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Analyzing William Shakespeare's “Much Ado about Nothing”

Updated on November 6, 2015

William Shakespeare interlinks the two love stories between Claudio-Hero and Benedick-Beatrice in “Much Ado about Nothing”. This paper will examine how Shakespeare interlinks the two stories through the series of parallels in the characterization, dialogue and plot structure.

Characterization

Parallel in literature is where one uses words to give commonality of two different circumstances in the text for another person to understand better. In the play, there are various instances where Shakespeare shows the parallels in the two relationships between Hero-Claudio and Benedick-Beatrice. For instance, one of the parallel instances in the play is comparison between the two love couples. Hero and Beatrice are from the same family; Leonato is Hero’s father and also Beatrice’ uncle. The two young ladies love one another and they are tied with the family kinship. Beatrice lives with her uncle and her cousin, Hero in Messina. On the other hand, Benedick and Claudio also share a common origin; in that, the two are all soldiers returning from war. Benedick and Claudio are very good friends just like the two ladies, Beatrice and Hero. Hero is best friend of Beatrice and Claudio is also the best friend of Benedick.

Another parallel in the play is that the two couples already knew one another through the previous experiences. Beatrice shows this when she tries to enquire about Benedick. The two have been involved in some kind of disagreements in which they denounce their love for one another. Beatrice says “in our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off and now is the whole man governed with one”, (I. pg. 4). From Beatrice’ words, we can deduce the conflict between Benedick and her. Both couples are trying to measure their partners’ true love (Lewis, 2015). This can be seen through the experiences they undergo after Benedick and Claudio have returned from war. Beatrice and Benedick are very repulsive and they try to show each other that they cannot fall in love. The two are ever in logger heads with one another and they would do anything to avoid what brings them together. They have been in long term conflict for as much as they can remember. Beatrice despises Benedick for nothing and whenever she hears of him, she would criticize him. When she is talking to the messenger and the messenger informs her that Benedick is coming along with Claudio, she says “O Lord, he will hang upon him like a diseases….God help the noble Claudio…it will cost him a thousand pound ere a’ be cured” (I. Pg. 4) But as much as they try to repel, nature brings them together. For instance, a night after the dinner when Don Pedro planned to woo Hero, everyone puts on a mask and they find themselves in pairs. Benedick finds himself with the same person he would wish to see last, Beatrice. Benedick and Beatrice even after a very long time, they still fight (Scheff, 1993). In their conversation after Benedick has arrived from war with his friend, Claudio, the two engage in quarrel. Benedick accuses her of being too talkative and that she should stop talking that much. “Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher”, (Pg. 8). Beatrice on the other side tells him that he never changed; he is still the same Benedick that she knew long time ago. On the other hand, Hero and Claudio’s case is another instance where the two test their love for each other. The two couples face challenges in the process of proving their love for one another. It goes to an extent where Claudio rejects his engaged fiancé, Hero out of the plan that Don John organized with Hero’s servant to dress like Hero and pretend to be making glove to Borachio. Don John calls for everyone to come and see what they had planned with the evil mind of breaking the marriage between Hero and Claudio. The scenario even gets worse when Claudio believes that the lady in that window with Borachio was indeed his fiancé, Hero (Henze, 1971). He leaves Hero at the altar accusing her of infidelity and walks away. Hero suffers through the traumatic stress she gets after Claudio has rejected her and left her at the altar. The two couples are placed in a test to show their ability to love.

Shakespeare involves also the contrasting aspects of the two love stories. Shakespeare presents the four characters in different aspects of relationship. For instance, we can say that the love between Hero and Claudio is not as genuine as that between Benedick and Beatrice. The love between Hero and Claudio is presented as more realistic and physical. Shakespeare presents the two characters in love physically and we can tell this through the activities in the play. Immediately when Claudio arrives from war, he realizes that he is in love with Hero. He even intends to ask Leonato, Hero’s father her hand in marriage. Claudio confesses his love to Hero publically and this is what brings the distinction between the two love stories. Love between Benedick and Beatrice is an ideological presentation of Shakespeare (Fleck, 2006). The two are in physical fight right from the time they first knew each other and they don’t want to show that they have feelings for one another.

Claudio-Hero’s relationship appears to be more based on the physical appearance than that of the Benedick and Beatrice (Freidman, 1995). Claudio informs Benedick how he feels about Hero and that he would want to marry her. Benedick on the other hand loughs and jokes at him saying that one should not look at the physical appearance of a woman and make conclusions. He says that one should look beyond the petty face of the woman. His sentiments appear to disagree with those of Claudio because with him, he sees the inner beauty appearance of Beatrice. Benedick’s sentiments on women can be explained with feminism theory of criticism (Fleck, 2006). Feminism explains how women are depicted in the text, the position they are given and they are regarded by their counterparts, the male. From Benedick’sopinion on Beatrice, he respects women in general and he does not look at women as objects as others such as Claudio do. Feminism theory tries to give women equal position in the society as men. The disagreement between Claudio and Hero which resulted from the accusation of infidelity shows how women are regarded in the society (Scheff, 1993). Most of the serious accusations such as untrustworthiness and unchaste are expressed towards women and not men. It shows how women’s honor is ruined with the accusations which have not been proven. Hero was being accused because she was thought to have been sleeping with the servant, Borachio. It shows have lost their dignity and how lowly they are placed in the society. Hero is a daughter of a well-respected man, but she is demeaned by Claudio who leaves her at the altar and embarrasses her of being unfaithful in front of everyone who attended the wedding including her father (Henze, 1971). Benedick also tries to appreciate women in general with Beatrice being the representative of women in this case. Benedick disagree with Claudio’s perception on women claiming that prettiness in women’s face does not matter a lot when it comes to choosing a partner. Benedick’s love is presented in an ideological way where he expresses his love to Beatrice through fear and confusion. The two are in love and they still do not realize it until when the marriage between hero and Claudio is terminated is when they confess their love for each other (Freidman, 1995). According to Claudio, Hero is a precious jewel that cannot be bought. He compares her with a property because she looks at the outer appearance of her. Claudio professes his love to hero and after which they are disrupted by Don John who brings confusion between the two couples. Benedick and Beatrice’ relationship is not disrupted by anything or anyone.

