Much Ado About Nothing
The Construction of Don Pedro’s Character as a Leading Figure
Don Pedro is a very important character within Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, both within his own right and in terms of how he draws Shakespeare’s other characters together. Often referred to as “the Prince” from Aragon (“No Fear”), Don Pedro seems intelligent, encouraging, understanding, but also very gullible. He is the most social and political character in the play that works as a link between the other characters. There are a few facts that support Don Pedro as a very significant character in the story: his relationship with other characters in the play, his personal characteristics, and how he works as a tool of the author to deliver the main themes of the play.
Don Pedro works as a connection between all the characters that appear in the play. The story actually starts with Don Pedro bringing his soldiers that fought under him during the war to his old friend Leonato, who is Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle. As people get together, the story starts to take shape. Claudio falls in love with Hero; Don Pedro and Benedict help Claudio get to Hero. Later on, Don Pedro also plans to make Beatrice and Benedict fall in love with each other, which eventually brings all the characters together to work on a common goal. Even the antagonist, John, Don Pedro’s stepbrother, is included in the story as, who is eager to break the peace and take Don Pedro’s place. Don Pedro is the main link between the main characters of the drama. If it were not him, the main events would not have taken place.
Don Pedro is a leading figure in the play. He is a very generous, courteous, and intelligent man, but he lacks a little bit of a sturdiness to prevent himself from falling into evil. In the film version of the drama, he appears to be taller than other main characters, and he always stands in the middle of Claudio and Benedick, clearly showing that he is the leader of the group (Branagh). There are a few cases in the drama that shows his characteristics. First of all, he leads Claudio to the marriage to Hero. He tells Claudio:
They’re going to have a costume party with dancing tonight. I’ll disguise myself as you and pour out “my” feelings to Hero, taking her prisoner with the force of my love story. Then I’ll talk to her father. And in the end, she’s yours! Let’s get started right away (“No Fear”).
He also plans to help Beatrice and Benedict fall in love with one another. He says to Claudio:
Come, you shake the head at so long a breathing, but I warrant thee, Claudio, the time shall not go dully by us. I will in the interim undertake one of Hercules’ labors, which is to bring Signor Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection, th’ one with th’ other. I would fain have it a match, and I doubt not but to fashion it, if you three will but minister such assistance as I shall give you direction (“No Fear”).
Don Pedro not only takes the leadership position, but also plays an important role for the author.
Don Pedro also works as the playwright’s tool to implicate the main theme of the drama. The author tries to deliver to the audience the fragility and instability of a human being through showing Don Pedro who is so quick to fall into the evil of John. John, Don Pedro’s stepbrother, plans to deceive Don Pedro and Claudio by showing them Margaret and one of his soldiers having sex. Not knowing that it is not Hero but Margaret, her maid, that is with another man, the two men decides to revenge Hero. By reading this portion of the play, the audience can realize how quick a human is to believe in something that is so evil, even Don Pedro, the man of knowledge and leading.
“The Prince, Don Pedro is a notable character in the drama, Much Ado About Nothing (“No Fear”). Most significantly, his role links the main characters. He also has enough traits of a leader, and therefore takes a leadership position in the story. He literally leads the story by planning major events. Last, but not least, Shakespeare uses this character as a means to deliver a message to the audience. By showing Don Pedro fall into John’s trickery, the playwright implies that all human beings are the same, big or small, they are susceptible to be deceived by evil.
Branagh, Kenneth, director. Much Ado About Nothing. Renaissance Films, 1993.
“No Fear Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing.” No Fear Shakespeare, SparkNotes, 2017, nfs.sparknotes.com/muchado/page_2.html.
Problematic and Themes Raised in Much Ado About Nothing
At first glance, the reader is not likely to notice the immediate clue which presents itself in the title of William Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. If one, however, would follow the example of a Shakespearean player in Elizabethan times and pronounce the word “nothing” as “noting,” he would be introduced to a pun that is very significant because the ideas of noting, or observation, and nothing, are important themes in this story. Noting is something which motivates the characters to take actions which greatly affect the plot, and it is an idea which reflects the theme of reality versus appearance, in which reality is nothing and appearance is due to noting.
First of all, it is the characters’ noting which drives them to take actions which influence the plot. The earliest example of this is when Claudio falls in love with Hero. The relationship between these two characters plays a major role in the story, and it originates with Claudio noticing Hero – “Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?” (Act 1:1, l. 158-59) Claudio then asks the Prince to woo her for him. The important chain of events which follows – the pastime of formulating a romance between Beatrice and Benedick, the scheme of Don John, the “death of Hero” – is all on account of Claudio’s falling in love with Hero, which wouldn’t have happened, had he not noted her.
Another example is when Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with one another. The only reason this happens is because, first of all, Benedick notes the Prince, Claudio, and Leonato discussing how Beatrice is in love with him: “Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me of today, that your niece Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?” (Act 2:3, l. 95-7) This, of course, is not true, but Benedick believes it, and he falls in love with Beatrice – “I will be horribly in love with her!” (Act 2:3, l. 237) Likewise, Beatrice overhears Hero and Ursula purposefully inventing Benedick’s love for her, and she falls in love with him – “I will requite thee, taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.” (Act 3:1, l. 117-18) The relationship between these two characters is important to the plot, as many events revolve around them, and it comes about only because Beatrice and Benedick note others’ conversations which falsely discuss their love for one another.
Probably the most important instance of a character’s noting affecting the plot is when Claudio observes Borachio wooing Margaret and believes her to be Hero. Thinking Hero to be disloyal, Claudio shames her publicly and refuses to marry her. This event, and the actions taken to solve the problems it creates, make up the major conflict in the plot. The characters must devise a way to prove Hero’s innocence and make Claudio feel remorse for his actions. This they do, by staging Hero’s death and uncovering her slander. None of this would have occurred, however, if Claudio had not noted Borachio wooing “Hero” and then acted on his false impression.
Two more examples of the significance of noting are when the Watch notes Borachio telling Conrad of the crime he committed by helping to slander Hero. The two men are then arrested, which is important to the plot; otherwise, they never would have been interrogated, and Hero’s innocence would never have been confirmed. The other example is when Dogberry goes to tell Leonato that he has apprehended some criminals, who happen to be Borachio and Conrad. Leonato notes Dogberry, who speaks in malapropisms, and sends him away. Had Leonato noted him further, he would have realized that it was important to interrogate the criminals right away, and he then would have been able to prevent the slander of his daughter. In this way, his failure to note Dogberry properly greatly affects the plot.
Noting does not only serve to motivate the characters – it reflects the story’s continuing theme of reality versus appearance. One aspect of this theme involves the idea that objects or affairs, when noted, are not always what they seem to be. The frequent use of masks throughout the story supports this idea. Masks create a distorted version of reality by giving a person a false appearance. The first use of masks is at the dance, where several instances of people seeming to be other than they are occur. Antonio flirts with Ursula, pretending he is not himself. The Prince woos Hero, pretending to be Claudio. Claudio pretends to be Benedick, and so allows himself to hear Don John saying that the Prince is wooing for himself. Benedick, recognizing Beatrice, who may or may not recognize him, is subjected by her to a series of harsh criticisms of himself. In the end of the story, Claudio marries Hero when she is behind a mask, not knowing her identity. All of these events take place when most of the characters are behind masks, which therefore relate to the reality versus appearance theme by giving a false appearance to a reality, and which relate to the noting theme by depriving the characters of their ability to note one another properly.
