Collection: New Directions in Much Ado about Nothing

deadline for submissions: 
May 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
W. Reginald Rampone / Jane Wells
contact email: 

New Directions in Much Ado About Nothing



Over the past three decades, Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing has risen from beloved comedy to cultural and scholarly sensation. This rise results in part from the collective discovery that the skirmish of wit between Benedick and Beatrice and the intrigue surrounding Hero and Claudio create their own issues distinct from those in the cross-dressing The Merchant of VeniceTwelfth Night, and As You Like It; the magical A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the virtuosic Love’s Labour’s Lost; and, finally, the more commedia dell’arte-like The Taming of the Shrew. But Much Ado owes the greater part of its rise to the popularity and success of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film adaptation and to the play’s relevance to our current moment in gender relations. Vis-à-vis its new importance, Much Ado about Nothing deserves fresh attention, both as a literary and historical artefact and as a recent cultural phenomenon. 


This proposed collection invites essays that address the play and its “moment,” broadly interpreted to include culture both then and now. These essays may cover recent stage and film versions that demonstrate the play’s more problematic aspects, from Branagh’s version with its opening tableau of nude male bodies to Josh Whedon’s contemporary black-and-white version and its intersections with the pressing movements of our time. How and why do these and other directorial alterations redirect our focus and attention, and what purpose do they serve?  


Submissions may also focus on the relevance of this play’s sexual and gender politics in light of the “me too” movemeent and issues surrounding the production of maintenance of public image. 


The collection will be divided into the following sections: film studies, stage and performance studies, cultural studies, and textual studies.  


We are open to considerations of new aspects of the play and to reconsiderations of perennial problems, such as Claudio’s repentance and Don John’s motives, and we offer these topics as possible areas of consideration: 


  • Sexuality and gender, especially in light of the “me-too” movement 
  • Scandal and slander / Reputation and recuperation
  • Class conflicts and upward mobility
  • Female and male friendship
  • Political alliances 
  • Various editions from the early 18th century to the present day
  • Adaptations and appropriations of Much Ado About Nothing
  • Recent productions and our historical moment 
  • The place of the play in a “post-truth” era
  • Crime, surveillance, and “brave punishments” 



Abstracts of no more than 500 words along with a brief bio (under 100 words) should be emailed to Jane Wells at ( and W. Reginald Rampone, Jr. at ( by May 30, 2021.