Much Ado About Nothing illustrates a kind of deliberately puzzling title that seems to have been popular in the late 1590s (ex “As You Like It”). Indeed, the play is about nothing; it follows the relationships of Claudio and Hero (which is constantly hampered by plots to disrupt it), and in the end, the play culminates in the two other main characters falling in love (Beatrice and Bena*censored*), which, because it was an event that was quite predictable, proves to be “much ado about nothing”.
The pronunciation of the word “nothing” would, in the late 16th Century, have een “noting,” and so the title also apparently suggests a pun on the word, “noting,” and on the use of the word “note” as an expression of music. In Act two, scene two ,Balthasar is encouraged to sing, but declines, saying, “note this before my notes; there’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting. ” (53-54) However, Don Pedro retorts, “Note notes, forsooth, and nothing,” playing on Balthasar’s words, and also demanding that he pay attention to his music and nothing else.
In addition, much of the play is dedicated to people “noting” (or observing) the actions of others (such as the trick played on Beatrice nd Bene*censored* by Leonato, Hero and Claudio); they often observe and overhear one another, and consequently make a great deal out of very little. Author The political and cultural events of the 15 century had a large influence on Shakespeare’s work. In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon, Don John, his brother, Borachio his servant, Bene*censored*, a young lord, and Claudio his best friend are all returning from war, and have been invited to stay with Leonato for a month.
Shakespeare’s antagonist Don John, bears much resemblance to Don John of Austria, the llegitimate son of Charles V, half-brother to the King of Aragon who defeated the Turks at Lepanto and returned to Messina after his victory in October of 1571. Don John of Austria had many of the qualities that Shakespeare’s Don John did, he was not on good terms with his brother, and although he tried with much effort to gain status, he was frequently humiliated in attempts to bring himself fame.
Shakespeare was known to draw parallels between his characters and actual historical figures, in an attempt to produce a sort abstract history of the times (ex Henry V). Also at that time, Europe was going through the renaissance, with Italy at it’s center. Everywhere else in Europe, Italy was considered to be very high class. This attitude is reflected in Shakespeare’s plays. For example, in Much Ado About Nothing, many f the characters have Italian names (Borachio, Claudio, etc. ). This is also true of some of Shakespeare’s others plays such as The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet.
Major Themes One of the major themes in Much Ado About Nothing centers around the question and battle between deception and reality. One first notices of the image of eception as we witness the masking and unmasking at the masquerade. In the play, most overhear discussions are deceptions. It is through eavesdropping that we see the true battle between deception and reality as we look at the subplots of Bene*censored* and Beatrice, Hero and Claudio, as well as the comedy of Dogberry and his crew. The relationship between Bene*censored* and Beatrice is one manufactured completely through deception on the behalf of their friends.
Though the plot to unite them was planned, many of the problems that arose were because of things that were overheard ccidentally or on purpose. In Act II, Scene 3 Bene*censored* is deceived into thinking that Beatrice loves him because of the speech in the garden between Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro. Beatrice is sent to fetch Bene*censored* for dinner, and Bene*censored* notes “some marks of love in her[Beatrice],” (240-241) and he decides to take pity upon her and return her love. In Act III, Scene 1 Beatrice is deceived as she overhears Hero and Ursula talk of Bene*censored*’s affection for her.
Beatrice then decides to allow herself to be tamed by Bene*censored*’s “loving hand,” and return his love. Beatrice and Bene*censored* are made to fall in love through the deception of those around them, and ironically find happiness more readily than Claudio and Hero. The idea of “noting” is also continued throughout the play, and is particularly exemplified by the changing relationship between Beatrice and Bene*censored*. They play games with each other’s wit, which in the end amounts to nothing because they fall in love.
At one point, Bene*censored* surreptitiously notes, “I do spy some marks of love in her [Beatrice],” while Claudio also observes Margaret speaking with Balthasar, but istakenly notes that Margaret is Hero, and Don John purposely mistakes the masked Claudio for Beni*censored*. These three examples of noting continue the play’s theme of false observations. In addition, there is a strong theme of music and dance running through the play. Balthasar introduces the first piece of singing to the performance: ” Be you blithe and bonny, / Converting all your sounds of woe / Into hey, nonny, nonny. (74-76)
The characters all dance several times throughout the play; in the late 16th Century, organized dancing such as that portrayed here was perceived to be a sign of sophistication. In this way, the idea of the word “nothing” meaning music and dance implies the important connotation that the play’s characters are of a high social status. Characters Major Beatrice Beatrice is the niece of Lenato and cousin to Hero. She is a very strong-willed, talkative, and witty character. She often interrupts or speaks her mind without much thought to decorum.
