Much Ado About Nothing in Context

The play A Much Ado about Nothing is a comical drama that is based on the imprerfect nature of man. The core comic value of it is based on human frailty and more specifically human superficiality. The play is also a satire of the numerous foibles of the human character. Claudio sums it all up when he learns the truth about Hero in act five: "Yet sinned I not, / But in mistaking"(5.1.267-68). Shakespeare exposes us by straight comedy, serious criticism, civilized superficiality, human frailty, and a play on noting. In order to establish a base for this play, Shakespeare uses a play on noting as a means to explore the results of what happens when people look but do not see.

The main means by which the author forms the comic value of the play is through the word noting. He does this in two fashions, the first of which is how people look on things but do not actually see them as they are. While the second is a literal pun on the word noting in a musical sense. Shakespeare first introduces "noting" in the plays very first scene: "Claudio. Benedick, didths thy note the daughter of Sigior Leonato? Benedick. I noted her not, but I looked on her"(1.1.155-57). Shortly thereafter the prince of Aragon, Don Pedro, returns and extends the play on noting: "Well if ever thou dust fall from this faith, / thou wilt prove a notable argument." (1.1.240-41), meaning of course that Bendicks protest against love is feeble. He is presenting that one might casually look upon his argument but never really see it in depth. Another instance where there is a pun on noting is the scene in which Don Pedro asks the tinny voiced Balthazar to sing a ballad:

"Don Pedro. Ney, pray the come,

Or if thou wilt hold longer argument,

Do it in notes.

Balthazar. Note this before my notes-

There's not a note of mine that's worth the noting.

Don Pedro. Why these are very crotchets that he speaks-

note notes, forsooth, and nothing!" (2.3.51-56).

Here again the pun on noting is combined with the looking and not seeing and the musical pun of notes. The play is full of theses puns on noting as well as a genuine criticism of how the characters superficially look and the actions of their compatriots.

A Much Ado about Nothing is a comedy and thus there are some elements of pure comical entertainment. The first is of course at the begging of the novel when the men at war return home. The comic and hectic nature of the characters is seen here in numerous fashions: "Benedick. What my dear lady disdain. Beatrese. Is it possible disdain should die, while she hath meat to feed it." (1.1.113-15). Pure comic value is carried on throughout the play and a main point of this is the relationship of Benedict and Beatrice. They hold a love hate relationship throughout the play. Their love is obvious but neither will make any sort of move. In the end there is no dramatic cause, or romantic overture they simple accept their love in a mutual sense of the term: "Peace, I will stop you mouth {He kisses her}. (5.4.97).

Another major theme in the play is how the characters make such a vain effort when it comes to their relationships the so-called civilized shallowness. The characters who are obviously infatuated with one another often do little to work on their relationships when they run astray. That is to say that when their plans for love run astray they expend very little effort in solving them. The most glaring example of this is of course Hero and Claudio. It is true that he appears to witnesses her breaking her chastity. He does not however confront her or even let her defend herself. He is very pigheaded and does not yield from his perception: "Claudio. There Leonato, take her back again / give not this rotten orange to your friend" (4.1.30-31). The other example of this is the relationship of Benedict and Beatrice. These people obviously love one another and yet they expend no effort in being together. They do not even make the simplest of overtures toward one another. They play this game throughout the book when their relationship has obviously ascended past this immature level or flirtation Benedict sums this up honestly with: "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably." (5.2.68).

The final means Shakesphere uses in the play is a serious criticism of human frailty and human compassion. The characters in the play suffer from numerous failures in human character. They are vain and they succumb to conjecture and rumor. They gossip and they gloat. They plan and scheme in order to obtain the least of social favors and they are malicious. The characters have all the faults of ordinary men and Shakesphere notes them all. The constable, Dogberry, serves as an embodiment of the silliness in us all: "Marry sir, they have committed false report-moreover, they have spoken untruths,--secondarily, they are slanders-sixth and lastly they have belied a lady-thirdly, they have verified unjust things-and to conclude they are lying knaves."(5.1.210-14). Claudio gives in to his anger and scorns the women who loves him more that anything. Don Pedro follows suite and is caught up in the roasting of Hero at her wedding. The play also criticizes how careless the men are with themselves even after their prolonged tour of combat. The men are drunk, avaricious, and extremely confrontational. They scheme against one another and risk their well being. Benedick for example risks losing his love because he lets his fear paralyze his judgment. In the end the characters flaws are introduced to criticize the wider state of humanity.

The Play A Much Ado About Nothing is a shining example of entertainment with genuine social criticisms. The play is an excellent addition to Shakesphere comical progression and is truly a classic for the ages.

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billy 4 years ago

good film

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