“Much Ado about nothing” is all about nature. The word nothing is derived from noting, the Elizabethan pronunciation. The central importance of noting, eavesdropping has been remarked. Much Ado is a play of wit, deception and slander. Although the play consists of many other themes, nature is probably the most significant topic. Shakespeare has explained nature exploring a variety of different techniques. Much Ado is a romantic comedy and also a probable sharp attack on superficial society.
At the beginning of the play Benedick imposes the dullness of marriage, which is quite ironic as he inevitably becomes “Benedick the married man.” Beatrice however occupies an obsession with death because of her entrapment within a court she cannot respect. She has no patience with all the military hyperbole and the dominion of men thus she has segregated herself from all the courtly ceremony and custom. The play is claustrophobic as spies are hidden in its many rooms. Scenes of togetherness in one room are followed by those of conspiracy in another, which emphasises human isolation and vulnerability. In other words actions mean consequences.
Claudio’s conventional lover’s exaggeration to Hero indicates his estrangement from his natural desires. The denunciation scene takes place at the altar of a chapel, which exaggerates the huge power of institutions and conventions over the individual, whose emotions it distorts. During the Elizabethan period there was and still is a patriarchal society. Shakespeare has included this to show how fashion and social hierarchy affects human nature. In a patriarchal society it is abnormal for a woman to express her opinions ambitiously; they are expected to be conservative and conformist. This patriarchal attitude underlines much of Leonato and Antonio’s behaviour in the play. Antonio says to Hero, ” Well, niece, I trust you will be ruled by your father” (A2S1), whereupon Leonato reminds her how to behave should the prince come to woo her; yet when it becomes apparent that the prince woos on behalf of Claudio not himself, Leonato has no worries about the sudden change of son in law. For wealthy Elizabethan classes, a bride had above all to be a virgin to avoid future disputes over inheritance, and many in Shakespeare’s audience would have understood how that fear might provoke the denunciation of Hero in Act 4 Scene 1. Claudio in the start of the play seeks Benedick’s advice regarding Hero’s assets. This portrays Claudio like a mercenary in modern day but in terms of the Elizabethan time, it was just conversation.
However Beatrice’s energy and wit challenges all masculine values. She is a mature woman who is deeply defends her disrespect of the masculine solidarity which can so easily destroy a woman’s reputation. She explicitly means it when she says “Kill Claudio.” So why has Shakespeare introduced this type of attitude in Beatrice? Why does Leonato accept her behaviour and her extreme ideology of men? It is debateable that Shakespeare probably intends to convey the fact that he personally is not in favour in the treatment of women. Or because Beatrice has no parents which therefore means Leonato is not entitled to control her.
The one fact in which an audience can agree on is that Beatrice along with Bendick are the only significant characters to have compromised. Before Benedick’s love for Beatrice, he finds himself bested in the word battles with Beatrice; he suffers numerous comic indignities during the “gulling” scene (A2S3) and is cruelly mocked for his lovesick appearance (A3S2). But Benedick becomes more than just a figure of fun when events in the play lead him to a new maturity and rejection and sacrifice of his former comfortable male comradeship. Believing Beatrice’s desperate love and affection, he responds whole heartedly to her desperate unhappiness at Hero’s disgrace. His reaction to Beatrice’s command to “Kill Claudio” is brave and admirable and his resignation from the prince’s service is spoken with manly dignity. It is quite intriguing to identify that no one else has changed which means their mentality hasn’t.
Through Benedick’s and Beatrice’s anomalous roles as celibate disdainers of love and marriage, they voice the fear and dislike for the opposite sex so evidently hidden in Claudio and also remind the audience of the element in love occluded by the romantic conventions of Messina. In earthy, bawdy dialogue with Hero on her wedding day and with Benedick after he vowed to challenge Claudio, Margaret adopts a more obscene version of Beatrice’s bawdy wit, appropriate to a servant and mistress, less constrained by social conventions than her betters. She speaks for the democracy of shameless and sexual desire “Is not marriage honourable in a beggar?”
In the play Shakespeare introduces The Watch. They represent the common people of Messina. They work by night symbolising they are dim intellects. Whereas the aristocracy speaks a highly fluent language, and strictly observe signs and symbols, the Watch speak in a murky style blurring the signs and symbols. Dogberry and Verges are a comic double act which their function in the play is to discover the plot against Hero, yet they are so incompetent the news is almost never reported. Dogberry mangles the words to try an attempt the aristocratic language, “One word sir, our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two aspitious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your worship.” It is the Watch, the most unlikely of all people who catch the villains. There is a very intelligent line where Borachio says, “What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light.” This just shows how far slander and deception can affect a relationship and most importantly, the truth. It also shows that the solving of Don Johns crime invests hope in nature, whose beneficence arranges matters for the best, in spite of human interference.
Although nature is present only indirectly, Claudio falls in love with Hero outside Leonato’s house and Beatrice and Benedick in the orchard on an evening “hushed on purpose to grace harmony.” The beauty of Hero’s mind emerges from her poetic air of “the pleached bower, / Where the honeysuckles ripened by the sun, / Forbid the sun to enter”, “where Beatrice like a lapwing runs/ Close by ground.” Balthasar, musically creates the mood with “Sigh no more”, a melancholy lyric counselling women to resign themselves to male fickleness. Although the song foreshadows Claudio’s fickleness and reflects upon Benedick’s reported womanising, female fickleness is in the foreground, mainly in Benedick’s obsession with their lightness but also in Claudio’s fear of Hero’s bewitching power and in Don John’s slander. The natural images of sand and sea are used to represent the constant flow of human desire which music and the sweetness of nature prompt.
The night is the setting of Don John’s deception, ruthless daylight of Hero’s denunciation and the night of Claudio’s funeral hymn of apology in the graveyard. The apology fulfilled, the torches are put out and light, indication of dawn and symbol of hope, appears in the sky. “The wolves have preyed”, Don Pedro comments, referring to the evil which has destroyed Hero. “And look,” he adds, “the gentle day/ Before the wheels of Phoebus, round about/ Dapples the drowsy east with spots of grey”. The verse naturalises Claudio’s aggression. The daylight signifies his understanding with his darker side. In Much Ado nature maintains a subtle presence in the cycle of day and night, truth and falsehood, goodness and evil and in the sense of the value of time.
This implies a necessary link between the rhythms of nature and the process of the human spirit, particularly in love, which establishes a peaceful relationship between man and woman and within the individual between passion and reason. Shakespeare articulates this message very cleverly. But what is so interesting about the play is the philosophy behind it. He shows that humans live lives through experience and only through mistakes and errors, individuals are able to learn from their lessons. Both Benedick and Beatrice notice their mistakes in which they contradict, criticise and amend them, whereas every other character maintains the same level of thinking. No one can be like Benedick and Beatrice, because not every person perceives their own mindset as being false which is why Shakespeare explains, in my opinion, the strongest moral message that “man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.