In the play Much ‘Ado’ about nothing (Ado meaning fuss), relationship is the key subject throughout the play. As a comedy it is known in Shakespeare’s time to have misunderstandings, confusion and end in a wedding. Much Ado does the exact of the conventions of a comedy, full of mixed up events and confused identity. Shakespeare has used Much Ado to show two different presentations of love via Claudio and Hero, and Beatrice and Benedick.
There is evidently a contrast between the love of Claudio and Hero and Beatrice and Benedick, as there is in their characteristics and attributes. Claudio and Hero’s relationship being simply conventional and apparent where as Beatrice and Benedick’s based on their wit and deeper feelings.
Claudio himself being respected by Messina, a traditional solider and a character in which talks in blank verse show us as an audience his importance in the play. A perfect match for Claudio would therefore be a character such as Hero. As she herself is a character well respected, modest, virtuous and talks in blank verse. It is important that we remember that in Shakespearean time, individuals of the same status would wed. This is why we conclude that Claudio and Hero’s love is somewhat conventional.
Benedick too is valued, however in contrast to Claudio, is not customary and tends to talk in prose rather than blank verse, showing his significance. Beatrice, having a reaction to by a Shakespearean audience, is the complete opposite of her cousin Hero. Women were supposed to be moral, quiet, submissive and modest, Beatrice is not this way. Not wanting a husband was shocking for the audience of the time and her wit. She too talks in prose; indeed this does make her the perfect match for Benedick.
Although Hero and Claudio may well be of higher status, their relationship being based on the conditions of society’s specifications makes Beatrice and Benedick relationship based on true love.
In the beginning of the play we are aware that Claudio is a brave young ambitious count before we have met his character. As an audience Claudio is then seen as a brave courageous, young soldier. ‘He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion’ (Act 1 Scene 1) Shakespeare intentionally used this quote to give us an image of a character we are to meet. However he also did this to show the development of Claudio’s character further on in the play proving that his character is not the way it appeared to be. Claudio’s form of love is shallow, looks tend to mean a lot to him. He also is unable to decide for himself if Hero is worthy enough, ‘Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of signor Leonato?’ (Act 1 Scene 1) this suggests that Claudio is traditional and is unable to decide for himself if Hero is a worthy maid, for his status. ‘Can the world buy such a jewel’ (Act 1 Scene 1) this shows the role of women in Shakespeare’s society; as possessions, but also the importance of love and marriage; they can be seen as the best possible value above all. As a modern day audience this would be astonishing due to women have equality and love is not all.
Shakespeare shows the audience that Claudio’s idea of love is linked to his insecurities and need for possessions, as a ‘jewel’ referees to Hero as an item. This is also reinforced by the control of Leonato over Hero ‘take of me my daughter’ (Act 2 Scene 1) showing that their unity is superficial. Claudio is of high status, being the daughter of a governor makes Hero too of high status, making their love conventional and superficial. Despite the fact Claudio’s love is based on exquisiteness and society, he does not fail understand that to marry Hero; a female only child, meant that he would inherit Leonato’s possessions. ‘Hath Leonato any son my Lord?’ (Act 1 Scene 1) his questioning to Don Pedro suggests he is questioning Hero and his love. ‘Thou wilt be like a lover presently and tire the hearer with a book of words’ (Act 1 Scene 1) this metaphor used, has an effect on our knowledge of Claudio’s feelings and supports the role of Claudio as a conventional lover. His inexperience in love and youth is known; as he is unaware how to approach his lover therefore Don Pedro wooed her for his companion.
We can suggest that Claudio’s character changed three times. We know this because he once was like Benedick. Benedick has a witty and intelligent role, he competes with Beatrice in wit and intellect. He is an amusing, humorous character with a sharp nature in the comedy. ‘I am loved of all ladies’ (Act 1 Scene 1) showing his sense of humour. In the beginning of the play we know of his negative view of love and women and are told of his ‘merry war’ (Act 1 Scene 1) with Beatrice. Their merry war full of puns, metaphors and similes emphasizing their intellect and humour. ‘You’re a rare parrot teacher’ (Act 1 Scene 1) is an example of Benedick’s wit used in a metaphor. When Benedick is aware of Claudio’s feelings for Hero he hope is mate has not intending to become Hero’s husband, ‘no intent to turn husband’ (Act 1 Scene 1), Benedick, doesn’t love women. Maybe this is because he doesn’t want to be hurt, as we learned that he and Beatrice had a history together, where something went wrong.
