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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.

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  1. How in "Much Ado About Nothing" does Shakespeare create dramatic tension?

    However, this incident and Claudio's readiness to be untrusting of Hero merely serves as an echo for Don John's next accusation, which brings about more calamitous outcomes. Tension is heightened further once Don John's first plan to ruin Hero's relationship with Claudio at the masquerade ball goes awry and he becomes more determined as he is filled with "displeasure to [Claudio] and whatsoever comes athwart his affections comes evenly to [Don John]". As Shakespeare places this threat so early on in the play, this adds a certain sense of inevitability to the following episodes of the play.

    • Word count: 2234
  2. The Tricking Of Benedick - What makes act 2 scene 3 dramatically effective?

    This quote suggests that Benedick has no problem with being loved by other women, but when it comes to him loving other women he is not very impressed by the idea. Also he makes reference to not having any freedom when he is in love with a women or married to one, "thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke ... and sigh away Sundays," the yoke a wooden frame to harness a pair of oxen and the "sigh away Sundays" means to be stuck at home on a Sunday with your wife.

    • Word count: 2272
  3. Much Ado About Nothing Some Critics Have Seen Claudio as a 'problem'. How far do you see him as sympathetic figure?

    During Elizabethan times, it was very important that a woman was a virgin when she got married. Marriage was seen very differently then than it is today. Most marriages were based upon wealth and the social status of the individuals and not on love like today. The fact is indeed important to Claudio, 'Hath Leonato any son, my lord?' this is significant as if Leonato did have a son then Hero would not be the heir to Leonato's wealth and, therefore, the marriage would not benefit Claudio financially.

    • Word count: 2231
  4. Explore the themes of deception in "Much Ado About Nothing". How are these themes developed and presented.

    William Shakespeare realises this and therefore creates Don John as the character whom everybody loves to hate. From his name in the play, Don John, The b*****d, Shakespeare makes clear use of the pun to emphasize and distinguish the meaning behind the word 'b*****d'. There is, of course, the literal meaning behind, which is because he has no father and there is also another meaning behind it to suggest that he is a troublemaker. Another thing is that Shakespeare also makes it clear that he is an outsider and also uses animal imagery surrounding nature to describe the character.

    • Word count: 2238
  5. What do you find Interesting about Shakespeare's Presentation of Deception in 'Much Ado about Nothing'?

    The power of illusion is enhanced when fabrications oblige Beatrice and Benedick to express their feelings of love for each other. " You are a rare parrot teacher", Benedick insults with one animal image and Beatrice replies with "A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours". Ironically Claudio soon complains that his "treasure's" beauty has bewitched his patron, so insecure and deluded has his idealisation made him. In contrasting these humours, Shakespeare creates a more truthful world on stage and can really educate the audience to the nature of the world as well as entertain them.

    • Word count: 2208
  6. The critic A. D. Lang said of Claudio that "he behaves as a hateful young cub throughout". Evaluate the validity of this reading of Claudio, taking contexts in account. How do you interpret his character?

    Claudio does seem very concerned with Benedick's opinion along with Don Pedro's, however. He seems very unsure of his own judgement but this could related back to him being 'a young lamb' and him needing reassurance and it is natural to want a friends opinion. Claudio also comes across being quite romantic in this scene. He falls in love with Hero at first sight. 'Can the world buy such a jewel?' is what he thinks of her. Jewels are sought after; they are precious, priceless and beautiful.

    • Word count: 2031
  7. Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing' Consider the various forms of deception, which an audience will witness in the course of watching 'Much Ado About Nothing'?

    Shakespeare uses deceit in various clever and entertaining ways, which have all been portrayed interestingly by old and recent directors, such as the film by 'Branagh'. Although the central deception is directed against Claudio in an attempt to destroy his relationship with Hero, it is the deceptions involving Beatrice and Benedick, which provide the play's dramatic focus. In the conclusion to the play the deceit has been foiled leaving a happy Shakespearean ending. Both Iago in Othello and Don john have been described as Machiavellian villains- devious, dishonoured and on a mission to seek revenge.

