Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Akin Gump and Much Ado About Nothing

Dennis Race: We here at Akin Gump think you have made much ado about nothing.

Gary Freedman:  Exactly!

I was terminated in October 1991 from my job as a parelegal at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, where I had worked since 1988, after I lodged a harassment complaint against my direct supervisor and others.  The firm alleged it had learned via a consult with a psychiatrist that my harassment complaint was really the product of a psychiatric disorder ("ideas of reference") which caused me to attach a negative meaning to trivial events.  I had complained to the employer, for example, that a coworker's use of the word "July" was really a homophone for the phrase "Jew Lie," a veiled anti-Semitic allusion playing on the stereotype that Jews are liars.

Yes, I attach a negative meaning to trivial events, but then, so did Shakespeare.  In fact, Shakespeare wrote a play -- a play about nothing -- that raised nothing to a frenzy of multiple meanings and a riot of sexual double entendre.

An important motif of Shakespeare's play Much ado about Nothing is the play on the words nothing and noting, which in Shakespeare’s day were homophones.  Taken literally, the title implies that a great fuss ("much ado") is made of something which is insignificant ("nothing"), such as the unfounded claims of Hero’s infidelity. The title could also be understood as Much Ado About Noting. Much of the action is in interest in and critique of others, written messages, spying and eavesdropping. This is mentioned several times, particularly concerning "seeming", "fashion" and outward impressions. Nothing is a double entendre, "an O-thing" (or "'n othing" or "no thing") was Elizabethan slang for "vagina", evidently derived from the pun of a woman having "nothing" between her legs.  'Noting' can refer to singing, especially sight-reading.

Examples of noting as noticing occur in the following instances: (1.1.131–132)
Claudio: Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signor Leonato?
Benedick: I noted her not, but I looked on her.
and (4.1.154–157).
Friar: Hear me a little,
For I have only been silent so long
And given way unto this course of fortune
By noting of the lady.
At (3.3.102–104), Borachio indicates that a man’s clothing doesn’t indicate his character:
Borachio: Thou knowest that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak is nothing to a man.
A triple play on words in which noting signifies noticing, musical notes and nothing occurs at (2.3.47–52):
Don Pedro: Nay pray thee, come;
Or if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Do it in notes.
Balthasar: Note this before my notes:
There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.
Don Pedro: Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks –
Note notes, forsooth, and nothing!
Don Pedro’s last line can be understood to mean, "Pay attention to your music and nothing else!" The complex layers of meaning include a pun on "crotchets," which can mean both "quarter notes" (in music) and whimsical notions.

The following are puns on notes as messages: (2.1.174–176),
Claudio: I pray you leave me.
Benedick: Ho, now you strike like the blind man – ‘twas the boy that stole your meat, and you’ll beat the post.
in which Benedick plays on the word post as a pole and as mail delivery in a joke reminiscent of Shakespeare’s earlier advice "Don’t shoot the messenger"; and (2.3.138–142)
Claudio: Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest your daughter told us of.
Leonato: O, when she had writ it and was reading it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?
in which Leonato makes a sexual innuendo concerning sheet as a sheet of paper (on which Beatrice’s love note to Benedick is to have been written) and a bedsheet.


Gary Freedman said...

My letter to Jerry Seinfeld: co-creator of the TV show about nothing:

Gary Freedman said...

Throughout high school I knew -- damn if I didn't know -- that reading Shakespeare could never come to any good.

Shakespeare, you bloody bastard, I lost my job because you brainwashed me to think like you!

Gary Freedman said...

Not to brag, but you could make the following argument:

1. My verbal IQ was measured at 136, 99th percentile.

2. I tend to see multiple meanings in statements that others are incapable of seeing.

3. My problem is not "ideas of reference." My "problem" is a high verbal ability.

Gary Freedman said...

Dennis Race: Gary, if you can't play dumb, I'm afraid you're not Akin Gump material.

Gary Freedman said...

From: D.C. Corporation Counsel brief filed with the D.C. Court of Appeals:

-- During the summer of 1989, Freedman eavesdropped on telephone conversations of the legal assistants with whom he shared an office. Some of the conversations were sexual in nature. R. 329, 341-2.

-- On April 13, 1990, Freedman eavesdropped on a conversation in which the legal assistant administrator gave instructions to another legal assistant concerning the bates-numbering of some documents. Freedman believes that her repeated use of the word "bates" was a reference to masturbation. R. 345.