Much Ado About Nothing: Context



'Give not this rotten orange to your friend!'

  • Oranges were associated with prostitutes during the Elizabthen period.
  • They were a symbol of deception - the skin is peeled away to reveal their true nature.
  • Oranges were also an object of trade - Hero is treated like a commodity.
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  • In Elizabethen times, a woman of Hero's status would have been expected to be a virgin on her wedding night.
  • It was the father's duty as head of the household to ensure that everyone behaved properly.
  • By publicly shaming Hero, Claudio has shamed the whole family - destroying everything Leonarto has stood for and his reputation.
  • The family would be treated as outsiders by society and the woman would be shunned.
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Physciatrist Freud believed that jokes have a deeper meaning.

There are two trypes of wit - verbal indentifications and conceptual wit.

Verbal identifications include puns, quibbles, and sharp antithesis.

Conceptual wit includes false logic.

E.g Beatrice says  'I can see a church by daylight' - half concious anger over Benedick's past treatment of her, her fears of spinsterhood, and Hero's ill omened ceremony.

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  • A man's reputation was so important they would fight for it.
  • E.g Benedick promised Beatrice he would fight Claudio - Benedick would lose his honour if he went back on his word, and Claudio would be dishonoured and called a coward is he refused the challenge.
  • However, it was illegal to duel.
  • Despite this, many people carried swords, and duels over reputation were common.
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He is cosnidered to be the most infulential writer in all of English literature.


  • Born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Attented grammar school but had no further education
  • Married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and had three children with her
  • Left his family in 1590 to travel to London to be a playwright an actor
  • Becae most popular playwright in England and the co-owner of the Globe Theatre
  • Loved by Elizabeth 1 and James 1
  • James 1 gave Shakespeare's company the title of 'The King's Men'
  • Dies on his birthday in 1616 back home at the age of 52


  • 37 plays
  • 154 sonnets
  • Wrote King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III, Macbeth, Othello, A Midsummer's Night Dream, As You Like It and more.
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Much Ado About Nothing

Shakepeare's best comedy

Combines elements of hilarity with more serious thoughts on honour, shame and court politics.

Written in 1598/1599

Interpersed with darker concerns, but overall a joyful comedy that end with multiple marriages and no deaths - treats death as a natural cycle of life (Hero's pretending to die of humiliation makes death more vividly present than in any of Shakepeares other comedies)

Strong sense of anger, betrayal, hatred, grief, and despair among the characters - despite the crisis ending quickly, MAAN seems only a few steps away from becoming a tradgedy

Mmeorable due to courtship between older, wiser loves Beatrice and Benedick - Shakepare develops their journey from anatagonism to sincere love and affection with a sense of humour and compassion

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Slapstick - a knockabout, physical humour.

Farce - involves a ridiculous, improbable situations.

Satire - sends up people and events, ridiculing and mocking weaknesses to create humour.

Parody - work that deliberately imitates another work for comic effect, sometimes delivering a message.

Black comedy - makes fun of serious subject matters such as death and religion, which can be hilarious but offensive.

Romantic comedy - incloves love and romance.

Dramatic irony - when the characters and/or the audience know something that another character doesn't.

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Much Ado About Nothing

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