Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, MA
There are actually two wedding scenes in Much Ado. In the first, the young groom, Claudio, destroys the service when he accuses his bride, Hero--in front of everyone, in the middle of the service--of having sex with another man just the night before. This is false, of course. The bitter "villain" of the story, Don John, has fooled Claudio, staging a scene for him late at night. Indignant, Claudio and his friends stalk out of the wedding (one of them has just called Hero "a common stale [prostitute]"). Hero faints. Even her father initially believes the lie. Not exactly a Bride's magazine ideal nuptial, is it?
The Friar suggests they make everyone think Hero has died (sound familiar, Romeo and Juliet fans?); they do; the truth comes out; Claudio repents--and agrees, as part of his penance, to marry Hero's "cousin," sight unseen. And so he does--finding out at the end of the ceremony that it's actually Hero he's just married--Hero, who's forgiven him. (By this time, the principal characters, Benedick and Beatrice, have also agreed to marry--so a double wedding's about to commence--though Benedick insists they all dance first. And that's how the play ends, with a dance of joy.)
Hero's supreme act of forgiveness always bothered my students--especially the girls, I think, one of whom cried out right in class one year as we were reading the script: Why would she forgive him?! Indeed. Why? That, I think, will have to be the content for another post one of these days.
Anyway, the kids were curious about what an Elizabethan wedding service would be like, so I decided we would have one. We randomly picked the bride and groom (I got to officiate!); I gave them copies of the 1559 edition of The Book of Common Prayer; we read the wedding ritual and talked about it (Link to the BCP). Then one day in class we went out onto the school stage and enacted the ritual--and I reminded the kids, of course, that I had no legal authority to perform a marriage, so, don't worry, you're not actually married!
The 8th graders took it all very seriously--surprising me, I guess. And I actually found the whole experience quite moving. The picture below shows the "cast" of the ceremony one year--early-mid 90s? Someone will have to tell me what year it was. Obviously, we don't seem to have dressed up all that much, either ...