Much Ado About Nothing Themes

Key/Main Themes:

Appearance and Reality: (deceit)

Things aren't always what they seem to be:

  • Claudio seems honourable and devoted to Hero but proves otherwise
  • Beatrice and Benedick appear fiercely hostile towards each other but marry.
  • Don Pedro woos Hero but for Claudio, not himself.
  • Don John may superficially appear reconciled but is driven only by revenge.

1. 

The imagery of seeing is used to suggest the superficiality of Claudio’s love. "she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on" 

2. 

Claudio and Don Pedro are deceived by what they see (Borachio and Don John’s plot) this is manipulation of appearances. "Are our eyes not our own?" 

3. 

The deceit of ‘gulling’ Benedick and Beatrice into believing each other to be in love is exploration of appearance and reality - Benedick then believes he can "spy some marks of love in her"  

4. 

Don John manipulates appearance - Shakespeare is exploring the inadequacies of seeing and seeming. "if you dare not trust that you see, confess not that you know" 

5. 

Deception when Claudio is married to Leonato’s niece (actually Hero) without seeing her - the truth of the heart is shown to be below the surface rather than on the surface. 

Women and Men:

  • Conventional Elizabethan views that women are defined by their relationship to men - daughter, mother, wife... 
  • Hero is a typical woman of the time, submissive, conventional and quiet whilst Beatrice shows a great contrast and rare character who is witty and independent.

1. 

Hero proves this character when remaining silent whilst Claudio hurls abuse at her "She knows the heat of a luxurious bed" and "her blush is guitliness not modesty" 

2.

Conventional view that daughters’ destinies can be determined by their fathers. "Count, take of me my daughter"  - Leonato 

3.

Following this idea that men have power over women and can easily manipulate them is shown by both Don Pedro being able to woo Hero on behalf of Claudio, Borachio being able to manipulate Margret into participating in his plot to disgrace Hero and Benedick being able to ‘stop’ Beatrice’s mouth with a kiss.

4.

The play highlights the reality of men and women’s roles in society, it is Leonato and Benedick that are able to lead charge in bring about justice not Beatrice and Hero.

5.

Beatrice shows her fury through this disgusting imagery and violent (masculine) language rarely used by a female character - her anger at the superiority divide between men and women. "Oh God that I were a man! I would eat his heart at the market place" - this anger with Claudio highlights her emotional strength but physical and social weakness, she still needs a male (Benedick) to challenge Claudio.

Wisdom and Folly:

  • It is the high ranking males that turn out to be the most folly (foolish) in the play whilst the high ranking females do nothing foolish and at times show real insight.
  • The lower class buffoons (Watch, Dogberry/Verges) who seem to be foolish but

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