Examine the Character of Don John.
The play Much Ado About Nothing was written and performed in the Elizabethan period. It was set in Italy in a place called Messina. As expected the play has an happy ending with a marriage, as it is an comedy, except throughout the play you think it may end as an tragedy with lots of talk of death and misery. The mood swings from light comedy to dark tragedy.
The play appealed to the Elizabethans because it mirrored life of that time. The play includes love, status and relationships between men and women. Shakespeare play was popular because there wasn’t many sources entertainment and he wrote it in a style that provided them with varied emotions.
Shakespeare’s plays wouldn’t entertain us as much today because of the racist comments; prejudice against women, as they were treated as a possession and had no use beyond being a wife or mother. Today we have different views on what’s entertainment.
We are generally more equal today, where as men (particularly farthers) dominated Elizabethan society. This period was racist and to be an illegitimate child you were seen as evil and malicious. This is why Don John adds excitement; tension; drama and a dark side. As Don John is a bastard child and wants to cause suffering to those who look down on him he feels he has a right to claim the legitimate heirs, therefore he’s a threat.
As a character don John is generally not thought that highly of. Beatrice strongly dislikes him as shown when she says, “How tartly that gentleman looks, I never can see him, but I am heart burned an hour after.”
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Hero also finds him too serious. “He is of very melancholy disposition.” In both of these quotes it shows Don John to be a very gloomy, depressed and sour looking character. One character who admires John’s dark character is Borachio. He sees Don john as a partner in crime. They schemed together as shown. “…To misuse the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero, and kill Leonarto; look for any other issue?” says Borachio. John then follows by saying, “Only to despite them I will endeavour anything ”
When Don Jon is first introduced to the play he seemed reserved, quiet and you’re unaware of what an evil character he is. “I thank you, I’m a man of few words, but I thank you.” This quotation shows that he’s a mysterious character and we’re wary of him. But later on in the play he doesn’t seem to be so reserved as we first thought. “I cannot hid what I am: I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no mans jest: eat when I have stomach, and wait for no mans leisure” This statement shows that he can’t hide who he is: he’s admitting that he’s an evil man. “… It must not be denied but I am a plain dealing villain”
Don John cares for no on. He wants to cause suffering to everyone and anyone, he’s very hateful towards all. “I had rather a canker in a hedge that a role in his” is his feelings towards his brother, Pedro. It shows that he has no respect for him.
In respect of his aggressive character, the audiences are aware of his cruel character and yet the characters are blind to how evil Don john really is. He shows outward politeness but really feels vicious anger. “I’m trusted with a muzzle, and enfranchised with a clog, therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage…If I had mouth, I would bite: if I had my liberty, I would do my liking…” is how Don John describes himself. He wants to infect all possible. He wants to satisfy his desire to be evil. That was one of many animalistic imagery references that are used throughout the play. As well as him described as ‘dog trusted with a muzzle’, not being able to bite, he describes himself as a disease. “…Will be median able to me, I am sick with displeasure to him, and what’s over comes athwart his affection, ranges evenly with mine.” This is Don John’s reaction to Claudio when he discovers that he and Hero are happy. Don John is jealous of Claudio and Don Pedro’s relationship. “Who the most exquisite Claudio?”
At this stage in the play you cant help but like Don John’s villainy character. He adds comparison to his brother: good and evil. He makes the play complete by adding drama, tension and allot more excitement to the play.
We, the audience, know allot more about Don John’s devious, manipulative and cunning character, through the use of dramatic irony in the play. “Signor you are very near my brother in love, he is enamoured on Hero I pray you dissuade him from her…” This is when Don Johns sets up Claudio into getting jealous of Don Pedro. He manipulates him into thinking that Pedro swore his affection to Hero and Don succeeds as Claudio is upset by what he has heard.
Don John is very cunning, manipulative and clever throughout the play. He doesn’t always lie. He manipulates them by twisting words. “The lady is disloyal.” He doesn’t actually say Hero’s name also, “Leonarto’s Hero, your Hero, everyone’s Hero.” Is how Don John cunningly ruins Hero’s honour. Don John insinuates Hero is everyone’s sexually, he doesn’t actually say that she has been sleeping with other people, but says enough for people to come to the conclusion themselves. He’s an ‘ honest villain’, that’s self aware and knows how to influence people opinion without saying it isn’t true as shown in this quote, “In this (those I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man) it must not be denied but I am a plain dealing villain.” Don John describes himself as an honest villain.
An example of how underhand John is, is when he approaches Hero to offer his sympathies on how she’s being treated. “…. Thus, pretty lady I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.” John sympathies. After being two faced, nasty, aggressive and very devious he adds tension by saying the following quote, before leaving, “These things come thus light smother her spirits up.”
My feeling towards don John are changing. At the beginning of the play his mysterious character leads me to like him, but as his personality unrolls the less I like him. Toward the end this comedy play my views have reversed. I discovered that he’s cowardly, which is ironic considering he’s an apparent brave soldier and so cruel to others. “He is composed and framed of treachery. And fled opon this villainy.”
Shakespeare uses animalistic imagery throughout the play. He portrays Don John using imagery as a dog, “I am trusted with a muzzle…” and a bird, “I have decreed not to sing in my cage…” All of these metaphors give an image of a vicious character. These images portray John as being imprisoned and suggest that he is a victim. This increases our sympathy for John. Through the use of dramatic irony Shakespeare allows us to feel closer to John because John reveals his true self to the audience and not the other character within the play. While other characters use soliloquies to connect with the audience John uses dramatic irony. An example of this is “…it must not be denied but I am a plain dealing villain.” In this quote he cant hide that he’s a villain, this makes the audience aware of his darker side, whereas the other characters are oblivious to his evil side.
To conclude John is portrayed as a sinful, malicious character and by Shakespeare adding this dark side that Don John adds he gives a contrast of good and evil, with his brother, Pedro. He varies the mood from light to dark; and finally gives the play drama, tension and makes the audience more intense.