Analysis of Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado about Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing illustrates a kind of deliberately puzzling title that
seems to have been popular in the late 1590s (ex “As You Like It”). Indeed, the play is
about nothing; it follows the relationships of Claudio and Hero (which is constantly
hampered by plots to disrupt it), and in the end, the play culminates in the two other main
characters falling in love (Beatrice and Bena*censored*), which, because it was an event that
was quite predictable, proves to be “much ado about nothing”.
The pronunciation of the word "nothing" would, in the late 16th Century, have
been "noting," and so the title also apparently suggests a pun on the word, "noting," and
on the use of the word "note" as an expression of music. In Act two, scene two ,Balthasar
is encouraged to sing, but declines, saying, "note this before my notes; there’s not a note
of mine that’s worth the noting." (53-54) However, Don Pedro retorts, "Note notes,
forsooth, and nothing," playing on Balthasar’s words, and also demanding that he pay
attention to his music and nothing else. In addition, much of the play is dedicated to
people "noting" (or observing) the actions of others (such as the trick played on Beatrice
and Bene*censored* by Leonato, Hero and Claudio); they often observe and overhear one
another, and consequently make a great deal out of very little.

The political and cultural events of the 15 century had a large influence on
Shakespeare’s work. In Much Ado About Nothing, 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. 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 (ex Henry V).
Also at that time, Europe was going through the renaissance, with Italy at it’s
center. Everywhere else in Europe, Italy was considered to be very high class. This
attitude is reflected in Shakespeare’s plays. For example, in Much Ado About Nothing,
many f the characters have Italian names (Borachio, Claudio, etc.). This is also true of
some of Shakespeare’s others plays such as The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and

Major Themes
One of the major themes in Much Ado About Nothing centers around the
question and battle between deception and reality. One first notices of the image of
deception as we witness the masking and unmasking at the masquerade. In the play,
most overhear discussions are deceptions. It is through eavesdropping that we see the
true battle between deception and reality as we look at the subplots of Bene*censored* and
Beatrice, Hero and Claudio, as well as the comedy of Dogberry and his crew.
The relationship between Bene*censored* and Beatrice is one manufactured completely
through deception on the behalf of their friends. Though the plot to unite them was
planned, many of the problems that arose were because of things that were overheard
accidentally or on purpose. In Act II, Scene 3 Bene*censored* is deceived into thinking that
Beatrice loves him because of the speech in the garden between Leonato, Claudio, and
Don Pedro. Beatrice is sent to fetch Bene*censored* for dinner, and Bene*censored* notes "some
marks of love in her[Beatrice]," (240-241) and he decides to take pity upon her and return
her love. In Act III, Scene 1 Beatrice is deceived as she overhears Hero and Ursula talk
of Bene*censored*\'s affection for her. Beatrice then decides to allow herself to be tamed by
Bene*censored*\'s "loving hand," and return his love. Beatrice and Bene*censored* are made to fall in
love through the deception of those around them, and ironically find happiness more
readily than Claudio and Hero.
The idea of “noting” is also continued throughout the play, and is particularly
exemplified by the changing relationship between Beatrice and Bene*censored*. They play
games with each other’s wit, which in the end amounts to nothing