Shakespeare/Much Ado About Nothing term paper 12530

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Written between 1598 and 1600 at the peak of Shakespeare's skill in writing

comedic work, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's wittiest works. In

this comedy, Shakespeare's drama satirizes love and human courtliness between

two couples who take very different paths to reach the same goal: making the

connection between inward and outward beauty. Much Ado About Nothing shows

different ways of how people are attracted to one another, and how their

realization and definitions of "love" relate to their perceptions of

inward and outward beauty. The play is set in Messina, Italy, a small province

facing the Straits of Messina, in northeastern Sicily, at the estate of the

governor of Messina, Leonato. Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon, Don John, his

brother, Borachio his servant, Bene*censored*, a young lord, and Claudio his

best friend are all returning from war, and have been invited to stay with

Leonato for a month. Shakespeare's antagonist Don John, bears much resemblance

to Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of Charles V, half-brother to the

King of Aragon who defeated the Turks at Lepanto and returned to Messina after

his victory in October of 1571 (Richmond 51). Don John of Austria had many of

the qualities that Shakespeare's Don John did, he was not on good terms with his

brother, and although he tried with much effort to gain status, he was

frequently humiliated in attempts to bring himself fame. Shakespeare was known

to draw parallels between his characters and actual historical figures, in an

attempt to produce a sort abstract history of the times (Richmond 49). Upon

returning from war, Claudio saw a young woman named Hero that he had seen before

going to fight, and felt a strong attraction to her. Claudio expressed to Bene*censored*

his attraction to Hero, Leonato's daughter, and Bene*censored*, with a mouth as

loose as oiled hinge immediately told Don Pedro of the attraction. Don Pedro,

being much closer to Leonato than any of the other veterans were, told the

governor Leonato about Claudio, who in turn informed his daughter Hero of him,

all with the lightning speed of gossip. Claudio's attraction to Hero is

described by Shakespeare with skill as he puts emphasis on the Claudio-Hero

relationship that is forming but at the same time keeps it in the background.

Claudio is clearly attracted to Hero's outer beauty and knows nothing of her

inner beauty, but after conversing with his friend Bene*censored* and then Don

Pedro he decides he will marry Hero. A possible scheme of Claudio can be noted

when after describing his attraction to Hero to Bene*censored*, he asks Don

Pedro, "Hath Leonato any son, my lord?" Don Pedro replies that Hero is

"his only heir."(I.i.262) An interpretation of this might be that

Claudio's attraction to Hero was rooted in a pursuance of the love of Hero's

wealth, masked by her outward beauty.(Brown 79) At this point the drama takes a

twist and a sub-plot is formed as Don Pedro talks to Claudio about Hero and

assures him that he will have Hero. Don Pedro describes to Claudio his plan of

achieving this, he will don a disguise of Claudio and woo her for him. At this

the scene closes, and Claudio and Bene*censored* are left to wonder about Don

Pedro's intentions. Bene*censored* believes that Don Pedro wants Hero for

himself, and Don John and Borrachio agree with his statement. This forces

Claudio to act on his instinct and initial attraction to Hero alone and decide

to marry Hero. Don John, feeling resentful of his brother is quick to accept his

servant Borrachio's plan of deceiving Claudio into thinking that Hero is

promiscuous, so that he can shame one of his prestigious brother's followers and

prevent Claudio and Hero's marriage. Borrachio's plan included having an amorous

encounter with Margaret, Hero's maid, and in the middle of everything announcing

Hero's name for everyone who might be in earshot to hear. While Claudio

describes his love of Hero, Bene*censored* reveals his attraction to Beatrice to

Claudio, Leonato's niece, but at the same time profoundly states a declaration

of bachelorism. Beatrice's character is described as a fine example of a woman

in Shakespeare's time. She has a biting wit, and in her "high intellect and

high animal spirits meet" (Jameson 349) Bene*censored* and Beatrice quarrel

in a skirmish of wits which is merely a facade of their underlying attraction to

each other, and an ongoing struggle of recognizing their love. Bene*censored*

and Beatrice's attraction and pre-existing relationship is evident, and their

battle of the sexes is followed closely. Beatrice admits her attraction to Bene*censored*