The reality versus appearance theme, which involves objects or affairs not being what they seem to be, goes to a higher level. Characters are deceived by what they note because the things they note seem to be other than they are. Then, by reacting to what they believe they noted, the characters react to what is, in reality, nothing. For example, Beatrice and Benedick fall in love because, by what they note others to say, it appears to them that each is in love with the other. They react to the false appearance that they note by actually falling in love with one another. They later discover that neither one originally loved the other, and so their reaction of falling in love was based on, in reality, nothing.
Another example of the reality versus appearance theme is when Claudio notes Margaret and Borachio and believes Margaret to be Hero, then slanders Hero, justifying himself with the idea that she appeared to be disloyal. While he shames her, he makes many references to the contrast between her appearance and what he believes her to be in reality: “Behold how like a maid she blushes here! …Would you not swear, all you that see her, that she were a maid,/ By these exterior shows? But she is none.” (Act 4:1, l. 34-40) He later makes another statement which refers again to the theme of reality versus appearance, in which he describes what she seems to be and what he thinks she is: “You seem to me as Dian in her orb/ As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown./ But you are more intemperate in your blood/ Than Venus, or those pampered animals/ That rage in savage sensuality.” (Act 4:1, l. 58-62) Thus Claudio, causing a great upheaval in the plot, accuses Hero in reaction to her appearing to be disloyal. He later discovers that she was innocent all along, and that what he noted was false. His accusations were built on nothing – she had appeared unfaithful but was, in reality, loyal.
The title, Much Ado About Nothing, summarizes the entire story. It has two meanings, each of which are significant to the plot – if it means “much ado about noting,” it describes all of the activity which takes place on account of the characters’ noting. If it means “much ado about nothing,’ it describes how all of the characters’ activities are based on nothing. The title itself, in all its cleverness and mixed meanings, is representative of the clever and complex text within. The title, then, is one of the few aspects of this play which do not have a deceitful appearance. In fact, this work is so preoccupied with the idea of deceitful appearances and such that it makes the reader wonder about his or her own life. How many times have we been deceived? How many objects or affairs in our lives currently are not what they seem to be? Also, are we, like the characters, going to be lucky enough to have the truth revealed to us? This comedy of Shakespeare is not so humorous as scary, because it provides us with questions to which we might never know the answers.
The Character Of Dogberry In William Shakespeare’S Play “Much Ado About Nothing”
Dogberry is a secondary character found in William Shakespeare’s comedic yet dark play Much Ado About Nothing. His character may be easy to overlook along with his comedic blubbering as simply another method of Shakespeare’s to provide relief in a play that rolls downhill as it leads up to its final acts, but that is not all that he is. Dogberry’s character is complex in that he may resemble an ordinary member of society but Shakespeare employs him as a foil to several of the primary characters and as the one to uncover the culprits behind Hero’s ruined reputation and “death.”
A constable was a caricature that resembled a peace officer, in that it had limited training and power that resulted in a lack of respect from the citizens of the small town they were employed in. At least in the case of Dogberry, who was the constable of the town of Messina located in Sicily. Dogberry may have had little training but his knowledge of the law is not as inadequate as it seems. When considering his choice of deputies he makes sure to pick those who can read and write, asks them, “Are you good men and true?” and advises them to, “keep your fellows’ counsel and your own.”
While Dogberry is not a professional in his line of work he does understand that he is responsible for keeping trouble out of his small town and assures his men that to wake him for any “matter of weight” is more than acceptable. The text alludes to the possibility that Dogberry is illiterate, unable to read or write through the repeated lines “write that down” which would normally be considered a problem in this line of work but is not for Dogberry, as his deputies and the Sexton take down the charges and testimonies of prisoners.
One problem that Dogberry does have is his poor memory for the nature of words, although he is aware of what they signify. Dogberry suffers from what is known as malapropism, or the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar sounding one, which often results in an unintentionally amusing effect. Dogberry’s linguistic performance or rather incompetence is what reveals Shakespeare’s brilliant manipulation of language through the maiming of said constable’s lines.
The humor that Dogberry brings to the storyline through his careless use of words is different from that of Benedick’s and Beatrice, who are in their own way humorous with their sophisticated puns, play on words and wit. It differs from Claudio and his purposeful, wrath filled words that are intent on destroying Hero. Dogberry’s humor is one that comes from a character who simply has trouble conveying his thoughts because he mixes up his words.
One scene in particular demonstrates Dogberry’s unintentional hilarity and transformation from a man who “would not hang a dog by my will, much more a man that hath any honesty in him”, into a man with a strong character, unwilling to keep quiet when a villian dare call him an ass. Dogberry, Verges and the Sexton prepare to examine Borachio and Conrade who have been accused of being “false knaves”, an accusation they deny. The watchmen who witnessed Borachio’s and Conrade’s crime, present their accusation and details of what they overheard but Dogberry does not seem to understand the importance of this.
Fortunately, the Sexton realizes what the three watchmen are implying and comes to the conclusion that they have stumbled upon a treacherous plot that Borachio and Conrade are key players in. The Sexton orders Dogberry and Verges to tie up the villains so that they may be taken to Leonato and then departs, however, when Dogberry attempts to lay his hands on Conrade, he dismisses them calling Verges a fool. Dogberry wishes the Sexton would have been there to write down the insult which prompts Conrade to declare, “Away! You are an ass, you are an ass”.
Dogberry takes great offence and speaks what is recognized as one of the greatest comedic yet dramatic speeches in literature, full of malapropisms that add to the effect. “Dost thou not suspect my place?,” he asks, “Dost thou not suspect my years?” Dogberry is regretful of the lack of the Sexton’s presence and skill to, “write me down an ass!” and take a written account of him denouncing a villain who is “full of piety”. Nonetheless, with or without the Sexton and his job to record, Dogberry assures himself and the villains that there crime will be “proved upon thee by good witness”.
Dogberry refuses to be labeled an ass and continues on to defend and simultaneously celebrate his honor:I am a wise fellow; and which is more, an officer; and which is more, a householder; and which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina, and one that knows the law, go to! and a rich fellow enough, go to! and a fellow that hath had losses; and one that hath two gowns and everything handsome about him. Bring him away. O that I had been writ down an ass! He mistakenly misuses “suspect” in place of “respect” and “piety” instead of “impiety”, which is just one way that he contributes to his own slander, that and his continuous wishing that the Sexton were around to be “writ down an ass.”
No matter, Dogberry becomes alite with passion in his own defense! He perceives Conrade’s comment as a critique on his class and while Dogberry is not a nobleman, he owns his own home, is a possessor of two gowns and a law abiding citizen. In fighting for his own honor, Dogberry makes himself look like an ass. Dogberry and Verges do not keep to themselves the newly found information that they have obtained. With the villains in tow they seek out Don Pedro and Claudio who recognize the men as henchmen who worked for Don John, the mastermind behind the entire affair, who ran off like a coward. Wondering what the men could have committed in order to be restrained, Dogberry attempts to explain their roles in all that has transpired.
