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GCSE: Much Ado About Nothing

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The main characters in 'Much Ado About Nothing'

  1. 1 Beatrice is the niece of Leonato and cousin of Hero. She is extremely quick-witted and verbally adept and amuses her relatives and friends with stories and jokes. Although she is generous and good-hearted, she often uses her wit to mock and tease other people, especially Benedick.
  2. 2 Benedick is a gentleman and soldier who has recently been fighting with Don Pedro and Claudio. Like Beatrice, Benedick is witty and enjoys mocking other people. He swears he will never marry as he is very critical of women and does not trust them.
  3. 3 Claudio is a young soldier who has won great acclaim fighting with Don Pedro in the recent wars. When Claudio returns to Messina he falls in love with Hero. He is brave and loving but is too easily led by others and is too quick to believe the rumours about Hero.
  4. 4 Don Pedro is an important nobleman from Aragon. He is a long-time friend of Leonato and is close to Benedick and Claudio. He is generous, courteous and loving to his friends, but is also quick to believe the evil Don John, and is quick to take revenge.
  5. 5 Don John is Don Pedro’s illegitimate half brother and is often referred to as Don John, the Bastard. He is miserable and sullen by nature and is jealous of Don Pedro’s success and position as the rightful Prince of Aragon. He creates the illusion of Hero being unfaithful so that he can ruin the happiness of Hero and Claudio and hurt Don Pedro.

Background information on the play

  1. 1 Shakespeare wrote Much Ado about Nothing in 1600 and its dramatic impact and characterisation are much more sophisticated than his earlier successful plays of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  2. 2 Much Ado about Nothing is set in Messina, a port on the island of Sicily. Sicily was ruled by Aragon at the time the play was set. The action of the play takes place mainly at the home and on the grounds of Leonato's estate.
  3. 3 The play is one of the few in the Shakespeare canon where the majority of the text is written in prose and not in verse.
  4. 4 Shakespeare took the idea of the young lover falsely accused of infidelity from several different sources, including the Italian writers Bandello in his book Novelle and Aristo in Orlando Furioso
  5. 5 The basic structure of the play is three different plot lines which are intertwined: Claudio and Hero - the conventional young lovers who have a crisis in their relationship and then are reunited at the end of the play; Dogberry - a bumbling amateur policeman, who with his associates, the volunteer watchmen, figure in the action when they catch the villains; Beatrice and Benedick - two battling, witty lovers who begin the play hating each other and end up in a loving relationship.

The importance of 'honour' in Shakespere's time

  1. 1 A woman’s honour was based upon her virginity and her innocent behaviour. If a woman lost her honour by having a sexual relationship before marriage it was a disaster that would damage her whole family’s reputation.
  2. 2 A man’s honour was different as it depended on friendship and reputation in society. A man would defend his honour by fighting a battle or having a duel. An example of this honour in the play is when Beatrice urges Benedick to duel with Claudio, on her behalf, in order to avenge Hero’s honour.
  3. 3 When Leonato is told that Hero has lost her honour, he believes the word of Don Pedro over his own daughter and is so ashamed that he says they should let her die. Hero’s dishonour would mean that he would not be able to find another husband for her as no one would want to marry a woman who had been with another man.
  4. 4 Don Pedro believes that his honour and reputation have been affected because he helped to woo Hero for Claudio so he is also shamed and dishonoured by Hero’s infidelity.
  5. 5 The climax of the play is when Claudio rejects Hero at the wedding, shaming her in front of her father. Claudio is more concerned about his honour and reputation than whether Hero is innocent. This questions his love for Hero because he is more concerned about himself and his own reputation.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 7
  • Peer Reviewed essays 10
  1. Peer reviewed

    Explore the relationships between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing

    3 star(s)

    Leonato, Beatrice's uncle and governor of Messina says when talking to the messenger, "You must not, sir, mistake my niece: there is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her: they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them." Shakespeare's intention in promoting Leonato's opinion immediately alerts the audience to the situation which exists between the pair. Leonato refers to these arguments as a "merry war", which says although they are quarrelling, it is in a humerous way.

