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“This play we must call a Comedy tho’ some of the incidents and discourses are more in a tragic strain; and that of the accusation of Hero is too shocking for either tragedy or comedy.” Charles Gildon, 1714. How far to you accept this comm

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Introduction

"This play we must call a Comedy tho' some of the incidents and discourses are more in a tragic strain; and that of the accusation of Hero is too shocking for either tragedy or comedy." Charles Gildon, 1714. How far to you accept this comment about the play's events and language? Although "Much Ado About Nothing" is a Shakespeare comedy, many events occur during the course of the play. Charles Gildon, an 18th century critic, deemed these events "too shocking" for either comedy or tragedy. Gildon is mainly referring to the events of Act 4, Scene 1, in which Claudio publicly renounces his bride-to-be, Hero - whom he believes has been unfaithful to him. Although this false revelation came to light in previous scenes, Claudio doesn't confront Hero until they are in the church, making sure she is publicly humiliated: "If I see anything tonight, why I should not marry her tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there I will shame her." (Act 3, Scene 2, page 64) This gives the audience reason to question Claudio's love for Hero - which we must remember is questionable anyhow due to the couple's lack of knowledge about each other. This is evident in the way that Claudio asks Don Pedro to woo Hero for him - he has very little idea about how to woo her as he doesn't know her well. ...read more.

Middle

take away not thy weary hand, death is the fairest cover for her shame that maybe wished for." (Act 4, Scene 1, page 79) Leonato's hasty declaration is a source of shock for many audiences though it is hard to say whether this is due to cultural and chronological differences. 21st century audiences find this more 17th century approach insensitive and one with which they are not accustomed to. In an age where it is generally thought that parents should love with children unconditionally, the rather antiquated idea of family pride seems wrong. Alongside this plot is Beatrice's command to her suitor, Benedick. Beatrice and Benedick's relationship encapsulates the way the play is written. Alongside the slapstick comedy of Dogberry and Verges, Benedick and Beatrice provide the witty, verbal play comedy. Both the plot of the play and Beatrice and Benedick's relationship end happily as well as the other plot trajectories. Sandwiched between their "merry war" and "skirmish of wit" lies Beatrice's daunting challenge to Benedick: "Benedick: Come bid me do anything for thee Beatrice: Kill Claudio." (Act 4, Scene 1, page 84) Just as the comedy bookends the tragedy and shock with Beatrice's and Benedick's relationship, this is reflected in the plot of the play itself. ...read more.

Conclusion

The deception of Claudio by Don John, Borachio and Conrade is strikingly similar to that of Beatrice and Benedick in style. Both parties act out scenes intended to be heard by the respective characters but construed as not to be heard by them. Again all those contrasts add up and help to create the 'rollercoaster' effect within the audience. By taking the audience from one extreme emotion to another (laughter to shock), Shakespeare is creating a 'rollercoaster of emotions.' Through this technique the emotions and responses felt by the audience are, to an extent, heightened. Certainly, Gildon could be correct in his observation that these events are too shocking for comedy but that shock was intended by Shakespeare. These shocking events were written purposely into the play by Shakespeare; it Shakespeare's way of manipulating the audience's reactions and feelings. No doubt, any controversy created by the play would only make the play all the more successful. However, Gildon's critique of the play's events and discourses being too shocking for tragedy are somewhat unfounded. Surely the events in the play aren't too far from reality in the 18th century. Although no-one is suggesting that Shakespeare sacrificed his creative integrity, he wrote plays that his audiences could relate to, not necessarily with their situations perhaps but most certainly the emotions stemming from those events and discourses. ...read more.

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