Unfortunately, Dogberry’s explanation is unclear and Don Pedro asks Borachio what he has done. Borachio confesses his wrong doing and outs Don John for the conniving man that he is. Dogberry interrupts the scene by ordering the accused away but not without mistakenly calling them “plaintiffs.” He informs the men that the Sexton went searching for Leonato to share their discoveries. As the villains are being taken Dogberry says, “when time and place shall serve, do not forget that I am an ass.” Dogberry is adding to the list of the villains crimes by informing the men that they called him an ass, he considers this just as much of a crime compared to the scandal and wrongful death they have caused.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play with a dark plot written by William Shakespeare, that is brimming with linguistic performances. In the case of Dogberry, the constable, there was much “ado” to keep up with the linguistic sophistication that the primary characters were fluent in. His lack of finesse with language did not stop him from being a key secondary character throughout the play that was essential in discovering the treacherous plotting of Don John, Borachio and Conrade. He may be an ass to some but he is more than that, he is an underappreciated constable with a unique way of bringing to light what has been hidden in the dark.
Research on Much ado about nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a play filled with deception, love and most importantly lies. Throughout the play, Shakespeare creates scenes where misunderstandings and lies help develop and destroy relationships and characters. The couples are influenced by the efforts of others to find their love for each other or doubt their love for each other. There are a lot of examples to deception. The tricks played on people often have the best intentions, to make people fall deeply in love, or to make someone realize the big mistake they made. Not all the deceptions have good intentions. Although there are a lot of characters in the play, I chose to do my essay on how all the lies affect the relationships of the people; Benedick and Beatrice and also Claudio and Hero. I chose these people because lies and deception is a very big part of their relationships and everyday lives. As Don Pedro and his brother Don John, Claudio and Benedick return from a victorious war, preparations have been made for them as they return. Beatrice and Hero plan to greet and welcome them peacefully into their space and home. As they arrive they greet each other after a long time not seeing each other, apart from the arguments and aggressiveness between Benedick and Beatrice who always has to argue. This is seen by all the other people that were there who wonder if they really hate each other or maybe they are just hiding their feelings and deceiving themselves and each other. The opposite happens with the couple Claudio and Hero, The moment Claudio sees Hero he instantly falls in love with her.
At the Masked Ball, everyone has to wear a mask, the people feel free to spread rumors and talk about each other because no one knows whom he or she are actually talking to. At the ball, Benedick and Beatrice are dancing together not knowing whom they are paired with. Suddenly Beatrice starts talking to her partner while they continue to dance. She adds “why, he is the prince’s jester, a very dull full. Only his gift is in devising possible slander.” obviously by saying this, she is implying that Benedick is just a loser that the only job is to entertain the prince. The lie may seem to just push themselves further away from each other but actually, it’s just bringing them closer. Later in Scene 3 Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato are planning to play a nasty trick on Benedick into believing Beatrice had told her cousin Hero that she loved Benedick. This is actually a lie that will have a pretty big effect on what he thinks of her, changing the course of their relationship.
Benedick hears what happened and he slips awkwardly into the lover’s role when Beatrice comes to call him for dinner and thanks her with a regular verse: “Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.” This takes their relationship forward. In Act 3 close to the same thing happens to Beatrice. Hero and Ursula wait until Beatrice is passing and in hearing distance and say that Benedick told Don Pedro that he loves Beatrice. She is shocked by this news at the fact that Benedick had hidden feelings for her. Now both of them think that they love each other. They rejoice in this knowledge. Through deceit and lying their feelings have changed towards each other very good. The deception by Don John was with evil meaning. He decided to ruin all good before relationships.
He gets his friend Borachio to hook-up with Margaret, a maid. At night Don John leads Don Pedro and Claudio past the building where Borachio is in the room with Margaret. Through the window of the house, Claudio thinks that Margaret the maid is actually Hero because they look alike and it is pretty dark and then he hears Borachio call out “Hero” because of another deception. At the wedding the next morning, Claudio disagrees to marry and humiliates Hero in front of everybody. This relationship has been ruined by lies and deceit. Hero then fainted, but then revives after Don Pedro and Claudio leave the wedding, only to be scolded by her father. After the day’s horrible events, Benedick and Beatrice confess their love for each other. Beatrice then asks Benedick to kill Claudio. “Kill Count Claudio.” She said. “Ha! Not for the wide world.” Replied Benedick. Beatrice leaves with the feeling of rejection. The Friar believes Hero is innocent and convinces the family to fake Hero’s death in order to get the truth out and Claudio’s remorse. When the truth of the deceit about Hero becomes public, Claudio is shattered and believing Hero is dead he agrees to marry hero’s cousin. During Claudio’s second wedding, the “cousin” is actually Hero and Claudio is very surprised and happy. Beatrice and Benedick, finally confess their love for each other to everyone to know.
In conclusion, the whole play shows that lies will destroy relationships and mend them. They bring true feelings to show which may have never come out, so when in a relationship always be honest and do not let other people fool you.
Much ado about nothing Essay
Much ado about nothing is a romantic intriguing comedy written by William Shakespeare. By focusing on relationships, the author of the play highlights the impact of deception to unity, love and happiness. Deceitfulness is the device the characters use to either destroy or improve each other’s lives. The love relationships are either build or destroyed due to tricks, envy or mere bad luck.
Similarly, some of the characters find joy in lying or playing tricks to their friends or lovers in order to achieve their personal selfish ambitions. Surprisingly, the aspect of self-deceitfulness arises among a few characters. Succinctly, the theme of deceit revolves around love relationships in the play.
Therefore, the elusive bonds created between different characters are weak mainly because they are build on the foundation of deceitfulness as expounded in the next discussion.
According to Shakespeare, a love relationship is like fate and therefore, only a self-deceptive person can separate two people who have a common interest. Set in a royal environment, Claudio announces his intention of courting and eventually, marrying Hero who has royal blood. Luckily, Don Pedro the Spanish prince encourages Claudio to go ahead with his plans.
Although Benedick is against Claudio’s intentions of dating Hero, Claudio puts him off by saying “in mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on” (Shakespeare Act I scene I 135-137). Benedick deceives himself when he thinks that he can change Claudio’s mind/intentions not to date Hero. For instance, he says, “God forbid it should be so” (Shakespeare Act I scene I 140).
During his conversation with Don Pedro, Benedick’s announces that he does not intend to marry either. However, he does not know what lies ahead (fate carries). Therefore, Benedick’s compact mind or inability to accept other people’s opinions or intentions motivates him to lie continuously to himself. Benedick’s fights to change Claudio’s intentions to marry Hero but he does not succeed.
Similarly, Beatrice practices self-deceit, when she also proclaims that she is better of single than married. For example in Act II she says “Just if he sends me no husband; for the, which blessing I am upon my knees every morning and evening” (Shakespeare Scene I 137-140). Although Beatrice’s prayer is to remain single, she ironically goes against her wish and finally marries Benedick.
