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How are disguise and deception used for effect in act 2?
In this essay I will be evaluating the use of deception in act 2, and how the
juxtaposition of malignant and benign deception affects the audience's reaction to
In act 2 scene 1, a masked ball is taking place. This `masking' immediately hints at the
deceptive theme. With unstable, sinister characters such as Don John lurking and
scheming, allowing them the chance to masquerade as someone else seems like a
very bad idea. This builds tension for the audience, as a deception, whether it be
benevolent or malevolent, appears to be imminent.
The first deception of this scene is the insistence of Antonio to Ursula that he is
someone else. `I know ... you are Signor Antonio' `At a word, I am not'. Obviously
Ursula sees through this ruse. This example of a clever servant portrays a convention
of a traditional comedy.
This benevolent deception is followed by another, but this time, instead of the man
with the mask deceiving the woman; it is in fact the woman deceiving the disguised
man. Benedick (who is disguised) and Beatrice are seen talking. When Beatrice
mentions `Signor Benedick' Benedick replies `What's he?' The indication that Beatrice
is not fooled by Benedick's disguise comes in the line `I am sure you know him well
enough'. The tone of this line is quite sarcastic and would suggest to the audience
that the deception has been twisted around, without Benedick's knowing. The things
Beatrice says about Benedick are quite harsh, calling him the `Prince's Jester'.
Beatrice seems to love this situation. She can say whatever she pleases about
Benedick, to his face, and she evokes no harsh words in return. Yet still, I don't quite
believe that she is being completely truthful about her feelings for Benedick.
Then, the first malevolent deceit of the act takes place. Don John converses briefly
with Borachio (another example of a clever servant) to find out which masked man is
Claudio. Borachio says `that is Claudio: I know him...'. This shows the audience that
the following deceit is intended, not a mistake. Claudio then believes he is deceiving
Don John, by posing as Benedick. Another example of a disguised man wrongly
thinking he is the playful deceiver.
Don John goes on to tell Claudio, or `Benedick', that Don Pedro plans to woo Hero
for himself, thereby betraying Claudio and the agreement the two of them had
planned. Claudio only questions it once `How know you he loves her?' `I heard him
swear his affection'. He then immediately believes Don John's accusations against his
Prince. This shows a negative side to Claudio, who before now had been the image of
a perfect chivalric hero. His bravery and honour suddenly seems dampened by his
ease to believe the man he had just fought and won a war against, and the previous
enemy of one of his closest companions. It shows that no matter how well he
knows a person, he is quick to believe the worst of them. This event foreshadows
Claudios more serious case of mistrust later on in the play. It plants in the audience's
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mind a seed of doubt about his character, and makes us wonder how noble and
chivalric he truly is.
The juxtaposition of the benevolent deceits, followed by Don John's malevolent
deceit succeeds in amplifying its effectiveness. While the benevolent deceits are
playful and cheery, the malevolent deceit is a stark contrast. Don John purposefully
plans to hurt Claudio, and disrupt his and Hero's relationship. Although, the harshness
of Beatrice could be a sign of the gradual change from benevolent to malevolent.…read more
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compare and contrast the different tricks. It also helps build the audiences opinions
of the characters, and allows us to recognize the different personalities of each one.
For instance, Antonio is shown to be a lively, funny man, while Don John's suspected
darkness and stereotypical villainous tendencies are amplified and confirmed by the
malevolent plots and schemes he concocts.…read more