What do we learn about the Society of Messina in "Much ado about Nothing"?

Authors Avatar

GCSE English Literature Coursework: “Much ado about Nothing”

What do we learn about the Society of Messina in “Much ado about Nothing”?

Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Much ado about Nothing is set in the seaport town of Messina, in Sicily. The play tells the story of Claudio, a knight of Aragon, Hero whom he falls in love with, her sharp cousin Beatrice and her male counterpart Benedick. The comedy of Much ado about Nothing derives from the characters themselves and the etiquette of the highly mannered society in which they live. The social order of Messina is governed by respectability, convention, fashion and tradition. Artificial gender roles, eavesdropping and fashion are the matter of which Messinan society is constituted, however frivolity, light-heartedness, flirtation and heroism are all also present giving Messina an altogether rather complex and multifaceted culture, and were it not for the deceit, lies and Denigrations of Don Jon, the antagonist of the play, and bastard brother of the regal Don Pedro, then the play would nothing but be a comedy, the plot itself being carried by a series of misunderstandings or ‘notings’. These ‘notings’ are a prominent theme in the play, and provide the foundation for a great deal of the narrative of Much ado about Nothing, that in fact at the time would have been pronounced Much ado about Noting, which may be why the actions of observing, listening and overhearing to the brink of eavesdropping are participated in by so many of the character’s of the play, in view of the fact that in order for a plot centralise on instances of deceit to proceed then the characters must note one another constantly.

Messina’s situation as a seaport also allowed Shakespeare for a broader diversity of character to be introduced and established in the play, since historically seaports would have been viewed and regarded by Elizabethans as locales habituated by extensive varieties of people. The town seems very hospitable, welcomingly accommodating the returning soldiers with joy and enthusiasm

The hierarchy of the society is structured in such a way that the more respectable figures of the city are higher at the top of the social ladder than those who contribute little to the society or are lower ranked in terms of family, demeanour or jobs or duties. The governor of Messina Leonato is the highest ranked citizen of Messina and is responsible for being host to Don Pedro and his knights in their month-long presence in his city, with characters such as Dogberry and Verges towards the lower. The rank order of Messina itself is very similarly arranged to the feudal system of medieval England, with Leonato here assuming the role of a baron as governor of the locality.

Join now!

Messina’s depiction as a society of agreeable terms is furthered with the entertainment that is provided by the city, and the active participation of its participants in recreating in leisurely activities. The implementation of Balthasar’s songs and the masked ball itself shows the happiness that the people of Messina allowed themselves to indulge in, and shows Messina to be a jocular, light-hearted locale, and in being so fits the criterion for the setting of Much ado about Nothing even better.

The assortment of character in the play in terms of their social standing and bearing ranging from the royalty ...

This is a preview of the whole essay