Thus, her prayer/wish is a proof of self-deceit among characters. Eventually, due to fate, Claudio and Hero embark on a love Journey and Benedick’s and Beatrice find themselves in a love relationship. Therefore, Shakespeare shows self-deceit is a behavior, which may encourage people to live in a denial, as it is the case with Benedick and Beatrice.
In addition, self-deceit can be the only the channel people can use to build strong bonds. More over, through focusing on self-deceit Shakespeare discourages people in the contemporary society against undermining their potential or God’s intention.
Another case of deceitfulness in the story arises when Don Pedro assigns himself the duty of wooing Hero for Claudio. However, Claudio does not trust Don Pedro mainly because of his earlier elusive interaction with Don John. Although Don John is Don Pedro’s brother, he lies to Claudio that his brother loves Hero. Eventually, a disagreement ensues between Don Pedro and Claudio.
Due to the constant practice of deceit among the characters, Claudio believes that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself. The constant practices of self-deceit among the characters push them to view all other people as deceitful. Nevertheless, Claudio’s relationship with Hero begins. Therefore, Shakespeare enlightens the contemporary society that deceit can lead to disunity, family break up and fights.
Furthermore, some people use the element of deceit to revenge or fulfill their self-ambitions, as it is the case with Don John. When Claudio starts dating Hero, it is a lesson to the audience or reader that people should not be quick to judge, believe or trust any negative thoughts/ words from friends, family members and partners.
People should not deny themselves happiness because of mere allegations from third parties. Therefore, sometimes deceit can be a form of encouragement to the affected parties and thus, people should use that chance to achieve their personal ambitions.
According to Shakespeare, deceit can be the only way to solve social problems. For instance, through lies/deception Don John achieves his intention of breaking the relationship or wedding between Claudio and Hero. Claudio humiliates Hero at the wedding when he realizes or believes that she is unfaithful (through deception).
Don Pedro and Claudio also unite in the public humiliation of Hero while Margret the proprietor of the break up shamelessly watches the fall of Hero especially when she faints during the wedding. However, Leonato and the Friar fake Hero’s death in order to ascertain the truth. Through sympathy, Claudio accepts to marry Leonato’s niece (who actually is Hero).
Due to deception and its eventual impact, Claudio accepts to marry a stranger. Surprisingly, the congregation (women) appears in masks and Claudio has to wear a mask during the wedding. This form of deception is beneficial to both Claudio and Hero who end up establishing a solid relationship. During the wedding, Claudio asks, “Which is the lady I must seize upon” (Shakespeare Act V scene IV 53)?
This shows that Claudio is ready to marry any woman even if he does not love her. Consequently, the author shows that deceit is the only way, which can assist in solving challenging situations especially, which comes about due to deceit. Therefore, according to Shakespeare marriage is a social institution that may not necessarily be build on love.
Claudio’s decision to marry a stranger is to enable him socially fit in the society. Thus, guilt or remorseful may not necessarily be the main motivation behind his act.
Thus, deceit creates illusion that eventually, benefits both parties. In addition, the author also proves that most relationships especially marriages are broke or build based on deceit. However, the manner in, which an individual handles the lies/deceits may build or destroy his or her future.
In brief, the main theme highlighted in the play is deceit. Most of the relationships are either build or destroyed because of deceitfulness. However, behind any form of lie or deceit always a lasting solution to a conflict or problem emerges. When Shakespeare focuses on the element of self-deceit among his characters especially Beatrice and Benedick, he discourages the audience against living in self-denial.
Both Beatrice and Benedick do not believe in love or marriage relationship but eventually they end up marrying each other. Secondly, Shakespeare shows that through deceit individuals can solve their social problems especially regarding love relationships, as it is the case with Claudio and Hero.
Therefore, deceit is part of the society. However, people should learn to solve positively a problem build on basis of deceit. Finally, although deceit creates tension in the play, the relationship build on lies end up stronger.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado about Nothing. New York: Penguin press, 1998. Print
Much Ado about Nothing by Shakespeare Essay
At first sight, Much Ado About Nothing, a play written by Shakespeare, seems to be an ordinary tale about the life of high society with its intrigues, gossips, and love affairs. However, the writer would not have written this comedy unless he had wanted to disclose human vices and satirize the upper class’s passion for deceit and conspiracy. This paper will give a summary of the play and discuss the points that make this literary work outstanding and worth reading.
The setting of the book is an Italian city of Messina in the days of Shakespeare, which is the 16th-17th century. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Benedick return from war and stay at the house of Leonato, a governor of the city. Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, and Benedick has verbal skirmishes with Beatrice, the governor’s niece. Don John, a brother of Don Pedro, learns about Claudio’s feelings for Hero and decides to convince him that she is unfaithful. Meanwhile, Don Pedro wants to arrange a marriage between Benedick and Beatrice as he thinks they secretly love each other. Thus, there are two men, each with his companions, who plot to decide the fate of the couples.
After a while, Don John says to Claudio that Hero, his wife-to-be, has another man. He asks Margaret, Hero’s maid, to dress like her mistress and pretend to declare her love for someone. As Claudio sees it, he has no doubt it is accurate and rejects Hero the next day at their wedding. After this, Leonato is advised to fake his daughter’s death. In the meantime, Benedick overhears his friends’ conversation, during which they say that Beatrice loves him. Beatrice hears the same dialog between Ursula and Hero and learns that Benedick has affection for her. Both of them admit to themselves that they have feelings for each other.
However, the plot against Hero is uncovered after the Watch arrests Don John’s companions, who confess to lying about the girl’s infidelity. Claudio is desperate and agrees to marry a woman who is supposed to look like Hero and is the daughter of Leonato’s brother. On their wedding day, Claudio is surprised to see his beloved bride whom he considered dead. The play has a happy conclusion: Benedick asks Beatrice to marry her, and she agrees, and a messenger reports that Don John has been arrested.
Perhaps, the most remarkable characters of the book are Benedick and Beatrice. They behave as if they were proud and self-sufficient, but in fact, they are afraid of admitting their feelings not only to others but also to themselves. They exchange sarcastic remarks only to hide what they truly experience. Both of them seem to oppose marriage as it may be concluded from their conversations. While discussing Beatrice, Benedick says, “I would not marry her though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed.”1 Beatrice despises the whole idea of marrying as she considers men unworthy: “Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust?”2 However, they change their views as soon as they realize that their feelings are mutual. It means that their arrogant behavior was just a defense protecting them from being hurt.
Another couple of characters, Claudio and Hero, are entirely different. They do not hide their feelings; on the contrary, they make others aware of their love and plan their wedding. However, they are not exceptionally positive characters, at least Claudio. Due to his gullibility and lack of critical thinking, their enemies managed to disrupt their nuptials.3 As for Hero, she is a pure woman whose reputation was unfairly soiled by some evil people. Luckily for her, the truth was revealed, and she redeemed her good name.