    • Word count: 2043
  8. “A play much concerned with appearance”. Discuss the theme of appearance and reality in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ ”

    When Claudio first sees Hero it is her beauty that is attractive to him, he describes her as a "jewel" and "the sweetest lady" he has ever seen. The use of hyperbole in this line shows that he is reckless with his feelings and comments about the opposite s*x, implying that perhaps underneath, he does not mean all he says, he is only adopting all the appearances of love that are fashionable. The possible fickleness of his love for Hero is further underlined when he inquires, "Hath Leonato any son?"

    • Word count: 2077
  9. Analyse Act Four, Scene One of Much Ado About Nothing to show how Shakespeare explores relationships between men and women and contemporary expectations of virginity, love and marriage.

    This is an example of Leonato's anxious behaviour. Earlier on in the play, he expresses that leaving the wedding for a week in the best idea, Act two, Scene one. Now at the wedding, it seems he is contradicting his previous thoughts and wants to hurry it on. As the scene continues, Claudio's behaviour starts to become rather surprising and confusing. The other characters are taken aback by his manner but from the audience's perspective, it is to be expected. Although it is soon made clear to the other characters that Claudio is upset and angry, he fails to pinpoint the reasons for his outrageous accusations.

    • Word count: 2322
  10. Compare the presentation of the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice with the presentation of the relationship between Claudio and Hero.

    This constant bickering could be a sign of affection for each other - they obviously know each other well and we find out that they had been together before: Beatrice says "he lent it me awhile and I gave him use for it - a double heart for his single one" But Benedick cheated on Beatrice, she says " he won it (her heart) of me with false dice" Benedick calls Beatrice "lady disdain" which means he thinks she has nothing positive to say.

    • Word count: 2581
  11. Examine how Shakespeare presents the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick in comparison to his presentation of the love between Hero and Claudio.

    Both Benedick and Claudio are respected by Messina and the other characters and the audience is made aware of this even before they meet them. A messenger bringing word of the war describes the "young Florentine called Claudio" as a gentleman and soldier of great bravery and honour. The audience will acknowledge this early admission from Shakespeare and perhaps realise that Claudio is a central character. However, once they meet Claudio and find out his views on love he may be a disappointment, especially to modern audiences, as Claudio seems fickle and inexperienced.

    • Word count: 2904
  12. In what ways is Act 4 scene 1 a significant scene in, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’?

    Characters are continually faced with questions: 'can I be certain that what I see, or hear, or know is true? Their difficulties are often caused by the deliberate deceptions of others, but equally often stem from self-deception or their own human failibility. Act 4 scene 1 also explores the role of woman in the time it was written though Beatrice who makes her own decisions, and Hero who has no right of say, and is controlled by her father. Also in this scene Shakespeare uses dramatic devices to great effect, when the audience knows more than the characters, which adds even greater tension to the scene.

    • Word count: 2125
  13. Discuss Shakespeare’s Presentation of Men in Much Ado About Nothing

    Benedick wants to make sure that everyone believes him, when says that he will never love a woman, "I will live a bachelor" (13). In trying to make sure that everyone believes him he exaggerates his case and people realise that he is bluffing. The same goes for Beatrice who is portrayed as being a little uncouth for a lady of the time. Beatrice and Benedick are portrayed as playing the same game as each other, liking each other but trying their hardest to cover it up.

    • Word count: 2681
  14. Consider the effectiveness of Act I, scene I as the opening scene of 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

    Another plausible reason for Shakespeare's usage of the darker side of humanity to open the scene is to emphasize the opposition which would be the play's foundation, 'love'. The conventional lovers, 'Hero and Claudio' are weaved into a plot involving the ettiquettes of society and strict social costums. Shakespeare has effectively used this plot to demonstrate the convenient and eloborated love that is constructed due to society pressure. The concept of idealised love in the Elizabethan era appealed to the majority of the audience at the time.

    • Word count: 2618
  15. How does Shakespeare Present Beatrice and Benedick's relationship as the 'reality' of love and Claudio and Hero's as merely the 'appearance' of it?

    Elizabethan Women were subservient to men. 1. Hero is often described using words linked to money such as ?jewel? and ?worthy?. This suggests that she is highly regarded by the male characters not only for her looks, but for her position as the only heir of Leonato, who is a rich man. This was typical in the Elizabethan times, as all women came with a large sum of money that the husband would receive upon marriage. Alternatively, an interpretation could be that Claudio may want to marry her for her wealth and high status.

    • Word count: 2664

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