Don Pedro and Hero’s own father are all quick to believe that Hero has been pouring treasure into foreign laps, without even consulting her.

Knowing your partner well and trusting them seems like obvious advice, but it’s rarely heeded. If you suspect your partner of groping for trout in a peculiar river, maybe you should confront him or her before jumping to any conclusions?

4. Pretending to be someone you’re not

Don Pedro pretends to be Claudio and Margaret pretends to be Hero in the play; needless to say, neither ends particularly well. Pretending to be something or someone you’re not doesn’t last and you’ll eventually have to come clean or be found out. Always be yourself, unless you can be Beyoncé. In which case, always be Beyoncé.

5. Don’t listen to other people, especially your mates

Think about it; these are the same people that told you jumping out of that second floor window wouldn’t hurt.

In Much Ado…, Don Pedro engineers a scenario to get Benedick and Beatrice together, just so he and his men have a wedding to go to while they wait for Claudio and Hero’s. It all ends happily ever after, but we the audience have to ask for how long?

There is an obvious irony of a blog post offering advice on dating that then concludes with the message that you shouldn’t listen to other people. But as any A-level English Literature student will happily regurgitate to you – Shakespeare was all about the irony.

And like the patronising final thought on Jerry Springer, we’ll leave you with this. ‘Love is blind’ (Merchant of Venice), and you might have to bundle into a few people before you meet the right one. But only you will know which is the right for you, so bundle on.

The Stafford Festival Shakespeare runs from 25 June 25-11 July.

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