    • Word count: 3132
  2. Compare and contrast the characters of Benedick and Claudio in

    BEATRICE: Why, then my cousin Margaret and Ursula are much deceived; for they did swear you did. BENEDICK: They swore that you were almost sick for me. BEATRICE: They swore that you were well-nigh dead for me. BENEDICK: 'Tis no such matter. Then you do not love me? BEATRICE: No, truly, but in friendly recompense." Above, is an extract from a transcript between Benedick and Beatrice, questioning the origin of their love. During this scene, they both find out that they have been tricked into loving each other, and tell each other they are nothing more than friends.

    • Word count: 4576
  3. Discuss the extent to which you feel that Shakespeare challenges Elizabethan stereotypes of women in Much Ado About Nothing.

    that they were not given any freedom at all because the women themselves can't have been that different from today so they must have fought for some rights and not let men have complete control over them. This is a factor that a contemporary audience needs to remember as we are sometimes too swayed by generalisations. I think they may have tried to deceive men into thinking that they controlled them, they 'played the game' this is exactly what Hero does in the play, just for the sake of not having an argument, though they still had swaying power over the men in many ways as they still do today in my opinion.

    • Word count: 3562
  4. How Beatrice and Benedick's relationship is presented in Shakespeare's comedy 'Much Ado about Nothing?'

    , here Claudio and Benedick both brand hero as an object 'yea, and a case to put it into' whereas Benedick refers to Beatrice as a woman, it seems as though, Beatrice is known as 'lady tongue', and she plays the court jester to the family who tolerate her outrageousness without really 'noting' her, but Benedick does 'note' her 'exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of may doth the last of December.' Here you can see that during the battle of words, Benedick has taken the time to notice her beauty, and personifies her to the living months, beautiful weather contrasting in the description of Hero, as she is described as an object.

    • Word count: 3087
  5. Discuss how Shakespeare creates the character of Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing

    After, Beatrice and Benedick are left on the stage together and declare there strong and true love for each other. Beatrice summons Benedick to a very difficult task, to kill Claudio. Later on, Benedick goes up to Don Pedro and Claudio and tells them Hero is innocent and that Claudio is immature and has killed a "sweet and innocent lady". He then challenges Claudio warning him he will be seeing him again. In act 5, Benedick continues to flirt with Beatrice; however she is far more interested in Claudio.

    • Word count: 5080
  6. Compare Shakespeare's Presentation of the Contrasting Relationships between Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero

    The audience is given the impression that Beatrice has a low opinion of Benedick which is enforced when Leonarto uses military language and says: "...there is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her: they never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them." This suggests that the two characters are known to have battles of words when they cross paths but the oxymoron, 'merry war' gives a sense that the friction between them is complementary.

    • Word count: 3017
  7. Explain Benedick's change of heart by the end of Act 2 scene 3 'Much ado about nothing' is one of William Shakespeare's popular comedy plays. With regards to

    several characters within the play help convince everyone Hero is dead to prove she was not unfaithful. During the time in which this play was written men dominated society. Men were in superior to women and believed a wife should submit to her husband. The play would have been acted out by men and it was not until the 19th century that women had a role in theatre. Women were property to be bought by men or used as prostitutes. Women did not speak up; any that did were branded a shrew and needed taming. Virginity was a virtue, therefore it was demanded a bride should be a virgin and once a wife, should be faithful.

    • Word count: 3183
  8. In what way does Shakespeare's play 'Much Ado About Nothing' reflect the stereotypical views held about women by Elizabethan men

    being the main character, consequently the title, Much Ado about nothing (women). In Elizabethan times, there were four main types of stereotypes of women - Woman was a whore or wife, woman was a Goddess, Woman was an adulterer, and woman was a shrew/scapegoat. In the early modern period, women were considered to be chattels owned by men, either as prostitutes or wives. They were sold by other men, pimps or fathers. A husband was what a woman should hope and pray for. She could not earn a living for herself, other than as a prostitute, and therefore, needed to be kept by a man.