Benedick would remain a single man ‘live a bachelor’ (Act 1 Scene 1) this is ironic because Benedick in fact does find himself a wife. Shakespeare like with Claudio wants to distinguish a change in Benedick’s character throughout the play. After Beatrice insulting Benedick he becomes melancholy and whinges to Don Pedro. It is here when we find out that there had been a history and significance between him and Beatrice. ‘He lent it me awhile, and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one’ (Act 2 Scene 1) now they are both reluctant to express their feelings for one another. Signs of this in in Benedick’s melancholy and Beatrice rejecting Don Pedro’s proposal because of his status. Both character a deceiving themselves. Benedick calls his friend a fool and scorns him now that Claudio is in love; he is very cynical and contemptuous.
‘I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours to love, will he hath laughed at such fellow follies in others become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love’ (Act 2 Scene 3) dramatic irony plays a big role in Benedick’s soliloquy. ‘He hath made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool’ Benedick uses this metaphor to show his feelings towards love. An oyster; love is like being trapped, no escape. He talks of Claudio scorning him however us as an audience are aware that what he has just scorned will happen to him. Shakespeare uses this to show the development of the change in Benedick and to show his true identity.
Claudio’s youth is shown through his naivety, since he believes everything told to him. Naivety plays a big part in Claudio’s character; Shakespeare uses this to show his deep love for Hero may not be love at all. ‘Fare well therefore Hero’ (Act 2 Scene 1), Claudio’s gullibility has let Don John deceive him. His youth is shown because he is unable to think beyond what he is told. He is aware that Don John is a bastard and seeing that he is a Shakespearean character in his time he should be aware of Don John being melancholy and a villain. On many occasions Shakespeare uses Don John’s character to show Claudio’s true personality as adolescent and childish. Not learning his lesson from previous incidents Claudio does not fail to let Don John mislead him into believing that his wife to be is unfaithful. ‘Why I should not marry her, tomorrow in the congregation where I should wed, there I will shame her’ (Act 3 Scene 2) Claudio not thinking of Hero but himself worries about his honour and wants to shame Hero to justify himself. This is a conflict between appearances vs. reality, Claudio’s love appeared to be great in reality it is fickle. His love is invalid and is now worth nothing linking back to the title Much Ado About Nothing. This is where we can contrast Claudio’s character to that of Benedick.
Shakespeare uses dramatic tension with Claudio’s character and sarcasm, ‘give me this maid’ (Act 4 Scene 1) this would have had an effect on the Shakespearean audience and also on the character’s in the play. It is considered moral for a woman to be pure, virtuous and innocent. So for Claudio to marry this unfaithful Hero it would be immoral. ‘Hence from her, let her die’ (Act 4 Scene 1) Leonato is disgusted at the fact that his daughter is impure. It would affect his honour, which shows the importance of it in this time. For us a modern day audience, our reaction to Claudio and Hero would contrast with that of Shakespeare’s time. Claudio publicly shaming Hero tells us about his false character. Shakespeare throughout the play makes Claudio’s character seem loyal, brave, valiant, plucky and courageous. However in reality he is nave, juvenile and false.
This is why we believe that his love for Hero is the same as his character. Claudio’s references to why Hero is unfaithful are ironic. There is no solid proof that this maid has lost her title. ‘Give not this rotten orange to your friend’ (Act 4 Scene 1); using a simile Claudio justifies what Hero is like however this is dramatic irony, while an audience knows that she is still a maid. Claudio is unaware that his description describes himself, what he appears to be is not reality. ‘Behold how like a maid she blushes here’ (Act 4 Scene 1) Claudio uses blushes to indicate that Hero is guilty. His reason is empty and has no significance at all. ‘All that you see her, that she were a maid, by these exterior shows! She is none’ (Act 4 Scene 1), Claudio mocks Hero and shows his abusive inner self. His actions are linked to the theme appearance vs. reality, which this theme and naivety vs. maturity sums up Claudio’s character. Benedick contrasts with Claudio because he is wise and is able to know that his friends have been mislead by a villain.
