Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare, is a play about misperceptions, love and the overall comedy of relationships. The main plot revolves around a young couple, Hero and Claudio, and the obstacles they must face in order to be together. The humour ensues when Benedick, a sworn bachelor, meets Beatrice, Hero’s opinionated cousin, and from the very beginning they make their great resentment for one another extremely clear. Through the use of relationships in the play, Shakespeare shows the reader the many different forms of deception, and their positive and negative effects.
One of the main examples of deception made evident in the play is deception of friends to promote love. This is shown when Don Pedro lets Hero and Claudio in on his plan to bring Beatrice and Benedick together: “I will teach you how to humour your cousin, that she shall fall in love with Benedick, and I, with your two helps, will so practice on Benedick.” The effect is a positive one, as his plan works and the pair overcome their differences and end up falling in love. This is one of several examples of deception that is for positive, and helps the comic tone of the play evolve.
Deception to cause harm is another form that is used in the play. This time Don John, the villain of the town, and Borachio, his accomplice, fool Claudio into thinking Hero has been unfaithful in a pursuit to break off their engagement. As Borachio himself says, their goal is to “deceive the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero, and kill Leonato.” Their plan does not entirely fail, and the effect is certainly a negative one. Claudio no longer believes that Hero is a pure woman, and refuses to marry her. He makes her aware of this by reprimanding her at their wedding, in front of her family and all their guests.
Shakespeare shows how deception can be used to resolve conflict. In an effort to reverse the sullying of Hero’s name, her family is advised by Friar Francis to “let her awhile be secretly kept in, and publish it, that she is dead indeed.” By telling everyone that Hero is dead; her family hopes to buy time and find out the truth as well as evoke a sense of guilt out of Claudio. The effect is yet again a positive one, as they discover the truth and Claudio and Hero reconcile and finally marry.
Yet another form of deception used in the play is that of self-deception. One of the more significant cases of this is that of Benedick. At the beginning of the play, he swears “I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster, but I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool.”, yet by the end of the play he marries Beatrice. Throughout the play Benedick realises he was deceiving himself through deception by others, and it was in fact possible for him to fall in love. The effect of this is not negative, as eventually Benedick falls in love with Beatrice, and by the end of the play demonstrates signs of being true to himself.
Deception plays an important part in Much Ado About Nothing, and this is shown by being brought up throughout the play. Shakespeare helps the scenes develop, and provides much comedy. He also shows that it has both positive and negative effects, and that it can affect any one at any time, no matter how sweet, intelligent or good looking you may be. Much Ado About Nothing not only displays deception as an entertaining storyline, but also how it is an aspect used in everyday life.