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Much Ado About Nothing

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English Coursework Essay on 'Much Ado About Nothing'. 'The Jokes which society tells are a significant index of that society's concerns and anxieties'. (M. Mangan, A preface to Shakespeare's comedies, 1996) If this is the case what can we learn from 'Much Ado About Nothing' about the 'concerns and anxieties' of the society in which Shakespeare was living? 1Sir H Walpole once remarked that 'a comedy should make us think', Shakespeare exploits this function of comedy by utilizing jokes on the themes of cuckoldry, infidelity and honour to permit the audience to think about the 'concerns and anxieties' associated with these jokes within Shakespeare's society and what can be learnt from these jokes told. The figure of the Cuckold in 'Much Ado About Nothing', a husband of a woman who commits adultery, is a running joke throughout the play. In the play, the character Benedick, who carries a misogynistic view of women, is the main instigator of these jokes, he says that being a cuckold is what happens when you get married and you would have to 'hang' his 'bugle in an invisible baldrick' and he vows never to allow the plucking 'off' of 'the bull's horns and' setting 'them' on his 'forehead', meaning he does not want to get married. ...read more.


Love as a disease is another joke used in 'Much Ado About Nothing', to highlight the concerns and anxieties in Shakespeare's society over love. In Act 3 Scene 2 , after Benedick has apparently fallen in love with Beatrice he claims to have 'the toothache' and Don Pedro and Claudio tease him suggesting he 'draws it' or 'hang it' and in Act 3 scene 4 after Beatrice has supposedly fallen in love with Benedick she claims to be 'sick' and Margaret and Hero suggest 'cardus benedictus', a holy thistle and a clever pun on Benedick's name. Shakespeare discreetly portrays how Benedick and Beatrice's alliance with their honour provokes them to fear being reliant in another person and this explains Benedick's fear of marriage. Shakespeare is vividly commenting on the fears of love and its effects in Messina as a microcosm of Elizabethan England. An Elizabethan and a modern day audience could relate to this concern, as there are many pressures and problems that come with falling in love such as suitability, personality, appearance and many more. They could also make a connection to the effects love has on a person where it makes them a victim, oblivious to all things around them, gives them a loss of their sense of reality and a blindness to their lover's faults. ...read more.


uses it in all of his comedies; 'Twelfth Night', 'The Taming of the Shrew', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'As you like it' and 'Much Ado About Nothing' this illustrates that deception was not only an entertaining comic convention but a serious and sever anxiety within his society because in that period of time there were many who tried to deceive others, however, the deception was well hidden. A modern day and an Elizabethan audience would be able to connect to this as deception was and still is a very common occurrence witnessed by many in societies. In the title of 3Peter Holindale's essay on the subject of comedy remarks that there are 'serious voices in a Comedic world', this is viewed in Messina and paralleled to Elizabethan England. The jokes crafted and exploited by Shakespeare in 'Much Ado About Nothing' elaborate and reiterate the anxieties that not only the Elizabethan era faced but every generational society faces and adds to as each day passes and furthermore, make each new generation of audience laugh at these anxieties. _____________________________________________________________________ 1 Walpole, H, Sir; 'Letters' (1776) 2 Mangan, Michael; 'Huddling jet upon jest'(1996) 3 Holindale, Peter; 'Serious Voices in a Comedic World' 1984 words By Funmi Adebakin 12w ...read more.

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