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“A play much concerned with appearance”. Discuss the theme of appearance and reality in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ ”

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Introduction

Nina Tite 17.12.01 "A play much concerned with appearance". Discuss the theme of appearance and reality in 'Much Ado About Nothing' " In Shakespeare's play, "Much Ado About Nothing" there are many forms of appearance and reality and various devices used to portray them. The question of what makes a real man/woman is shown through their physical appearance and the presentation of their character. Shakespeare challenges the reality of friendship in terms of trust, love and honour, as well as the reality of the characters through out the play. The use of fashion as a source of imagery enhances this. The deceptions appear in the play in different ways, self-deception and the deception of others. The play places emphasis on the character's frailties and inadequcies that hide beneath the social persona created by them with the use of honour and dignity. However this does not just apply to characters or people as society, too, tries to hide its own pretensions from itself. The characters in the play are very much concerned with their physical, and therefore outward representation to the general public. Physical attraction is key to all the loving relationships the audience sees in this play, demonstrated by couples, Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero. ...read more.

Middle

This is demonstrated again in the last act when the sonnets written by Beatrice and Benedick are taken to be more meaningful then even their words. Both deny their love for one another, indicated by the coy response from Beatrice, "troth no, no more then reason" when Benedick asks if she loves him. Two sonnets are then produced, one "containing [Beatrice's] affection", and the other "fashioned to Beatrice", and eventually, Benedick submits to his feelings and says "here's our own hands against our hearts". Perhaps this is what Beatrice and Benedick wanted to see so that what their minds wanted to believe, their eyes saw accordingly. This cannot be entirely blamed on the individual as this particular society gives a great deal to noting and over-hearing and trusting in surface truths are the causes of many of the confusions and muddles in the play. The irony of this is the fact that whilst society pays so much attention to "noting" the characters fail to note what is happening around them, and this is only pointed out for the first time by the friar in Act 4 Scene and his choice of words, "by noting of the lady" is significant. ...read more.

Conclusion

The most obvious example of this is when masks are used at the ball to let people take on different appearances and identities, and this is the second muddle of the play, Claudio took on the identity of Benedick and thought that Don Pedro wanted Hero for himself. The dance is a major symbol in the play as it is the conventional metaphor for the process of courtship. It also makes provision for another dramatic effect, the masking, a formalisation of this theme, the deception of appearances. Fashion changes constantly, as do the characters. Benedick and Beatrice have a love-hate relationship, constantly changing according to other people. Leonato's opinion of Hero changes when Claudio and Don Pedro tell him of Hero's unfaithfulness which he believes but then in turn shifts from thinking Don Pedro and Claudio respectable young men, to villains who slandered his daughter's name. In Shakespeare's time social persona was an important part of life and in this play he portrays the importance of them through the characters and the use of fashion as a source of imagery. Much Ado About Nothing is set in a real social world where rules are not subverted and as a result sexual and platonic relationships are constantly changing, being real or fictional. ...read more.

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