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Much Ado about Nothing: a play about everything

A look at William Shakespeare's play, Much ado about nothing and it's meanings.

Patricia Mcnerney

on 8 September 2012

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Transcript of Much Ado about Nothing: a play about everything

Much Ado about Nothing In this play we find Shakespeare at his best. He is the guide and we the tourists through a work that not only makes us laugh and cry, but teaches us valuable lessons about love and loss, hatred and peace. It is in this work that Shakespeare begs us to consider the true meaning of life and all that we hold dear in it. To consider the reality that one day it will fade and all that will remain is love. Let us now look at his play and try to learn the lesson the master teaches by examining more closely the lives of his characters. We begin our journey by looking at one of the main characters in story, Claudio. Upon initial examination we find him to be somewhat of the romantic, the easily infatuated type that seems bound up in love at first sight. In the very beginning of the play we see him professing an intense love for the daughter of his host Leanato, Hero. He is in the same group with his captain, Don Pedro and his brother Don John, and rides in their company. Let us look closer at his character and try to discover what Shakespeare wishes us to know. Upon initial inspection we find Claudio to be helpful, loving, romantic, and very conscientious. He is a man of integrity, honesty, and high moral standards. Unafraid to follow his high standards even in the most difficult of times, he leaves his lovely fiance at the altar when he hears of her immoral life. He is once more reunited with her however after learning of her purity and following a charade put on by her father to make him believe her dead. After his deep despair is requited with the return of his true love we see him happily content to live with her forever. It is in this man that Shakespeare leads us to discover the authentic lover of not only romance but of morality and dignity. He shows us that some things are worth more than happiness, some things are more precious than love. Claudio is a romantic, yes, but he is also a man of integrity and conviction. With this character Shakespeare begs us to look deeper in ourselves and discover the chivalrous knight in armor, the one with shining qualities and yet a passion for life. It is in Claudio therefore that we find Shakespeare's ideal of the young romantic. We find a man who is, in reality, like young Shakespeare himself. A man of conviction, romance, and an innate love of life and all it has to give. Within the first moments of the play we find him throwing baited sarcasm to Beatrice, a woman he terms as "Lady Disdain". Shakespeare lets us walk with him in the garden as he overhears his friends proclaiming to each other, unknowing of their cunning, the love of Beatrice for him.
We see him argue with himself over this piece of information and question it's validity only to rejoice secretly in it. Spying on him we find him writing love notes to her and struggling with how to present himself without losing his nerve. It is in this man that Shakespeare allows us to witness the hilarity of sarcasm, the biting wit, and where a man can be lead to by his friends, blind love. Our next man of interest is Lord Benedick. In him we find a man dedicated to don Pedro and his company, a man who is witty, fun loving, a happy bachelor, and comedian.
Don Jon, the evil brother of Don Pedro, is our next character of interest. He is a man of guile, deceit, treachery and hatred. As he plots against Hero and Claudio, he is secretly trying to undermine his brothers control and character. In the first pages of the play we see him convincing two of his cronies to assist him the plot to overthrow his brother by causing a dispute between him and Claudio over Hero. Because of the great sorrow it caused to Hero, her servant girl told all and set to right Hero's purity. It is now that we find him against not only Don John, but Claudio and Lord Benedick as well. Shakespeare gives us not only a villain in Don Jon, but also a warning of what may come of jealousy and a thirst for power. And now we come to the women in the story! Of course we will start with Hero who takes after her name in the story as the hero of it. In the genesis of the work we find her initially to be quite, reserved, modest, and quite frankly, saintly. She is the only daughter of Leanoto and niece to his brother Antonio. She is docile and fragile, thought to be somewhat week and childish by Lord Benedick, but adored by Claudio. And yet, because of the treachery of Don John, we see her betrayed by Claudio, convicted of the worst crimes, and left for dead at her nuptial altar. Despite the worst, she lets it be known she is dead at the suggestion of the good friar, and mourns her loss in secret. But Shakespeare would not leave her to experience such a tragedy. She watches from her bedroom window as Claudio sings of her beauty, honesty, and loveliness. She weeps with him in secret and looks forward to her wedding the following day in which she will be vindicated before the world. When reading of this happy ending, we have to wonder if Shakespeare was not writing this with a sense of longing in his heart for a Hero of his own. Did he feel the same despair as Claudio? Was his heart beating with the same love as Hero? One can only wonder at these conjectures, but for certain is the fact that in his character of Hero we find Shakespeare beckoning us to consider what really makes a woman great. It is not her beauty, or her knowledge, or even her charm, though these benefit her greatly. No, it is in her constancy, her passion, her purity that that she is great as Hero was. And true to his character, Shakespeare gives Hero her knight in shining armor, her Claudio. Broken, humbled, repentant does she find him and happily consents to a life together with him forever. And now we come to my favorite character of all, Beatrice. Perhaps it is because we share so much in common that I prefer her above the others, or maybe it is her love of life that draws me to her, all I can say is, from the moment I met her I have been captivated by her. From the moment we lay eyes on her we find Beatrice to be someone in love with life and not ready to be cheated out of it. Her constant bickering with Lord Benedick is not only humorous but like a breath of fresh air. Though she is not as handsome as her cousin, she has an air about that defies outer beauty, it is a self confidence not to be rivaled. One must remember that in Shakespeare's day women were only to be looked at and waited upon, they were not to carry on lengthy conversations with men unless supervised by a married woman. in own way Shakespeare is saying that women can be interesting, humorous, and even insightful if only given the chance. As we know, she too is beguiled by her cousin and maid to show her true feelings for Lord Benedick when they mention to each other, pretending she was not near, that he truly loved her. She also writes love letters to Benedick which get read at their wedding which shortly follows Hero and Claudio's at the urging of all present. In a word, Shakespeare is giving the average man hope by showing them a love story that defies all odds and customs, bringing together the two most unlikely people. I think that Shakespeare, in showing us the love between Beatrice and Lord Benedick, is trying to convey that not all love is as we see it in fairy tales. Yes there are those rare matches made in heaven, such as Hero and Claudio, though even theirs was not perfect. But most of us rely on not only our own judgements and personalities, but on others as did Beatrice and Benedick. Without the help of their friends they would never have been able to cross the barrier put up by each of them and express their love. Now when we look at the play Shakespeare so aptly penned, we can look beyond the mindless rambling and see characters who have lives like you and I. They experience every emotion we do. They feel as we do, love as we do, hate as we do, cry as we do. In them we see the story of ourselves, the story of our lives. Shakespeare reaches out to each of us through every one of his characters and forces us by doing so to look deeper into ourselves. Who do we most resemble? What qualities in them do we wish we had? What do we despise in them? By creating a world of love and loss Shakespeare has allowed us to venture beyond the time and space of the 21st century to a time and place where we can become who we most desire to be, or come to realize we are our worst enemy. Either way, with his play "Much Ado about Nothing" Shakespeare is really telling telling the story of everything. thank you for watching my short slide show, I hope you enjoyed it.

All images used in this presentation were from the public domain.
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