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Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

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Introduction

Explore how Shakespeare dramatizes the way people deceive and are deceived in Much Ado About Nothing. Does any of this present difficulties for a modern audience. "Much Ado about Nothing" is not about nothing despite it's somewhat suggestive title. The play is in fact a compilation of deceit, portraying the complications of love, and deception on behalf of love, all of which entails the characters to become very much entangled in a web of facades and false talk. Shakespeare also fills his play with complex metaphors, many involving the taming of wild animals, which does dramatize the play somewhat (largely representing the manic love shared between his frantic characters and their inter-twinned love lives). In Shakespeare's time "nothing" was generally pronounced as "noting," therefore making the title of the play... "Much Ado about Noting." Unsurprisingly as a result, Shakespeare abuses this homonym at every opportunity. "Nothing" could mean "nothing;" "nothing" could denote "noting" or listening in/eavesdropping. "Nothing" was also a colloquial term for part of a woman, which was "nothing" compared to what a man had. So, the play orbits around instances of deception and eavesdropping coupled with complicated metaphors for sexual politics (and less complicated ones for sexual relations) between men and women, as was much common at the time. The basic action of the play is hiding (deception - hiding who you really are) and overhearing. The problem that this may present to a modern audience is that very few would hold knowledge of Shakespearian time and the pronunciation and dual meanings of certain words. ...read more.

Middle

Hero and Ursula talk noisily with each other in the garden, making themselves easily audible, "But are you sure That Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?" --- Ursula "So says the prince and my new-trothed lord." --- Hero Saying how Benedick is in love for Beatrice, in the knowledge that Beatrice is in fact eavesdropping on the exchange is a clear ploy to lure Beatrice into hearing what the pair are talking about. They also say how Benedick has been told to keep his emotions to himself and never tell Beatrice for it would make everything awkward and he is also ashamed that she will reject him forthwith, "But I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick, To wish him wrestle with affection, And never to let Beatrice know of it." -- Hero In the same way, Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio arrange the same entrapment for Benedick who, at the time, conceals himself in a hedge while he becomes ever more entertained and fanciful about the lies the three men tell about Beatrice being madly in love with him. This is possibly the most key scene in the play. If this trap was not laid for the two characters to later fall for each other, then possibly the play would make no sense and have no firm founding. This plan would have some resonance with a modern audience as I am sure many of them would have tried to set up friends with other people before, deceptive lies that bond people together are all too common. ...read more.

Conclusion

In his humiliation, Claudio agrees to marry whomever Leonato desires... he falters in his humiliation and simply asks, "Which is the lady I must seize upon?" he is ready and willing to commit the rest of his life to one of a group of unknowns (V.iv.53). His willingness stems not only from his guilt about slandering an innocent woman but also from the fact that he may care more about rising in Leonato's favor than in marrying for love as he has done his family wrong, and dishonored them. Leonato tells Claudio he has a niece who bears a resemblance to Hero. Claudio agrees to the marriage, and is delighted when it is Hero who emerges. Beatrice and Benedick also agree to marry, and only the prince is left without a wife. The constant play of deception raises the issue of the subjectivity of perception and makes drama itself a key theme with plays developing within the play itself. The audience can gain from this that's the actors are playing characters who are actually also playing other parts within the play. Although the theme of deception is constant throughout the play and it all ends happily, it is clear from the play that it can often end in destructiveness as with Hero, she nearly lost Claudio due to it. From the play itself perhaps the question could be asked that what is actually real. As everyone is deceiving each other throughout there appears to be no firm grounding on which to base this answer, however, it would appropriately appear to be love, even though indeed love begins in illusion. ...read more.

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