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Is Shakespeare's popular play Much AdoAbout Nothing simply a light 'romantic comedy' or is it something we should take rather more seriously?

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Introduction

Is Shakespeare's popular play Much Ado About Nothing simply a light 'romantic comedy' or is it something we should take rather more seriously? What is a romantic comedy? Simply, a work designed to be funny and which explores a romantic relationship. This is present in Much Ado About Nothing; however, there are many issues of the day which Shakespeare explores in closer detail. Comedies in Shakespeare's time were different from what one would consider a comedy today. When we discuss the dramatic form of a Shakespearean comedy, we are not only examining the clever or amusing text. Shakespearean comedies are not only about drawing laughs from an audience or telling a romantic story. The form of Shakespearean comedies involve certain aspects that have nothing to do with what is funny, delightful or amusing, including different classes of characters, different settings and different plot structures. Some may be surprised to find such a horrible and unpleasant turn of events within a "comic" setting, like Hero's overwhelming slander by her fianc�, or Beatrice's proposition for Benedick to murder his friend. We thus find a juxtaposition of merry and melancholy in Much Ado About Nothing (referred to as Ado from now on). When we are presented with a merry, festive setting in Ado, followed by a wholly unexpected and terribly unpleasant shaming of the innocent Hero, we experience a very sharp turn as an audience. ...read more.

Middle

We again deal with concepts of what we note and what we do not note. Because noting/observing has such importance in Messina (and, by implication, Elizabethan society), manipulation and deception are used by the dark forces in the play to exercise power and control. Don John is a stock Elizabethan villain whose intention is to harm all those involved in his downfall - especially Claudio. He tries to convince Claudio that Hero favours another twice. These episodes involve deception and slander and this malevolence distorts Claudio's perception of the events. His willingness to believe falsehoods and attribute blame - first to beauty ("for beauty is a witch" 2. 1. 135), then to Hero's base nature ("savage sensuality" 4.1. 135) - also point to self-deception about love, honour and women. Claudio's failure to distinguish appearance from reality is brought about by his romantic idealism. Hero becomes an illusion in which all womanly virtue and beauty are contained ("Can the world buy such a jewel" 1.1.108-109). The subjectivity of perception creates problems in the patriarchal, Messina society. Why are some of the characters in Messina perceptive and others not? It appears that Shakespeare is making a damning observation of Elizabethan society. During the dramatic denunciation scene, only Friar Francis, Beatrice and Benedict correctly perceive Hero's innocence. ...read more.

Conclusion

2. 70-71). The audience enjoys the irony that Dogberry has been "writ down an ass" - by Shakespeare himself. However, they reinforce Shakespeare's views that only those exempt from the conventions of society are without self-deception, as they are the ones to overhear the true story of Hero's shaming, and they are in this play outside of conventional society. However, The Watch's inability to reveal what they have correctly noted, adds to the tension of the play, and the overall scheme of misnoting. Hero's shame could have been avoided. Noting is one of the plays main preoccupations, and making observation integral to the plot demonstrates and emphasises its importance. Much Ado About Nothing is much more than a merry comic romp. In contrasting the melancholy and the amusement, Shakespeare tells a powerful story about deceit and how one should be especially careful of what one "notes". He shows a complex world where happy endings are not always entirely happy, and how communities struggle to keep a delicate balance. He shows how even in a world that is supposedly resolved, there are still problems, as with the open question of Don John. Many more themes are present which could have been explored, for example, those of friendship and of parent-child relationships. Ultimately, Ado is a poignant work because of the deep human understanding involved in its craft, and it presents a very truthful picture of the world. Arka Pal 11E ...read more.

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