This article explores the dynamics of performance and voyeurism in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Joss Whedon’s recent film adaptation of the same. In Shakespeare’s original, two distinct viewing identities emerge: those of audience member and voyeur. While in the first the viewer recognizes action as artificial and symbolic, the second imparts a perceived truth value. These two modes are distinct and distinguishable; Shakespeare’s characters spend much of the play adopting the incorrect mode of viewing but, in the final scene, restore social order by resuming their correct identities. In Whedon’s adaptation, however, these two ways of viewing become indistinguishable. The film employs a motif of voyeuristic framing devices in order to implicate its own audience into the world of Much Ado and, in doing, forces them to occupy an uncertain middle-ground between audience member and voyeur. Likewise, with the addition of a nonspeaking role—that of the Photographer, played by production photographer Elsa Guillet-Chapuis—Whedon calls into to question whether the two means of viewing can remain distinct in a contemporary voyeuristic culture.


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pp. 15-35
Launched on MUSE
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