    • Word count: 3335
  9. Act 4 Scene 1 is often considered a key scene in 'Much Ado About Nothing' - How is its dramatic significance conveyed?

    This makes Dogberry worried and now knows that the wedding could be a total disaster. Leonato's excuse for being too busy to listen because of the wedding is known as dramatic irony because something this important should make Leonato listen. Because of Leonato not wanting to listen to Dogberry, the audience are given the expectation that the wedding may not be a perfect affair. The part of the scene where Hero is rejected is very powerful. In many productions of this play the character of Claudio is made violent, this also happens in the production by Kenneth Brag , which we studied.

    • Word count: 3050
  10. What do we learn about the society of Messina in the play 'Much AdoAbout Nothing'?

    Italy was an important country in those times as it was a wealthy country which became a very popular place for people to visit and new ideas and fashion started there. Historical knowledge that shows us that male status, honour and power ruled over femininity. Over the years we saw the stereo-typical view of a man and a woman. Women were seen to be a house-wife, who did all the cooking, looked after the children and gave the man his dinner when he arrived home back from work Women were dominated over.

    • Word count: 3187
  11. What do we learn about the Society of Messina in the play Much Ado About Nothing?

    up a very modest notion of him amongst the Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience who will be expecting the same of his two associates. Suitably, Leonato also demonstrates his hospitability and welcoming stance. By using courteous language, he salutes the aristocratic victor, "Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace". I believe the excess formality in his speech and his addressing of his guests - "lord", "Signior" and "sir" portrays him as a highly regarded and flattering gentlemen.

    • Word count: 5763
  12. "Much Ado About Nothing" in fact has a great deal to say about love and marriage. What is Shakespeare trying to tell us about relationships between men and women? Compare the play's treatment of love with that in "Silas Marner"

    In addition, the fact that Claudio asks Don Pedro about Hero's family and whether she has any brothers suggests that he could be thinking about money and inheritance; "Hath Leonato any sons, my Lord?" (1:1:261). This implies that Claudio could be calculating and shows a materialistic, mercenary interest in marriage. Are Claudio's feelings entirely based on the sight of Hero, or is money governing his intentions? I believe that Claudio is most interested in the dowry that he will receive when marrying Hero, although he is also infatuated with her and loves her beauty.

    • Word count: 3174
  13. Compare the characters of Hero and Beatrice, as they are presented by language and action in the play - In what ways do their characters and behaviour reflect sixteenth century attitudes towards women and their role in society?

    It could also be because her cousin Beatrice's strong personality has overshadowed Hero's. However Hero's personality is different when she is around women, she becomes more assertive and is stubborn Hero: My cousin's a fool, and thou art another. I'll wear none but this Hero also shows that she is intelligent because she and Margaret are teasing Beatrice and Hero makes a joke about Benedick. Margaret: Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus and lay it to your heart. It is the only thing for a qualm. Hero: There thou prick'st her with a thistle Hero's wit however is still none compared to Beatrice who has a way with words and is very good with puns and quick fire retaliations to Benedick.

    • Word count: 3034
  14. How would a contemporary audience of Much Ado About Nothing know that it was a comic play?

    In I.i we are introduced to many characters. Women at this time would act very differently to women nowadays. Women were expected to be seen and not heard. They were expected to nod and agree. But Shakespeare introduces a very outspoken character: Beatrice, "I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars or no?" Mountanto meaning stuck up. Shakespeare's audience would find Beatrice an amusing character, since you would rarely find a woman like this. Through this character the audience know this is a comedy, because in a tragedy it would be likely that she would be punished for her rudeness.

    • Word count: 4252
  15. What will an audience find to enjoy in 'Much Ado About Nothing'?