Two more personages worth mentioning are Don Pedro and Don John, brothers representing good and evil, respectively. In the play, they have one thing in common: both of them want to determine the fate of others. However, Don Pedro’s actions lead to an arranged marriage, while Don John’s conspiracy causes a wedding disruption. Don John is the only purely negative character in the play because he has evil intentions and incites his companions to realize his plan.
The play touches upon several themes, such as gender roles, deceit, and gossip. Shakespeare shows the social pressure placed on women to make them live according to the established pattern: be pure, obey a husband, and spend time at home4 In the play, Hero represents a person who conforms to this standard behavior, while Beatrice is an example of a woman who decides to beat gender stereotypes. However, society overcomes Beatrice’s persistent desire to be independent and urges her to agree to a marriage.
Deception is one of the central problems of the play because most events it are based on lies. For example, Claudio is deceived at least two times: when Don John convinces him that his bride is unfaithful and when Leonato tells him Hero is dead. Benedick and Beatrice happen to overhear conversations by deceit as well. In the play, Don John’s conspiracy is uncovered by accident because the Watch happens to hear his companions’ talk5 However, regardless of deception being white lies or malevolent trickery, there is always a chance that it will be exposed.
The theme of gossip is concealed in the headline of the comedy since, in Shakespeare’s times, the word nothing sounded like noting, which means rumors. Indeed, the characters of the book make a fuss about things that they do not know for sure but hear from sources that may be untrustworthy. They not only believe gossips but also create them by involving in such activities as eavesdropping and surveillance.
Despite all infamies and vides of high society, Shakespeare shows that they are capable of love. Benedick and Beatrice, incorrigible opponents of marriage, can no longer maintain their position after they become aware of their affection for each other. Hero and Claudio’s storyline is also dedicated to the theme of love. Finally, Don Pedro seems to be seeking a beloved wife, but he is not lucky at it. Thus, the play reveals that love is essential for anybody, and it can change a person’s attitude toward life.
To sum up, this Shakespeare’s comedy makes readers or a theatre audience think about the role of women in the society, especially the pressure exerted on them as to their proper behavior and relationships with men. Besides, the play shows that excessive gullibility and believing every single word without verifying it may lead to deplorable consequences. Eventually, the book allows readers to keep track of the storylines of two couples and see that love comes even for those who do not expect it.
Cartmell, Deborah, and Peter J. Smith, eds. Much Ado About Nothing: A Critical Reader. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.
Morini, Massimiliano. “‘Out on Thee, Seeming!’ Fashioning Plots in Much Ado About Nothing.” Prophecy and Conspiracy in Early Modern England (2017): 17-26.
Pifer, Stacy. “Fallen Angels, New Women, and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing: Modern Stereotypes in the Elizabethan Era.” Monarch Review 3 (2016): 3-7.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado about Nothing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 25.
- Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, 19.
- Massimiliano Morini, “‘Out on thee, seeming!’ Fashioning Plots in Much Ado About Nothing,” Prophecy and Conspiracy in Early Modern England (2017): 24.
- Stacy Pifer, “Fallen Angels, New Women, and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing: Modern Stereotypes in the Elizabethan Era,” Monarch Review 3 (2016): 7.
- Deborah Cartmell and Peter J. Smith, eds., Much Ado About Nothing: A Critical Reader (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018), 1.
How is the antagonistic yet potentially loving relationship between Beatrice and Benedick quickly established in Much Ado About Nothing?
Although set in Messina, Italy, the conventions in Much Ado About Nothing are those of Elizabethan England, where marriage was seen as a business transaction and family stability was vital. This idea is explored through the fate of Hero, who has little say in who she marries because her life is dictated by her father, Leonato, “It is my cousin’s duty to make curtsy, and say, father, as it please you” (Beatrice – Act2, Sc1, L39). Shakespeare also makes his views on courtly love clear – Claudio falls in love with Hero without saying a word to her but is permitted to wed her by Leonato, only for Claudio to leave Hero at the alter because he mistakenly thinks that she has been unfaithful. Beatrice on the other hand, is subject to no such conventions: she is a rebel. Her uncle, Leonato, says “By my troth, niece, thou will never get thee a husband if thou be so shrewd of they tongue”. She is the opposite of her cousin and best friend, Hero. These are characteristics which make her relationship with Benedick fiery and very unusual for the time. As it is a play, the opening scene needs to draw the audience in, hence the quick introduction of this entertaining relationship. Beatrice and Benedick’s past is intriguing and the audience is forced to keep watching in order to find out what happened, as not all is revealed at first. Their banter is fast, furious and comical, making the opening scene a great start to the play.The first clue to their relationship and Beatrice’s first line comes very early in Act 1, Scene 1, by line 23. A messenger has come to inform the people of Messina of the arrival of Don Pedro of Arragon, who has just won a war fought against his brother, Don John, over their inheritance. Don Pedro is portrayed as the “goody” and Don John quickly emerges as the antagonist of the play, as the illegitimate son. Leonato and the Messenger are discussing Claudio’s feats in the war, when Beatrice interrupts, again showing how unconventional and bold she is, “I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars or no?” The “Signor Mountanto” she refers to, is Benedick, another soldier who fought in the war. She uses “Signor Mountanto”, meaning “fencer”, in a sarcastic way but the fact that Beatrice enquires about him and uses this nickname shows her possible affection for Benedick and that there is some sort of past between them. His nickname also reveals how she views him, perhaps as sharp and potentially dangerous.Beatrice continues to ask after Benedick, “How many hath he killed? – for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing” Even though she is mocking him, Shakespeare is showing that she is thinking about him a lot. The word “promised” suggests that they have met before and at least spoken. The messenger defends Benedick, saying that Benedick is a good soldier, to which Beatrice responds: “And a good soldier to a lady, but what is he to a lord?” This implies that Benedick is good with women but not at fighting. The way Beatrice delivers the line suggests that she finds the way Benedick is with women disgraceful and that she may have been victim of this in the past.We see early signs of Beatrice’s quick wit when she challenges the messenger over Benedick and again how she does not fit the mould of an Elizabethan woman, something which could result from the absence of her parents. On line 45, Leonato tells the messenger that the verbal fighting between his niece, Beatrice and Benedick is a “Merry war”. This is an oxymoron that hints that their fighting is good-natured and not too serious.Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick and John first appear at line 70 of Act 1, Scene 1. Don Pedro and Leonato – the governor of Messina – greet each other like old friends and it appears that Don John has been forgiven as he is welcomed into Leonato’s home. Don Pedro sees Hero and asks Leonato, “I think this is your daughter?” to which Leonato responds, “Her mother hath many times told me so,” but Benedick then interrupts: “Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?” Leonato says: “Signor Benedick, no, for then you were a child”. His interruption of the governor and the Prince in their conversation shows how cheeky Benedick is and the governor’s response backs-up what Beatrice has hinted at about him being a “ladies man”.This is when Benedick and Beatrice launch into the first bout of their “merry war”. Benedick calls Beatrice “Lady Disdain” which is obviously unkind and disrespectful but can also be seen as a nickname that Benedick has for Beatrice, similar to Beatrice calling him “Signor Mountanto”. What follows is a kind of tennis match of insults, the words going back and forth between Benedick and Beatrice. They mirror each other’s language and use lots of metaphors, particularly relating to animals. For example, Benedick says, “You are a rare parrot-teacher” which could be a sexual stereotype, suggesting she talks a lot. Beatrice responds: “A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours”, meaning she would rather be a bird than an animal like him. Benedick retorts – continuing the use of animal imagery – “I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so a good continuer: but keep your way a God’s name. I have done.” Benedick is saying that he wishes that his horse was as fast as Beatrice’s tongue, he then says he is done. “You always end with a jade’s trick: I know you of old,” says Beatrice, “I know you of old” confirming the two have a history. In my opinion, the way that they bicker appears to be practiced and familiar, they seem to do it out of habit and it seems like a routine, which is, in a way, like many already-married couples.Shakespeare scaffolds Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship from the start by incorporating hints as to their views on love and marriage, Benedick says, “If I do (fall in love) hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot at me, and he that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam”. Benedick’s conversation with Claudio in Act 1, Scene 1 is then mirrored in Act 2, Scene 1, when Beatrice outlines her ideal man. Both talk of how they will never fall in love and never get married, creating dramatic irony because the audience knows that Benedick and Beatrice are well suited. These clues successfully lead the audience into believing that Beatrice and Benedick will be together by the end of the play. Even after Act 1, Scene 1, the comedy in Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship continues. For example, at the masked ball, Beatrice is talking to the masked Benedick and tells him, “Why is he the Prince’s Jester, a very dull fool.” She seems to take pleasure from Benedick’s reaction, as though her insults have had the desired effect. He believes that she does not know she was talking to him and Benedick tells the Prince that he is hurt by her words; “every stab wounds.” If he did not care for her then he would be less insulted by her insults.Also in Act 2, Scene 1, Don Pedro asks Beatrice to be his wife. Beatrice responds, “No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days, your grace is too costly to wear every day” showing that Beatrice thinks the Prince is too good for her but also that she may be waiting someone else, to ask her maybe Benedick. It would be very unusual for a woman at this time to turn down the offer of marriage from a Prince, especially if the Prince is the seemingly perfect Don Pedro. However, her reason is legitimate. Just before the proposal, she confirms that she and Benedick used to be together. She says, “He lent me it (Benedick’s heart) for a while, and I gave him use for it”. This implies that the couple once used to share each other’s hearts but the use of the word “lent” suggests that it was something that did not last long. Benedick and Beatrice do eventually confess their love for one another, in Act 4, Scene 1, and while this is slightly predictable, it is a welcome turn of happiness for the audience who have recently seen Claudio tricked, Hero’s reputation destroyed “Sweet Hero, she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone” (Beatrice), and Don John’s plan become a success. However, whilst resolving the issue of Beatrice and Benedick’s love, this scene raises another problem: Beatrice tells Benedick that in order to prove his love for her, he must “Kill Claudio”. After some convincing, he reluctantly agrees, “Enough, I am engaged, I will challenge”, revealing his devotion and love for Beatrice. Beatrice asking Benedick to kill Claudio shows that she is strongly against the masculine solidarity which can so easily destroy a woman’s reputation and also that she trusts Benedick completely. In Act 1, Scene 1, when Claudio first confesses his “love” for Hero, he uses the idea of Petrarchan conceit when he says “Can the world buy such a jewel?” This is a Petrarchan cliché such as “Hairs like golden wires,” that Shakespeare shows he is opposed to through the success of the relationship of Benedick and Beatrice, and through Sonnet 130, that tell us that true love can see beyond faults whereas courtly love, which can lead to superficial unions that can be destroyed with something as simple a small trick, as seen through the story of Hero and Claudio.In conclusion, Beatrice and Benedick’s antagonistic relationship is a very successful way to open the play as their bickering is witty and comical, and their past is mysterious. Shakespeare successfully layers what will happen to Beatrice and Benedick by engaging the audience in dramatic irony, where they know Beatrice and Benedick will end up together but the characters themselves do not. The title can describe Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship, in the end it has been “much ado about nothing,” because they have fought for the whole play but eventually end up together and married. The title also has a double meaning, “Nothing” at the time of the play sounded very similar to “Noting” and when Claudio and Benedick discuss Hero in Act 1, Scene 1, both men talk of observing or noting her. Much of the play is based around “mis-notings” as well as “nothings”. Shakespeare suggests that the most successful relationships are based on compatibility and spark, a concept that seems decidedly modern.
Trickery and Deception: A Dish Best Served by Shakespeare
“Though those that are betrayed Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor Stands in worse case of woe” (Cymbeline, III.iv). Shakespeare’s carefully crafted world of deception and trickery within Much Ado About Nothing thrives on deceitful characters-both malicious and virtuous-whose manipulation of information affords them control and power that they would otherwise not enjoy. While hidden identities and meanings are achieved through trickery by nearly all of the principle characters, the motivations behind these deceptions vary from Claudio’s search for love to Don John’s evil plot to gain a fortune. Benedick and Beatrice’s beguiling courtship based on false statements, Claudio and Hero’s betrothal founded initially on a falsehood, and Don Pedro’s plot to prevent said marriage through trickery allows Shakespeare to demonstrate the role of deceit in the world of play and comment on theater in general. Benedick and Beatrice conceal their true feelings for one another by hiding behind masks of witty banter and stinging insults. Even when Benedick is not nearby, Beatrice takes refugee in her criticism of him, remarking to a messenger that Benedick “will hang upon [Claudio] like a disease” costing “him a thousand pound ere a’ be cured” (I.i). This verbal bombardment is described by Leonato as “a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her,” introducing the reader to the idea that perhaps the stinging taunts tossed between the two are indicative of something else (I.i). The first exchange that occurs between Beatrice and Benedick takes place when Benedick believes the mask he is wearing hides his identity. Beatrice, who is aware of his identity regardless of his deceit, attacks the unsuspecting Benedick with a barrage of scathing indictments, claiming “he is a prince’s jester” and “a very dull fool” (II.i). Because both characters find comfort in their own deceit, it is impossible for either to consider the hidden meaning of their verbal tÃªte-Ã -tÃªtes. Ironically, it is only through the masterful scheming and trickery of Claudio, Hero, and their accomplices that Benedick and Beatrice become aware of their true feelings for each other. Shakespeare’s dual and conflicting uses of deception-both keeping apart and brining together Benedick and Beatrice-create subtle intricacies that give the world of the play a decidedly richer feel. More generally, however, Shakespeare uses these same motifs to comment on the contradictions of theater in general. The courtship of Benedick and Beatrice, hindered and enabled by concealment, is, therefore, a parallel to theater in general.The fate of Claudio and Hero eerily mirrors that of Benedick and Beatrice. While Claudio does not hide himself behind a mask of insults and slander, he instead settles on a literal mask in the form of Don Pedro. After mischievous scheming, Don Pedro devises a plan to present himself “in some disguise” and “take her hearing prisoner with the force And strong encounter of my amorous tale” (I.i). Claudio’s inability to woo in his own name means he must turn to Don Pedro to aid in his deception. While Don Pedro’s alluring charm and grace, prompting him to command Hero “Speak low, if you speak love” wins her heart for Claudio, this glorious feat is accomplished through presumably unnecessary deception (II.i). Claudio, posing as Benedick, is incorrectly informed through Don John and Borachio that Don Pedro wooed Hero for his own purposes, prompting him to declare in despair to “trust no agent; for beauty is a witch Against whose charms faith melteth into blood” (II.i). Trickery wins Hero’s heart for Benedick and also convinces him of Don Pedro’s betrayal. As with Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship, Shakespeare uses deception to both bring Claudio and Hero together as well as convince Claudio of the impossibility of their union. The dramatic irony created when the audience knows the hidden truths of the affair adds to the suspense of the play. Once again, subtle irony is inherent within the seeming contradictions between the expectations of the characters and reality. While Claudio uses deceit to bring him Hero, and therefore happiness, the trickery and treachery of Don John prevents him from immediately enjoying that same happiness. Shakespeare creates this paradox within the relationship of Claudio and Hero to show that true happiness must be gained through honest relationships.Unlike the two couples in the play, Don John uses misinformation and treachery to destroy happiness, not create it. For his own selfish reasons, he goes to incredible lengths to prevent the union of Claudio and Hero, even going so far as to enlist Borachio and the unknowing Margaret. By using her as a decoy to convince Claudio of Hero’s infidelity, Don John believes “there shall appear such seeming truth of Hero’s disloyalty that jealousy shall be called assurance and all the preparation overthrown” (II.ii). Up until this point, the countless moments of deception have not been accompanied by sinister undertones. The successful completion of this plan, naturally, leads to the dissolution of the intended nuptials between Claudio and Hero. Ironically, however, it is only through further deception that this is partially remedied. After Claudio brutally leaves Hero at the altar, only Friar Francis’s quickly produced plan for deceit prevents complete tragedy. “Your daughter here the princes left for dead: Let her awhile be secretly kept in, And publish it that she is dead indeed” (IV.i). By pretending that the innocent Hero died of shame, the possibility remains for her still to find the happiness initially denied to her. Once Hero’s name is cleared through the discovery of Don John’s evil plot, she is reintroduced to Claudio as a niece of her father. While this deception is short lived-only a few moments after their greeting Claudio exclaims with happiness “Another Hero!”-it is necessary to the marriage of the pair (V.iv). As with the other examples throughout the play, Shakespeare again portrays deception and treachery as a double-edged sword capable of causing both bliss and sorrow. This duality mirrors the world of theater where actors must hide their identities to achieve the proper character while still allowing for their pure emotion to be displayed. While trickery and deceit are integral to the plot and meaning of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the consequences of characters’ manipulation of information has varied outcomes from happily ever after for Benedick and Beatrice to presumed imprisonment for Don John. This inconsistency allows Shakespeare to use deceit as a plot device to affect the world of the play in such a way as to comment on theater in general. Although Shakespeare did not conclude that treachery and trickery has the greatest consequences for the traitor within the dialogue of this play, his belief is nevertheless mirrored through the plot and characters.
The Art of Storytelling
Picasso once said, “Art is lies that tell the truth.” Art requires the suspension of reality or rather the ability to transcend the expected. In suspending that reality, however, greater truths can be addressed without the restrictions established by grounding the work within the confines of everyday existence. Throughout William Shakespeare’s comedic play Much Ado about Nothing, the art of deceit exposes pre-existing truths. Furthermore, because deceit is employed for an amiable intent and outcome, the dishonest means by which this truth is uncovered is justified. While the companions of Beatrice and Benedick contrive them into thinking the other loves them first, they are merely offering a gentle nudge to a romance that existed all along. Because Beatrice and Benedick do in fact love one another, their companions commit no wrong by spreading those rumors. Whether or not the end justifies the means is academic and too generic to be covered in that blanket statement. Rather, the focus should be that the perhaps-deceitful means are excusable when the intention and outcome result in the uncovering of a truth.Somewhat concealed amidst the sparring of wit between Benedick and Beatrice lies a true love and sense of respect for one another. Upon hearing of the soldier’s return from the war, Beatrice is quick to inquire the safety, albeit it coupled with an insult, of Benedick (MAAN.I.I.28). Her eagerness to know of his safety above all other details reveals a genuine concern for him. Additionally, Leonato reveals soon thereafter that the two have long engaged in a sort of “merry war,” thereby establishing that the two have history and therefore chemistry in their relationship (MAAN.I.I.57). Furthermore, Benedick’s love for Beatrice is slightly uncovered at the ball when she “unwittingly” tells Benedick her assessment of his character. Upon learning that Beatrice thinks him “the prince’s jester,” he becomes obsessed with learning why his “Lady Beatrice should know [him], and not know [him]” (MAAN. II.I. 131, 193-194). Had Benedick truly hated Beatrice with the passion he portrays in his dialogue, he would pay little attention to her opinion of him. Because all of these instances occur before the “setup” plot is even contrived, it becomes apparent that “Beatrice and Benedick are in love with each other without knowing it” (Goddard 276).In discovering that amorous feelings do exist between Beatrice and Benedick, the meddling actions of their friends, hoping to nurture that love, is excusable. Had Don Pedro and the others “concocted their whole plot out of nothing” their deceitful means of bringing them together “would not have been justified” (Goddard 276). Recognizing that Beatrice would be an “excellent wife for Benedick” and Benedick not being the “unhopefulest husband,” Don Pedro devises a plot with the intention of giving “nature a nudge” by contriving to have them overhear deceptive reports exposing their mutual, though feared unrequited, love (MAAN.II.II.332, 356, Goddard 276). The eagerness with which both characters receive these overheard conversations, coupled with their willingness to cast aside their former abhorrence of marriage, further supports that love is at the basis of their relationship. Throughout the exposition of the play, subtle changes in their humors and actions (such as the change in attitude toward marriage and the sonnet writing) indicate that, given the chance and proper environment, their love will grow (MAAN.III.I. 229-232, V.IV.91). Even after the lies begin to unravel at the wedding scene and Beatrice and Benedick briefly revisit their former state of being too proud for love, they are unable to fight the truth of their love. Because the deception occurred out of pure intention and resulted in a joyful outcome, the act of intentionally lying to Beatrice and Benedick is justified.Although Beatrice and Benedick have a deep love for one another from the start, their sense of pride inhibits them from expressing their emotions. The interference and meddling of their friends serve as lies that tell the truth. By removing that initial fear of weakness that comes with being the first to reveal love, neither Beatrice nor Benedick feel they are at risk of seeming inferior to the other. They are able to transcend their past reality, grounded in pride, in order to finally see the greater truth of their love for one another. Although deceit and trickery are used to “toy” with their emotions, the intention and outcome succeed in revealing a love that existed the entire time. In this particular scenario, the ends could be said to justify the means-all it took was a little artful storytelling to uncover the truth.
