Much Ado about Nothing is a romantic comedy written by William Shakespeare. Although nobody knows exactly when Shakespeare wrote the play, it is thought that the play was written in 1596 to 1599. The main characters in the play are Leonato, Hero, Beatrice, Benedick, Claudio and of course Don John the Bastard. Much Ado about Nothing is still one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays after 400 years. The title ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ has a very deep meaning. ‘Much Ado’ means a lot of fuss, therefore a lot of fuss about nothing. Also however ‘nothing’ is a pun on the word ‘noting’ as the whole play is based on what people note when they listen in on other’s conversations. Also the word ‘noting’ is another word meaning sexual connotation this adds to the comedy in the play.
The play is all about relationships and couples, and you meet two very different couples. One couple fall in love almost at first sight and appear perfectly suited to each other. However, the man named Claudio appears to be quite shallow and believes his wife-to-be, Hero, has cheated on him. He leaves her, but is tricked into marrying her later on after he has heard proof of her innocence. Another couple has a very different relationship; they mock each other by small remarks. Throughout the play they are fooled through trickery that they are actually in love. However by the end of play they admit that they really do love each other. As the play ends; it is said that ‘all things sort so well’ but in contrast Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, is left out of the circle of lovers. From the beginning the audience may have felt he was going to be the main leader but by the end he is just pushed out. The dance at the end shows happiness but audience has to work through lots unanswered questions.
Throughout the play there are elements of tragedy. This factor plays a crucial role in a typical Elizabethan comedy. The main element of tragedy in Much Ado about Nothing are when Don John, who plays the villain through the play, tricks Claudio into believing that his beautiful fiance, Hero, has cheated on him. However Hero is proven innocent at the very start of Act 5 Scene 4; “Upon the error that you heard debated:” This makes the audience feel relieved yet makes them feel still frustrated that Claudio was fooled into believing this.
Also at the start of Act 5 Scene 4 Benedick meets Don Pedro and Claudio, He has a “February face” and is feeling down. This is because Benedick is still annoyed with Claudio and Don Pedro for accusing and betraying Hero. We know this because Don Pedro says he is; “So full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness” This gives the ironic effect on the audience because the audience knows the reason of Benedick’s sadness whereas the characters do not and makes the audience feel irritated by Claudio and Don Pedro.
Also throughout Act 5 Scene 4 there are elements of comedy which contrast with the tragedy within the scene. This shows that William Shakespeare is telling an intricate story but by making this contrast he is showing a realistic side to the plot showing how just a minor incident can bring the play to the verge of a major tragedy. The comedy pulls the action back from the brink of tragedy. The first element of comedy is when Claudio proposes and Hero is masked and is unknown to Claudio, “I am your husband if you like of me”. This is an important line because it shows a different side of Claudio as he is saying it is her decision if she likes him or not, he wants to be her husband. This makes the audience feel excitement about what’s going to happen next.
The wedding between Hero and Claudio seems a bit false and does not put right what had come before it. The audience would still remember the fact that Claudio had dumped her at the altar and why would Hero want to marry him after what he had done to her; it might make the audience feel it was unreal and fake as this wouldn’t happen. They may have remembered Beatrice saying that Claudio was ‘a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman’. This means that Claudio is a villain and has destroyed Hero’s name as a maid; he has disgraced her. Hero was also described as a ‘rotten orange’ and ‘approved wanton’ meaning that she was hated by Claudio and others. Claudio is talking about her as if she is beautiful on the outside but decayed inside – she has turned bad but no-one has seen this yet. In act 4 scene 1, Beatrice wants Claudio dead but by the end everything is fine. It seems the story is contradicting itself.
Another element of Elizabethan comedy is that at least one character doesn’t change throughout the play. Don Pedro and Don John are pure examples of this comic trait. Don Pedro still remains the one character left out of the circle of lovers. Benedick says; ‘Prince, thou art sad, get thee a wife, get thee a wife, there is no staff more reverend than one tipped with horn”. This makes the audience feel sympathy for the lonely Don Pedro. He feels bad for disrespecting and not believing Hero and being naive about the situation Don Jon sets up.
Also Don John does not change throughout the play. He portrays himself as the evil villain throughout the entire play. In Act 1 Scene 3 he says, ‘In this (though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man) it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain.’
The revealing of Hero as the bride at the end may be seen as starting fresh and getting rid of Messina’s bad habits because the play is about eavesdropping and seeing things that are not true but when Hero comes out, the trickery continues as Claudio thinks he is to marry someone different. The confusion is sorted out and he saw Hero with his own eyes without having thoughts put into his head by others, everything is resolved and he has learnt his lesson because he knows that he loves her. The unveiling of Hero under the veil may be seen as symbolic because after this ‘all things sort so well’, but maybe not in the audiences eyes because although it may of sorted one problem however not the others. Towards the end Benedict, after he gained control over Don Pedro and the group, tells the orchestra to ‘strike up’ and a big dance commences to end the play. In traditional comedies a dance ends the play to indicate that all ends well and all loose ends are tied up.
At the very end of the play Don Jon returns now he has matured but Don Pedro says nothing, Benedict is now in control of the group, Benedict is in control because he has the most moral values and has not done anything wrong throughout the play.
Throughout the play, Beatrice and Benedick use prose to show their wit and intelligence. Beatrice and Benedick never use blank verse as they are both characters who are emotional towards each other. Whenever Beatrice and Benedick are together speaking; they always speak in prose to show emotions. Even in act 5 scene 4 when they are both very emotional from all the tragedy which has happened beforehand yet they still speak in continuous prose. Beatrice and Benedick are also given free verse when they are discussing their love as their love is better than Claudio and Hero’s. Beatrice and Benedick use free verse to show spiritual topics and elements. Lines 72- 85, Beatrice and Benedick, speak of their love to one another in front of an audience. This would make the audience feel joyful and over whelmed as they watch Beatrice and Benedick speak out and declaring loud of their love.
At the beginning of Act 5 Scene 4 the speech is mostly in blank verse set out as if the play is being told as a poem. Most of Act 5 scene 4, is set out as blank verse. Initially the rest of the characters usually speak in Blank verse. This is to show the emotion of the scene. You will rarely find any of the characters speaking prose, as prose is used mostly for Beatrice and Benedick.
The audience can tell the emotions of the characters by the way they speak, as if you find that any of the other characters; other than Beatrice and Benedick are speaking in blank verse; It means they are feeling very emotional. Such as when Claudio has to have his punishment by marrying Antonio’s daughter. This is a good example of when Antonio and Claudio talk in blank verse.
Finally, at the end of the play, i think that ‘all things sort so well’ is not a true statement because Don Pedro is left out and sad and the marriage between Hero and Claudio is very false under the circumstances but the marriage of Beatrice and Benedict is a happy ending and is honest to a traditional comedy.