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  • It was probably written in 1598 and 1599, as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of his career. Like As You Like It and Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, though interspersed with darker concerns, is a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths.
  • Army of Don Pedro of Aragon arrives in Messina, welcomed by Leonato, Messina’s Governor. Benedick of Padua and Count Claudio are returning heros of war. Claudio, confesses his love for Governor’s daughter, Hero, and Don Pedro agrees to woo her for him. Confusion results and will continue throughout; Leonato’s brother overheard don Pedro and Claudio and thinks Don Pedro loves Hero.
    Don John, brother of don Pedro, hears about the wooing plan; he decides to mess things up because he was the opponent of his brother and Claudio in the war and is still angry.
  • Wedding.
    Broachio will convince Claudio that Hero is unfaithful by staging a meeting with Margaret, her servant, dressed in Hero’s clothes. Claudio will think it is Hero.
    Scene 3: Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro stage a conversation for Benedick to overhear. They pretend that Beatrice loves him. She comes to fetch him to dinner and he misreads her insults as signs of affection because the men have planted this idea that she loves him in his head.
  • Hero accepts the wedding proposal of a man in a mask and then quickly transfers her affection from him to the man’s friend, Claudio, whom she barely knows. He wants to get married in a week. Is this love?
    In contrast, B and B do actively court through word play and jesting.
  • Obedient daughter and wife or a Shrew.
  • Raises Questions about Love. How can true love be based upon deception?
  • Muchado

    1. 1. “Much Ado About Nothing” Dr. Alan Haffa
    2. 2. Act I • Return from War • Beatrice and Benedick • Hero and her Father • Claudio and Hero • Don Pedro to woo Hero on Claudio’s behalf • Counter Plot: Sir John the Bastard seeks to foil the marriage
    3. 3. Act II • Three Deceits • Don Pedro woos Hero for Claudio • Don Pedro’s plan to trick B and B into falling in love • Don John and his men agree on a plan to trick Claudio
    4. 4. Act III • Beatrice tricked by Hero and Ursula • Don John tells Don Pedro that he can prove Hero is unfaithful • The nightwatch overhear and capture the conspirators • Hero and Benedick are in love • The watch try to tell Leonato about Borachio’s arrest but he doesn’t understand
    5. 5. Act IV • Wedding Fiasco • Benedick and Beatrice confess love • Benedick challenges Claudio • Guards question Borachio and Conrade
    6. 6. Act V • Hero’s “Death” • Benedick issues a challenge to duel • Dogberry enters with prisoners and truth is revealed • Claudio sings an epitaph at Hero’s tomb and is to marry her niece • Hero arrives at wedding masked • B and B to marry out of mutual pity • Claudio is forgiven by all and a double marriage arranged
    7. 7. Question 1 • Does the play present a true depiction of love? Compare and contrast the two loving couples, Hero and Claudio and Beatrice and Benedick.
    8. 8. Question 2 • How has love and marriage changed from the era of the play to the present? • Catholic ideas of chastity and marriage and women • Reformation ideas of love and women • Play reflects the tension of these two world views
    9. 9. Question 3 • What choice or role do women have with respect to love? (Hero, Beatrice). Why do the mothers of the two heroines not appear in the play? How would it be different if they did?
    10. 10. Question 4 • Is Don John’s deception for the purpose of dissolving love worse than the deception of the others to create love? 1) Prince woos falsely for Claudio 2) Claudio/Prince/Leonato trick Benedick 3) Hero/Ursula trick Beatrice 4) Borachio/Don John trick Claudio 5) Friar/Hero/Leonato pretend Hero is dead
    11. 11. Question 5 • Why do fools (Doggberry et al) see truly what the nobles do not? • Do education and culture make us more susceptible to deception in some ways? • How do the various deceptions work? Don’t they play upon people’s pre- conceptions?
    12. 12. Question 6 • Why is the play “Much Ado about Nothing?” The plot almost leads to a family disgraced, political strife, friends ready to duel. It seems like serious business about Something!
    13. 13. Question 7 • Like many Shakespeare comedies, the play includes abundant joking and punning surrounding female infidelity. For all the jokes about cuckoldry, the play seems to take this issue seriously as the suggestion that Hero was not faithful has severe consequences. How is it possible for something the culture takes so seriously to be such a common motif for humor in the play?
    14. 14. Scenes of Infidelity and Misogyny • 1.1.102-3: Leonato implies that the legitimacy of Hero is based on her mother’s assertions • 1.1.234-40: Benedick trusts no woman • 5.4.126: Don Pedro tells B. to “get thee a wife. There is no staff more reverend than one tipped with horn.”
    15. 15. Why the focus on Female Infideltity in a Love/Marriage Comedy? • Common motif in Shakespeare and the era • Othello; Winter’s Tale • Male anxiety about wifely fidelity in an era when “legitimate inheritance of lands, wealth, property, rank, and name” are at stake. • Society order requires a marriage as much as dramatic closure; female infidelity is a natural dramatic tension to exploit.
    16. 16. Summary “Much Ado about Nothing” is really much ado about something very important—marriage and female fidelity– the cornerstone of social stability. The contrasting couples shows two competing views: one naïve and idealistic, the other experienced and realistic. Yet the theme of deception complicates this reading too. Beatrice and Benedick were tricked into loving—are they really so discerning? How can one deception be good and another bad? Is the theatre itself, a place where deception flourishes, compromised? In the end this play raises more questions than it answers.