but is reluctant to act upon it, and at the same time rejects the idea of giving

herself to a man, and jokes about her believing that she will never find the

perfect husband. Beatrice and Bene*censored*'s relationship is tumultuous from

the start of the play because of a previously soured relationship between the

two, and from the beginning she seems reluctant to trust him as well. Beatrice

says to Don Pedro in response of his noting that she had "lost the heart of

Signior Bene*censored*", "Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile, and I

gave him use for it-a double heart for his single one. Marry once before he won

it of me with false dice; therefore your grace may well say I have lost

it."(II.i.249) She also says, "You always end with a jade's

trick." "I know you of old."(I.i.129) Beatrice does not want to

trust Bene*censored* with her heart, but Hero, along with Ursula and Margaret

her maids, plot to trick Bene*censored* and Beatrice into falling in love by

telling each of them of the others attraction, and ironically they succeed in

resparking a pre-existing flame. This trick that Hero and her maids pull off is

not an invention of Shakespeare, rather, he may have borrowed the theme from a

tale in a collection of stories about the French court in the Valois era written

by Margauerite de Navarre, sister of Francis I. The story, quite similar to the

play, describes female courtiers tricking a man that despised women into falling

for a particular woman, catching him in the act and ridiculing him (Richmond

56). Shakespeare carefully contrasts the characters of Bene*censored* and

Claudio and allows them to play off one another. Bene*censored* feels

ever-confident in his presentation of self and declaration of his bachelorism,

and is contrasted to Claudio in his uncertainty, and need to confide in and look

for approval from others. Claudio only saw Hero for a brief moment upon

returning from the war, and immediately desires her. In the play, The only

conversation Claudio and Hero had was at their wedding when he denounced her and

made public her accusation of promiscuity. This shows that his attraction to her

is purely of outward beauty and he only guesses at her inward beauty; he trusts

his eyes solely on who is to be his future wife but can also somehow denounce

her and cause her shame. He sees her outer beauty but can only guess at her

inner beauty until he learns of her innocence from 'The Watch', at which point

her inner beauty is revealed to him, and he believes he will never find another

woman of equal worth, and will stoop to marry an Ethiope.(V.iv. 38) Leonato

offers him the hand of Hero's look-alike, one of Leonato's nieces, and he

accepts. When the Hero look-alike comes forth her true identity is revealed to

Claudio, and he realizes that his love for her is true. Beatrice and Bene*censored*

are overconfident in their actions, and as a result muddle their love affair.

Claudio and Hero are not confident in their feelings or desires, and their lack

of action muddled their relationship, and allowed trickery to step in (Brown

122). Beatrice is a strong woman firm in her ideas of not succumbing to a man,

becoming his wife, and Bene*censored* is as firm in his belief of not marrying a

woman, and is referred to as "being committed to a war against the

ladies." They learn to trust their feelings more than their observations of

character and witty remarks to each other and as a result see inward beauty in

each other. Towards the end of the play Bene*censored* proposes to Beatrice and

kisses her before Claudio and Hero's marriage, this shows that they had come a

long way, with a little help from their friends. Claudio sees inner beauty in

Hero when he learns of her innocence, but Shakespeare makes it seem much less

dramatic that that of Bene*censored* and Beatrice. One could say that Claudio

fell in love at first sight, and then caught a glimpse of her inner beauty when

her innocence was revealed, but his love of her wealth cannot be overlooked

either. After learning of Hero's innocence he agrees to marry one of Leonato's

nieces, and says that he would even have an Ethiope for his wife. This could be

interpreted as a desire of Claudio to marry into fortune, pursuance of his love

wealth obscured by beauty. Both couples see inward and outward beauty by the end

of the play, although they both end up learning practically opposite lessons in

love (Brown 118). When we are not confident in our thoughts and ideas, we are

hesitant and they do not translate them into actions thus the initial spark dies

and we are blind to what could have been. Other times inner beauty is more clear

than is outer beauty, and overconfidence in our observations and the way we

present ourselves can make us blind from another perspective as well.


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