    The audience would find this quite comical because Beatrice has appeared so set against romance and marriage, yet she declares that a man who possessed all these qualities would surely "win any woman in the world". However, she then quickly adds "if a' could get her good will" as if realising her mistake, for she has vowed never to marry anyone. This leads into a conversation about whether Beatrice will ever marry, and Beatrice jests that she will not, for she likes neither men with beards, proclaiming that "I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face"

    • Word count: 4114
  16. In the final scene of 'Much Ado About Nothing', Benedick says, "Man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion." Discuss this paying particular attention to the relationship between men and women in the play.

    "I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours to love." Such behaviour is displayed everywhere in the play, no matter what is happening you can almost guarantee that a "giddy" act will take place. The title in itself sets the perfect atmosphere for the play to follow - "Much Ado About Nothing" - it is saying that a lot of things are going on, which really are about "Nothing".

    • Word count: 3355
  17. From your reading of "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Much Ado About Nothing" what do you learn from the status and expectations of women in the sixteenth century?

    Like many of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, The Taming of the Shrew focuses on marriage. However, it also gives a great deal of attention to married life after the wedding, while the other plays often conclude with the wedding itself. The play The Taming of the Shrew opens with two induction scenes. A drunken tinker, Christopher Sly, is thrown out of a pub, and picked up by a lord who is out hunting. The lord takes him to his castle, where Sly wakes up. He is persuaded that he himself is a lord who has lost his memory.

    • Word count: 4478
  18. Much Ado About Nothing - Elizabethan Women

    Queens were restricted by further laws. What they wore was often heavy and bulky. Once married, a woman's body and her possessions belonged to her husband and the law allowed him to do whatever he wanted with them. Wife beating was common and was thought a just punishment for an unruly wife. While a man did have the right to chastise his wife, he did not have the right to be cruel or inflict bodily harm. A man could be punished in law or by the community for being cruel to his wife, and in some cases, could be legally prevented from living with his wife.

    • Word count: 4462

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • "Much Ado About Nothing" analyse how effectively the director, Kenneth Branagh, uses a variety of film techniques to introduce to the audience the themes, plots and characters of Shakespeare's play.

    "As you can see, Branagh has successfully made the play into a movie without a hitch. He uses a variety of filming techniques unavailable to those on stage, and used them well to create and introduce likeable characters. He has managed, in about 10 to 15 minutes, most of the plot details, characters and themes of the play, "Much Ado About Nothing". Jay Kulkarni 10D English Media Study Page 1 of 3"

  • Consider why Shakespeare requires two pairs of lovers in Much Ado About Nothing and to what extent you as a modern reader are above to respond sympathetically to how they are presented.

    "In conclusion, this play tackles love, marriage, friendship and society in a cleverly crafted way. Without two pairs of lovers we would have been unable to compare expectations of society against individual expectations. Shakespeare sucessfully explored Elizabethan values and ideas with Claudio and Hero. He provided the modern reader with a hero and heroine in Benedick and Beatrice. He allowed the Elizabethan audience to see a pair of lovers who were not willing to conform. The interest of the audience/reader is kept by the two plots running alongside one another. Without this the play would have been much less interesting and closed to certain discussion. He covers conventional, serious and often disturbing aspects of lover with Hero and Claudio, but contrasts them with the unconventional but meaningfull love of Beatrice and Benedick. All the themes chosen are as relevant today as they were when the play was written. I think it enables a modern reader to realise exactly what considerations had to be made with regard to love and relationships at the time and why."

  • Compare Shakespeare's Presentation of the Contrasting Relationships between Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero

    "In conclusion, Shakespeare presents the contrasting relationship between Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero through the style of language. The developments and progression of their relationships are triggered by significant moments in the plot and causes their attitudes towards the idea of loving each other change. Benedick and Beatrice use prose for the majority of the play to represent their down-to-earth relationship. It is through their playful banter and gulling which establishes the growth of an independent union on an intellectual level. Claudio and Hero's relationship is symbolised by the romantic verse they employ suited to their idealistic bond. It is turbulent throughout the play due to the events of deceit which prompt Claudio's harsh, suspicious and jealous traits which more than challenge Hero's gentle and innocent persona. It is through the difficulties their relationship is faced with that Claudio learns humility and to trust Hero."

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