To Be and Not To Seem in Much Ado About Nothing
Many characters in Shakespeare’s plays disguise themselves in one way or another. An important component of many of the his plays is the masked revels. A character adopting a new outward persona is not at all unusual. This use of contrasting the apparent versus the real is put to very good use in Much Ado About Nothing, a play that greatly concerns itself with how human beings must struggle through life by dealing with the question of what is genuine and what is false. This struggle often takes the form of comic invention as shown in the subplot of Benedick and Beatrice, who start off the play by disguising their true feelings for one another through barbed ripostes aimed directly at the other. Much Ado About Nothing is a work of literature that considers the question of whether human beings are capable of dealing with the rest of the world in a totally honest way, or rather has the human race managed to exist as long as it has by welcoming — even embracing — some forms of deception.”You seem to me as Dian in her orb / As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown; / But you are more intemperate in your blood / Than Venus, or those pamper’d animals / That rage in savage sensuality” (385-386). Claudio directs this to the woman that he was to marry. These are the words of a man who has considered himself deceived, and at first glance it might seem as though they are fitting. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes readily apparent that it was Claudio who was deceiving himself all along. Diana is an important allusion because she is emblematic of virginity. Claudio has wished for himself a maiden untouched by sin. The question arises, how could he ever have known whether Hero fit that picture of his perfect bride? He has hardly ever spoken to the woman and came home from a battle to seemingly fall deeply in love almost at first sight. Claudio knows nothing about Hero except that she is pleasing to his eye. Upon her he imprinted all the expected qualities he demands in a flawless wife. His choice of Hero was made with the expectations of what she “seemed” to be and with hardly any consideration of what she might actually be. He has deceived himself into thinking that Hero will fit his ideal image and when that image is shattered, he falls to pieces and instead imprints upon her all the qualities that he would despise in a wife. Claudio declaims, “Hero itself can blot out Hero’s virtue” (386). Yet it is not Hero’s true virtue that is in question, but rather Claudio’s vision of what Hero’s virtue should be and therefore would be. Everything that Claudio does is marked by his deception of himself that he knew exactly what Hero was like. She was like his idealized image and nothing else. She was certainly not like her own “real” image, because he had no idea what that image was, having never taken the time to sit down and find out what kind of person Hero was. Claudio lives by the rule that one lives their life how it appears to be and not how it really is. For this, he pays dearly, yet he seems even after the violent wedding scene to be content, if not downright happy. Claudio still resides in his own lie to himself. Hero failed to match up to Claudio’s expectations, but he can carry on without her because he has already set out for himself to live as he lived before, living in his own falsely calculated perceptions. Thus, he can continue with Don Pedro the baiting and hooking of Benedick, while thinking that Hero is dead. Claudio is well at home in his self-deception of a simple black and white world. When he is to marry Hero again, it is through those eyes fogged over with a cloudy vision he calls clear. Other people exist in a world they create for themselves, never giving thought to the concept that they are not nearly what they think of themselves as being. The appearances of Dogberry, Verges and the constabulary of Messina give this idea form. Here exist men who to all inward perspective are the epitome of the correct manner of being a law enforcement officer. Dogberry and Verges both look upon themselves and each other as being the highest degree possible in a policeman. They are doing their job and they are doing it most extremely well. If not, why would they still have their jobs? It is clear, however, that their “seeming” has no direct relation to their actual “being.” In Act III, scene 3, it becomes obvious that Dogberry and Verges are completely inept. Through a series of catechisms, they both reveal themselves to be almost completely in ignorance of the right manner of going about their police work.If a man will not stand in the Prince’s name, then release him and thank God you’re rid of the knave. (381)If people who have been drinking too heavily will not get to bed, then let them be until they are no longer drunk. (382)On and on it goes until one can no longer take seriously any police-like value in the characters. Yet, Dogberry and Verges are still of the opinion that they are above reproach. They live their lives in sweet, beautiful ignorance, never letting the whispers and tongues of the rest of the world threaten their wonderful bliss. This is a condition in which many people live. This is the kind of life that cannot be beaten down with the mere formality of external reality. Their view of their lives has been fashioned by their own corrupted minds to the point where even if they knew it was a lie, there would still be no threat of changing things. As Dogberry says of himself, “I am a wise fellow, and which is more, an officer” (389). The man who thinks himself wise can never let a thing like doubt cloud his judgment. For these types of people, reality is as reality does.Then there are those people who are aware of their own falsity, but are so at home within it that they won’t easily let themselves be brought out into the reality fashioned by what they hide inside. Benedick and Beatrice fit perfectly into this arena. Both are strong characters, probably the most entertaining characters in the entire play. They are both clever and witty to the extreme while also being selfish almost beyond all hope. What each of them wants is exactly what they are disguising themselves to be away from: happily wedded bliss. They certainly “seem” on the outside to desire nothing more from each other than the occasional entertaining battle of humorous repartee. Inside, however, lies their actual “being,” two characters who are lonesome for human contact that doesn’t rely on their intelligence but rather on simple human emotions. They embrace this deception because life would be too hard if they were to reveal their genuine selves. Benedick revels in his own lies and can’t allow himself to think what he might be should he drop the veil. “One woman is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well” (376). Benedick may truly believe these words as he speaks them, but it’s more probable that he is constructing yet more walls between his outward appearance and what lies beneath. What lies beneath is not the tyranny of his sex which he says he believes in, but rather a simple adult male who desires the company of an adult woman. His fear of marriage is a false front which he engages at every turn. He enjoys the front he’s presenting while knowing it is a lie. Similarly, Beatrice enjoys the lie while hiding the truth. She is just as tyrannous about her sex as Benedick is about his, but when forced into a situation she had not planned on, she is as helpless as Benedick in facing up to the principle of letting her hidden self be revealed. “Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much? / Contempt, farewell, and maiden pride, adieu!” (380). She doesn’t know how to react because the false front has been lowered and she’s forced to deal with the hard issues of what’s inside and not with the soft issues of what she has thus far presented. Both Benedick and Beatrice can both be misconstrued as caricatures if one takes into account only their witty terrorizing of one another. Their characters take on dimension when seen in the light that they are individuals who put forward a disingenuous personality while keeping their honest emotions close to the heart. They accept the view that it’s better to live in deception than be courageous and show the world how they really feel. Even after admitting how they feel, they instantly backtrack to their old ways at the end the play. That false front they have been showing is too comfortable to give up completely. It’s highly probable that their marriage turns into a constant replay of their best matches of wits. It’s doubtful that Benedick and Beatrice will ever turn into a Claudio and Hero, filled with love. The marriage of Benedick and Beatrice will probably not be only a constant battle of wits, but a constant battle to lower their defenses and live the truth instead of the lie. Much Ado About Nothing contains repeated references to “seeming” and “being.” Taking place shortly after the beginning of the play is a dance where the participants wear masks, most of whom pretend to be other people hidden behind the mask. Hero is said to be dead when actually she is very much alive. The play contains a host of images leading one to question what is genuine and what is counterfeit. The theme of the play questions whether it is preferable to live a life knowing there is deception in the world or should one struggle — perhaps vainly — with the quest for all truth all the time. The answer is a simple one. Deception exists in the world and is often a positive thing; it lets people live their lives more simply and with fewer complications, as ironic as that may seem. Works CitedShakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 366-396.