Dialogue

Shakespeare has presented the two couples in various dialogue conversations and through this we can deduce the parallels and the contrasting issues. If we begin with the parallels; both two couples are educated and aristocrats (Lewis, 2015). This can be seen in the conversations the two couples are engaged either amongst themselves or with other characters. For instance, the two couples’ conversation is much different with the other characters’ conversation. If we compare a character like Claudio with Don John, we can conclude that Don John is not educated as Claudio. For example, in their conversation with Borachio, he says “…which way looks he? a very forward march-chick! How came you to this?” (I.II. Pg. 21). On the other hand, if we take the conversation of Hero as an example, we can conclude that she is educated from the kind of vocabulary she uses. For example, in their conversation with Beatrice she describes Claudio by saying that “He is a very melancholy disposition” (II.I. pg. 23). From the two examples, we can conclude that the couples are educated aristocrats.

Both couples in most of their dialogues they talk about marriage as the content of their discussion (Freidman, 1995). The couples’ conversation involves marriage issues both amongst themselves and with other characters. When Claudio arrives from war together with Benedick and Don Pedro with his bastard brother, Don John; he confesses his love to Hero and he even goes ahead to plan to ask her hand in marriage from her father. Claudio engages in a conversation with Don Pedro about his feelings towards Hero. He explains his intentions to Don Pedro. The whole conversation between characters is basically about love and marriage. Don Pedro says “I do but stay till your marriage be consummate, and the go I toward Arragon” (III.II. pg. 64).

When we examine the counterpoint side of the love story between the two couples, there are various contrasting situations. Shakespeare presents the dialogue between the two couples differently (Lewis, 2015). Dialogue between Hero and Claudio is presented in verse form; where the characters engage in a discussion kind of conversation. One person talks and the other replies; Hero speaks to Claudio in a short sentence conversation. On the Shakespeare presents the dialogue between Benedick and Beatrice in prose form. The dialogue between the two is expressed in a narration form.

Plot

When we look at the plot structure, we can deduce the structure of the plots. In this case, we will not talk of the contrasting and parallels but concentrate on the plot structure and how Shakespeare has expressed the play. First, we look at the harmony of the plot (Muller, 1994). There is harmonization in the two couples’ plot. Shakespeare tries to make the conversations between the two couples peaceful and harmonious. Benedick and Claudio engage in a peaceful conversation. The same can be seen in Hero and Beatriece’ case, the two are engaged in a peaceful relation with one another. Shakespeare makes the plot of the two couples harmonious because they are friends and friends are always at peace. Another reason as to why Shakespeare harmonize plot in the two love stories is because it involves love issues. The plot of the two couples revolves around love issues and Shakespeare tries to identify them with the love environment. Claudio and Hero are in love and their conversation tries to capture the harmonized love environment. Claudio immediately after his return from war declares his love to Hero and informs his friend Benedick that he wants to marry her. He feels that he loves Hero despite the little he knows about her.

Shakespeare has also tried to solve the problems through the reconciliation of the plots (Muller, 1994). Benedick and Beatrice believe that they are no worth for one another and that the other cannot get enough partners. They have sworn not get married at any point in life because they don’t see that person perfect for them. With this perception, the two have been in conflict for long time not knowing that they are the perfect match for each other. Shakespeare brings the reconciliation of the plots when the two lovers who have lived in fear for one another come together and declare their love for each other. On the other hand, Claudio rejects Hero and accuses her of infidelity a night to their wedding and he goes away (Henze, 1971). Hero faints and he thinks that she is dead. After learning that the whole thing was a set up by Don Pedro’s brother, Don John through the confession of Borachio, he shows his feelings for Hero showing that he still loved her. She says “to-night I’ll mourn with Hero” (V.I. pg. 130). He believes that Hero died and he gets surprised at the chapel when a lady is brought with masked face and when he realizes that she is Hero, he gets happy and the two couples have a double wedding together.

In conclusion, the play “Much ado about nothing” by William Shakespeare reveals a journey that the two love couples are undertaking to realize their true destiny. Shakespeare has used the parallels and counterpoints to show interlink the two love stories. Some of the major points examine in this paper starts from the harmonization to reconciliation of the plots.

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