Benedick’s veil of deceit and pride has been removed in act 2 scenes 3. Resulting to love Beatrice seems ironic, however as an audience we clearly knew form the start that there was some chemistry between the two characters. Benedick uses Hero and Leonato as reasons to believe what he hears. In this scene he is similar to Claudio, this being because he believes exactly what he hears, however Benedick’s evidence is not as fickle as Claudio’s. ‘When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married’ (Act 4 Scene 1) Benedick has contradicted himself and has shown that he is hypocritical. Shakespeare wanted to show a distinction between the character of Claudio and Benedick and also the characters with themselves. For love Benedick begins to change his characteristics physically and verbally. He wears perfume, white powder, has changed his clothing and cut his beard. Benedick is not afraid to admit his feelings to his companions using the term, ‘I have the tooth ache’ (Act 3 Scene 2).
Beatrice too has changed her characteristics. In the beginning of the play we saw a witty, feisty and sharp character, which will not love a man. Useing puns, metaphors and similes such as ‘a bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours’ (Act 1 Scene 1), brings out the shocking character. A Shakespearean audience would have looked at Beatrice with disgust, this being because a woman was to be virtuous, respectful, quiet and obedient, like Hero.
Beatrice is a complete contrast of Hero’s character; this is why we do not know much about her character. Hero is a conventional character, obeying her father and all the qualities she was expected to be like. She may not marry whom she pleases, but whom her father tells her 2. ‘Daughter remember what I told you if the prince do solicit you in that king you know your answer’ (Act 2 Scene 3), a modern day audience would be shocked at this as we women determine for ourselves whom we may marry. Beatrice’s character is analogous to Benedick’s character. She too doesn’t want to have a partner. ‘Till god make men of some other metal’ (Act 2 Scene 1) clearly she is satisfied with being single. Beatrice also too like Benedick has changed in a less obvious way. However close friends and relatives have noticed. ‘You be not turned Turk’ (Act 3 Scene 4), Margaret wants to know what Beatrice feels because she knows her attitude has changed.
In the wedding scene we could say that Beatrice uses Benedick. However this is the first time we have seen Beatrice full of emotion. Benedick proves himself too is the most loyal and smartest character in the play. He believes his friends have been mislead but doesn’t fail to be at Hero’s side. ‘Two of them have the very bent honour…the practice of it lives in John the bastard’ (Act 4 Scene 1). We can contrast his intelligence and maturity with Claudio who is too nave to realise what is happening. Benedick has right judgement and his inner beauty is shown. To add Benedick proves that he truly does know what love is. He confesses his love for Beatrice, ‘I protest I love thee’ (Act 4 Scene 1), Beatrice too does admit her affection for Benedick.
‘I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest’ (Act 4 Scene 1), this contrasts with Beatrice’s earlier comments on love: ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow then a man swear he loves me’ (Act 1 Scene 1). ‘I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear ward and lead his apes into hell’ (Act 2 Scene 1), here she states she would rather go to hell then marry a man. She too like Benedick contradicts herself and is hypocritical. Full of emotion Beatrice asks her lover to kill Claudio, showing his loyalty to his friend Benedick refuses, ‘not for the wide world’ (Act 4 Scene 1). We here see the position of women in Shakespeares society when Beatrice says ‘if I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market place’ (Act 4 Scene 1), this shows us that a woman was second class, a woman couldn’t do what a man could. This is the point where Benedick put his love well above Claudio as he does anything for his devotee. ‘Enough, I am engaged; I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so leave you’ (Act 4 Scene 1). Benedick wins our hearts in this scene, as he is thoughtful, kind, understanding and caring.
Claudio wins Hero back when the truth is set free. Hero as a conventional woman, has no choice but to accept him ‘when I lived I was your other wife, and when you loved, you were my other husband’ us as a modern day audience would disagree with her action.
From Shakespeares society, Claudio’s naivety, Hero’s obedience, it is clear to me that their love is based on appearance. Appearance of each other and to society, their love is superficial. In the entire play these two characters barely have a full conversation with each other-how could this be love? It is clearly to me that true love lives in the characters of Beatrice and Benedick. Though in denial at first, their veil eventually had been removed. Maybe Shakespeare was trying to teach people something-maybe it was that status doesn’t always matter who knows. But from my observation I clearly believe that commitment and your true self is the key to a successful relationship! Not status and silent ness!