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“Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare Research Paper

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Updated: May 20th, 2021

Introduction

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare in 1598. The themes of the literary work have received some major attention from critics and readers since they include such issues as gender roles, infidelity, and deception, all of which are still relevant in the current life. Therefore, it can be hypothesized that despite the fact that Much Ado About Nothing was written in the sixteenth century, it touches topics that are being discussed in modern society to this day.

Gender Roles

With regards to the issue of societal gender roles, many characters in the comedy play are subjected to a variety of biases, expectations, and limitations due to their gender. For instance, Hero willingly obeys the orders of her father, and she is as willing to obey her husband-to-be. While Much Ado about Nothing is filled with wordplay, pranks, and a lot of misconceptions, Shakespeare was successful in exposing the ugly truth about the gender inequalities of Elizabethan society. Such inequalities can be traced through the witty language of the character Beatrice, as well as how male characters view female characters.

The character of Beatrice is one of the most prominent figures in Much Ado About Nothing. The author created her to offer readers and viewers a character that would oppose the traditional understanding of a woman of the Elizabethan era and broke some ground for thought regarding gender inequality (“Much Ado About Nothing”). On the other end of the spectrum, there is a Hero who plays the role of an ideal fiancée and a daughter. She is quiet, polite, and obedient, while Beatrice is sharp, witty, and cynical (“Much Ado About Nothing”). It becomes evident that Beatrice was not a “typical” woman by Elizabethan standards when she spoke critically of the character of Benedick: “I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you” (Shakespeare 3).

Beatrice took many jabs at his character, which was regarded as unusual: a woman criticizing a man cannot align with societal gender norms. There is no doubt that Beatrice stood out among other female characters of Much Ado About Nothing because her image as a confident and independent female was not a common occurrence in Shakespearian times. For instance, she refused to marry because there was no one that could be equal to her; also, she did not want to obey a controlling husband. On the other hand, Beatrice agrees to marry at the end of the play, but it remains unclear whether she submitted to the authority of a man or continued being herself instead (BBC).

Infidelity and Honor

The issue of infidelity is another theme that Much Ado about Nothing covered. In the comedy, a woman was falsely accused of infidelity, and the role of the “unfaithful woman” was represented by Hero (“Unfaithfulness”). Despite the fact that Hero was heavily accused of cheating, she did not do anything wrong. The stopped wedding ceremony during which Claudio rejected Hero and humiliated her publicly was the play’s climax (“Much Ado about Nothing: Themes, Motifs & Symbols”). This scene speaks a lot about how women were valued in Shakespearian times: a woman had to be a virgin before marriage and had to obey her future husband. If a young woman lost her honor because of intimate relations before marriage, that she would be despised in the society and would lose her good reputation and status in the society, which was thought of as an irreversible disaster (“Much Ado about Nothing: Themes, Motifs & Symbols”). The issue of honor ties in with the topic of infidelity in this play, as the loss of honor due to accusations of infidelity, could potentially impact a woman’s entire family.

On the other hand, for men, honor did not depend on them being obedient or loyal to their wives; rather, it was built upon male friendship and alliances, as their relationship was more military in its essence (“Much Ado about Nothing: Themes, Motifs & Symbols”). This is not surprising due to the different standards for men and women of the Elizabethan era: while a woman could do nothing to defend her honor, a man could defend it by fighting in a dual. For instance, Beatrice urged Benedick to protect the honor of Hero by dueling with Claudio because, as a woman, Hero had no opportunities to take her honor back, which again aligns with the hypothesis of unequal gender roles in the comedy.

Deception

Much Ado about Nothing explored the topic of deceit in great detail. The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick was riddled with deception, not to mention that they were brought together because of it. For instance, at the beginning of the comedy, both were deceiving themselves that they did not care about each other, exchanged witty insults through the “merry war.” Then, both of them were tricked into thinking that they had feelings for each other, which resulted in a positive resolution of their relationship (“The Role of Deception in Beatrice & Benedick’s Relations”). Therefore, in the case of Beatrice and Benedick, deception played to their advantage in establishing a trusting relationship between two individuals deserving of each other.

On the other hand, deception did not play a good role in the relationship between Claudio and Hero. When Claudio had fallen in love with Hero, Don Pedro decided to pretend to be Claudio to help their relationship. However, Don John did not have good intentions at heart and told Claudio that he had seen her wife with another man, which was not true (Gray). As a result of this deception, Claudio humiliated Hero before the altar, which, as discussed previously, wrecked her social standing. In this case, deception possibly ruined a positive relationship between two people.

Conclusion

Gender roles, honor, infidelity, and deceit are all themes that people discuss to this day. Some societies of the twenty-first century are still experiencing the unequal treatment of men and women, where women are forced to be obedient to their husbands and cannot do anything to protect themselves or their position in society. Much Ado about Nothing sheds light on how women used to be treated in the Elizabethan world, as well as how lies and deceit could either build or ruin relationships between people. Overall, Much Ado about Nothing has become extremely popular not only for the witty wordplay or the jokes of main characters but also the deeper topics that it explored such that it can still capture the attention of either readers or viewers that live in the industrialized and globalized society.

Works Cited

BBC. “Much Ado about Nothing Themes.” BBC, 2014, Web.

Gray, Kerry. Study, n.d., Web.

“Much Ado about Nothing.” Katierbeest, n.d., katieterbeest. Web.

Sparknotes, 2013, Web.

Shakespeare, William. Much Ado about Nothing. Dover Thrift Editions, 1994.

Playshakespeare, n.d., Web.

“Unfaithfulness.” Mural, 2008, Web.

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1. IvyPanda. ""Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare." May 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/much-ado-about-nothing-by-william-shakespeare/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare." May 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/much-ado-about-nothing-by-william-shakespeare/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare'. 20 May.

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