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Shakespeare's 'Much AdoAbout Nothing' uses conventions of 'Noting' and develops character and plot. Comment on how important a Shakespearian theatre audience would find this aspect of the play.

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Introduction

Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing' uses conventions of 'Noting' and develops character and plot. Comment on how important a Shakespearian theatre audience would find this aspect of the play. Noting, or observing, is central to many of the ideas in 'Much Ado About Nothing'. The word nothing was pronounced as noting in Elizabethan times, and it seems reasonable to presume that the pun was intended by Shakespeare to signal the importance of observation, spying and eavesdropping in the play. As a plot device, these occurrences strengthen the action and create humour and tension. The risks of noting incorrectly are portrayed and this naturally links plots together, along with a second major theme, illusion and reality. These two themes could often be described as the same, such as at the masked ball. Plot development and comedy in 'Much Ado About Nothing' rely heavily on the use of noting. The play appears to have a simple plot; the romantic couple, Claudio and Hero, are denied marital joy by the evil Don John while the sub-plot, Beatrice's and Benedick's resisted but growing love, provides us with some humour until order and happiness are re-established in Messina. ...read more.

Middle

The bias 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 an uncomplimentary observation of Elizabethan society. During the dramatic condemnation scene, only Friar Francis, Beatrice and Benedict correctly perceive Hero's innocence. Friar Francis states this clearly: "...by noting of the lady. I have marked A thousand blushing apparitions ...trust not my age, My reverence, calling nor divinity, If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here, Under some biting error" Act 4 Scene 1 Leonato, however, can not recognize the innocence of his own daughter. He immediately sides with Claudio and Don Pedro and notes that they would not lie: "Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie, Who loved her so, that speaking of her foulness, Washed it with tears? Hence from her, let her die." Act 4 Scene 1 Leonato's devotion to the male codes of honour and virtue cloud his perception. He, too, suffers from Claudio's distorted view of women. This illusion, the "Dian" goddess that Claudio refers to, seems to be drawn from male idealism because Leonato and Claudio feel it is their honour that Hero has violated. ...read more.

Conclusion

The dress of characters is also important to the staging of the play. The costumes help the audience to identify characters; it also helped to indicate differences in class. The emphasis of the costume helped to make disguise a common theme through many Elizabethan plays, as all the actors needed to do was undertake a costume change. This idea has been carried through from Elizabethan productions of 'Much Ado About Nothing' to more modern productions. For example in the same production of 1982, the director dresses Margaret and Hero in similar costumes, this was done as a device so that when Margaret impersonates Hero it is believable that mistaken characters should occur. 'Much Ado About Nothing' ends with order restored. The masks come off, perhaps to be replaced by the more subtle ones worn every day. It seems unlikely that Claudio's ability to note correctly will improve but, in Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare gives the audience encouragement that self-knowledge and reality will grow in Messina. The importance given to this couple's superior awareness clearly demonstrates that noting is central to this play. The plot relies on it for momentum and humour, and Shakespeare uses it to attack the illusions surrounding patriarchal society. Nikki Feltham ...read more.

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