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Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents the two pairs of lovers in Much Ado About Nothing. Would we see them differently from the audience of Shakespeare's day?

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Introduction

Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents the two pairs of lovers in Much Ado About Nothing. Would we see them differently from the audience of Shakespeare's day? 'Much Ado About Nothing' would have been pronounced 'Much Ado About Noting' in Shakespeare's time. Noting would infer seeing how things appear on the surface as opposed to how things really are. This provides an immediate clue as to how the play and the presentation of the story of the two pairs of lovers would be received by an audience of the time, living as they did in a patriarchal society which was based on social conventions and appearances. It can also be taken as an initial comment by Shakespeare about that society and its values and moral codes. Modern audiences, however, live in a more sexually egalitarian society. Although appearances are still important, values are more dependent on self-analysis and self-knowledge. It is significant that the story of Hero and Claudio, the first of the pairs of lovers, is one that Elizabethan audiences would have probably been familiar with. Ariosto and also Spenser in the 'Faerie Queene' had presented this love story as a tale of chivalry and high morality. Therefore the audiences of the time would be familiar with the conventional characters of Claudio and Hero. Hero displays all the qualities the Elizabethan audience would have admired in a woman. She knows her place in society. ...read more.

Middle

The reaction of Claudio and Leonato seems excessively harsh, especially when they leave her for dead. Thus Shakespeare's presentation of the lovers may have less impact. Modern audiences may find it hard to believe in their relationship as anything more than short-lived lust. However, Hero also displays a certain firmness of mind when she says to Margaret on the subject of the wedding dress: "My cousin's a fool, and thou art another, I'll wear none but this". This shows us that she does have a mind of her own and with it she chooses to conform.. She also seems to understand why she must appear to have died in the church in order to have a successful relationship with Claudio after Don John's plot has been revealed. The accusation of dishonour had sullied her name whether or not she was guilty; a fact of the times. She therefore appears to see more clearly how society requires her to shed the slur of accusation totally in order to be accepted by all. Claudio, by contrast, still appears to be willing to make the 'blind' choice convention demands of him. He is willing to accept the masked maiden who happily turns out to be Hero. Again, Shakespearian audiences would be aware of the message that society is dependent on superficiality and that conventional relationships are therefore subject to grave difficulties. A modern day audience would be more likely to empathise and to direct their sympathies and admiration towards the characters of Benedick and Beatrice, ...read more.

Conclusion

She then replies, ''Yea, as sure as I have thought or a soul''. Benedick then prepares to act on this knowledge. Both characters' judgement depends on a deeper knowledge and understanding of the situation rather than an appraisal of appearances. At the time this play was written, this would have been unusual. Thus the way the two are persuaded to look at their own feelings for each other is the only method Shakespeare could have used to successfully fool these two quick thinking characters. They would not have blindly accepted what they were told like Claudio did confronted with Hero's 'deception'. This deeper form of understanding between two lovers would not occur in the normal course of events of the time, and the success of their relationship depends upon flouting conventions as discussed. In 'Much Ado About Nothing', one may argue that Shakespeare decided to have two sets of lovers to provide the audience with contrasting perspectives on similar situations. One may also argue that the two contrast between what was expected at the time against the unconventional. In both cases Shakespeare's presentation of the relationships between these two pairs of lovers implies criticism of his shallow society and its conventions. Perhaps he set the story in Italy as he may not have wished to upset his benefactors at home. Modern audiences may only perhaps gain an appreciation of this element in 'Much Ado About Nothing' as a study of Elizabethan society. Their empathy and interest may therefore be based to a greater degree in the characterisation of Benedick and Beatrice. 1,568 words. This is excluding quotations and the title! ...read more.

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