Here first few lines interrupt the conversation between Leonato and the messenger and are loaded with sarcasm and bitterness towards Bene*censored*: “I pray you, how many hath he [Bene*censored*] / killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he / killed? For indeed I promised to eat all of his killing. ” (Act I, scene 1; 40-42)Throughout the play, she is very clever with words displaying considerable intellectual ability as well as a natural ability for humor. And her way with words is sharpened when the target is Bene*censored*.
It is obvious that right from the beginning, Beatrice has a grudge against Bene*censored*. It becomes apparent that she has been previously been hurt by him. It is also apparent that even though she is still stinging from past experiences with him, that omewhere deep inside her heart, she has feelings for him. Bene*censored* Bene*censored* is a young soldier in Don Pedro’ company. Bene*censored* enjoyed the company of Beatrice sometime earlier but went away without any commitment, causing her to harden her attitudes about men and marriage, particularly Bene*censored*.
Bene*censored* is a perfect match for Beatrice. He is witty and often sarcastic, independent in spirit, loyal to his friends, and is not really the woman hater he appears to be. He is quite ready to believe that Beatrice loves him and is not afraid of changing his mind, even publicly. Claudio A young count from the city of Florence. He is the companion of Don Pedro and have fought bravely against the war with Don Pedro’s Brother, Don John. Having admired Hero before going off to war, on his return, he finds that he is much taken with her.
Claudio, however, has an unfortunate tendency to believe exactly what he sees. Claudio only saw Hero for a brief moment upon returning from the war, and immediately desires her. In the play, The only conversation Claudio and Hero had was at their wedding when he denounced her and made public her accusation of promiscuity. This shows that his attraction to her is purely of outward beauty and he only guesses at her inward beauty; he trusts his eyes solely on who is to be his future wife but can also somehow denounce her and cause her shame.
He sees her outer beauty but can only guess at her inner beauty until he learns of her innocence from ‘The Watch’, at which point her inner beauty is revealed to him, and he believes he will never find another woman of equal worth, and will stoop to marry an Ethiope. One could say that Claudio fell in love t first sight, and then caught a glimpse of her inner beauty when her innocence was revealed, but his love of her wealth cannot be overlooked either.
After learning of Hero’s innocence he agrees to marry one of Leonato’s nieces, and says that he would even have an “Ethiope for [his] wife”. This could be interpreted as a desire of Claudio to marry into fortune, pursuance of his love wealth obscured by beauty. Hero Daughter of Leonato and Claudio’s intended wife-to-be. She is quite, traditional, obedient, and naive. She later becomes the key instrument (and unwilling victim) of Don John’s plot to cause mischief for Claudio and Don Pedro.
Hero’s loyalties and emotions shift quite easily: first willing to accept Don Pedro’s apparent proposal, then readily shifting to Claudio. Later, even after she has been humiliated by him, she is quite ready to marry a repentant Claudio. Don Pedro A prince of Aragon, a region of northwest Spain (hence the Spanish title “Don” in his name). Don Pedro is a important linking character, playing key roles first in the wooing of Hero for Claudio, then in the deception of both Beatrice and Bene*censored*, and finally as n unwitting eyewitness to Don John’s staging of Hero’s unfaithfulness.
He apparently likes to be in control of the events around him but in fact, becomes a victim of them and seems the lesser for being deceived. at the end of the play, he acts ashamed at being deceived by his brother’s plot. Bene*censored* notices Don Pedro’s melancholy face and tries to cheer him up: “…. Prince [Don Pedro] thou art sad. Get thee a wife, get thee a wife! …. ” (V, 4; 120) Don John Brother to Don Pedro. Because he was born outside of marriage, he has no official claim o any of his family’s wealth or position.
He tried to overthrow his brother in battle but lost. Now his brother’s generosity in accepting him as part of his company grinds at Don John’s unaccommodating personality, and he longs to get back at his brother. He devises a scheme in which Borachio will woo Hero’s servant girl, Margret (who apparently looks like Hero), at Hero’s window. Don John plans to have Don Pedro and Claudio witness this and thereby ruining Claudio’s marriage. Dogberry It is through Dogberry and his crew that most of the humor in the play takes lace.
We see through Dogberry’s behavior that he tries to rise above his position in society. He does this by not only taking his job quite seriously, but by trying to speak in a more educated way, therefore resulting in his many malapropisms. Dogberry also adds much of the suspense to the play as it is revealed through him of Don John’s evil slander and deception. Without Dogberry as the middleman much of the deception within the play would never be unraveled. This therefore making Dogberry a much more important role than one first perceives.