English Literature » Notes » Much Ado About Nothing: Elements of Shakespearean Comedy

Much Ado About Nothing: Elements of Shakespearean Comedy

Alternate question: Shakespearean Comic Elements in Much Ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare wrote his play in accordance with the conventions of an easily identifiable genre – history, comedy or tragedy. ’ For centuries, William Shakespeare has been a beacon of storytelling genius. He has the ability to tell timeless stories that can be classified within the genres comedy, tragedy and history. Proving as relevant today as they were 500 years ago, these stories conform to certain elements that define what genre the story falls under.

Comedies such as The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and Histories such as King John and Henry V have all played a relevant role in defining the genres Shakespeare writes by. In particular, Shakespearean comedies hold prominence in obvious, recurring elements such as Mistaken Identity, Young lovers struggling to overcome obstacles and of course a happy ending, A prime example of this is his renowned comedy – ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy set in Messina, Italy about two contrasting duos; Claudio and Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice.

Claudio and Hero are young lovers in which are practically are entwined in a young, true love, whereas Benedick and Beatrice are a couple who are introduced fighting in a flippant manner, to be eventually tricked into confessing their true feelings of love for one another. There original actions are caught in the line said by Leonato “There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. ” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 45) A meddlesome character, Don John the Bastard is displeased at such happiness and sets up a scenario which makes it seem young Hero has been unfaithful to Claudio, although she is oblivious to the matter.

Nevertheless, the two couples end up happily married after some mistaken identity and an unsettling marriage ceremony. As far as a complete happy ending, thanks to a Constable who is the expert of malapropisms, Dogberry, Don John is captured and everything is wonderful once again in the city of Messina. The play very obviously shows rudiments of a Shakespearean comedy structure, the key elements being mistaken Identities, young lovers struggling to overcome obstacles and of course, the happy ending. A very prominent element of Shakespearean comedies and more specifically ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is the mistaken identity dilemma.

The characters in the play face such quandaries on more than one occasion. The first case of mistaken identity occurs early in the story, when the masquerade ball takes place. Together Don Pedro and Claudio came up with a plan to ‘woo’ Hero, where Don Pedro disguises himself as Claudio and uses his charisma to court Hero. Don John, interferes in the affair by claiming Don Pedro has taken it upon himself to woo Hero; Hero however thinks it is Claudio; “Signor, you are very near my brother in his love, he is enamoured on Hero, I pray you dissuade him for her, he is no equal for his birth: you may do the part of an honest man in it. ” (Act 2, scene 1. Line 121) With this scene it is evident how Shakespeare has woven one of his famed comedic techniques into the play, an archetypal illustration of the “mistaken identity” crisis. Another example of this and possibly the most prominent of the story is Don John’s malicious plan in which leads Claudio to believe Hero is being unfaithful, when in reality it is just another woman. This is such a crucial plot point to the story, as it leads to the ruined marriage ceremony, and ultimately Hero’s fake death.

Fundamentally, Don John earns his villain status from this certain act, as he convinces his follower, Borachio to engage in sexual relations with Margaret, Hero’s chambermaid. From there, he was instructed by Don John to participate in such acts in an obvious situation, calling her ‘Hero’ to make it seem as though Claudio’s fiance was being adulterous. As planned, Don John leads Claudio to the window and see’s what he thinks to be Hero in the embrace of another man. From there, Claudio feels heartbroken, and decides to shame Hero at their wedding.

This is evident as Claudio says: “If I see anything tonight, why should I not marry her tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her” (Act 3, Scene 2, Line 91) From these two examples, it is obviously evident how Shakespeare implements the mistaken identity element within his comedy Much Ado About Nothing, this element in particular generally gels with the other comedic element: Young Lovers working to overcome obstacles. Much Ado about Nothing predominately revolves around the endeavours of two couples, the younger of which in more distinction; Claudio and Hero.

As many could say that another element of Shakespearean comedies could be love, it would seem a more defined term is the love between two younger people, this young couple in particular then faces hindrances that are thrown their way, eventually working through them. Whereas there is still Beatrice and Benedick who work to overcome their egomaniacal ways and eventually initiate a romance, it would seem Claudio and Hero’s complications seem to have more significance to the storyline of the play.

This is also due to the fact that the elements of comedy and key plot points are in relation to their complications, such as being the younger couple and facing the mistaken identity ordeal. Nevertheless, Hero and Claudio, being the young couple, face a string of tribulations in which define them as a couple, the majority of these, come from Don John’s interference. This begins in the first scene of the second act, where Don John convinces Claudio that Don Pedro is advancing on Hero for his own desires, which he was not.

After confrontation, the issue is cleared, and Claudio and Hero are set to be married. Before the marriage is the point in which Hero and Claudio’s relationship crumbles away, as Don John carries out his most villainous of acts, in convincing Claudio of Hero’s apparent infidelity. Very obviously, this creates a large hurdle for the young couple to overcome. This part of the play in particular accentuates Shakespeare’s incorporation of the ‘besieged young lovers’ element in the comedy Much Ado about Nothing.

It is evident the change in the characters feelings toward each other, as Claudio initially states his happiness: “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy, I were but little happy if I could say, how much! Lady, as you are mine, I am yours: I give away myself for you, and dote upon the exchange. ” (Act 2, Scene 1, 232 – 234) After Claudio has been fooled into believing Don John’s lie, a much more hostile disposition toward Hero is shown: “Give not this rotten orange to your friend, She’s but the sign and semblance of her honour:

Behold how like a maid he blushes here! Oh what authority and show of truth Can cunning sin cover itself withal! ” (Act 4, Scene 1, 27 – 31) Claudio refers to Hero as “Rotten Orange” as a rotten orange still holds a fresh exterior, despite the rotten innards, implying Hero may look beautiful and innocent, but she is rotten on the inside it just isn’t evident yet. As Claudio is certain love is lost, and gives up on Hero for what he saw, Hero is convinced by the Friar to fake her death, triggering the guilt of the scoundrels in which shamed Hero’s name.

Eventually, when the truth has been brought to light and Claudio realized he had been deceived by Don John, Hero willingly takes Claudio back, overcoming their struggle and leading to the final element of a Shakespearean comedy that will be analysed; the Happy Ending. The happy ending has been a cliche story characteristic in which dates back centuries. Shakespeare in particular had a uniform propensity to incorporate said element in his comedies. Much Ado About nothing is a large contender with this particular element, as all pessimistic values the plot held, are overcome particularly in Act 5.

The devious Don John, being the protagonist of the story and causing multiple complications including the primary disruption in Claudio and Hero’s relationship, is eventually revealed and captured. This is the part in which Dogberry, the confused constable catches Borrachio (Don John’s follower) speaking of his attempt to discredit Hero. This not only gratifies Dogberry with a sense pride, but puts an end to the antics in which Don John works to accomplish. Claudio and Hero reconcile their ways, as to Claudio’s relief, Hero in fact wasn’t dead and to Hero’s relief, they were finally married, overcoming the struggles in which they endured.

Lastly, Benedick and Beatrice overcome the power-play that is their relationship and confess love for each other, its only at the end however, that the publically refuse to proclaim love for each other and are tricked into doing so by the happy Claudio and Hero as Claudio teases: “For here’s a paper written in his hand, A halting sonnet of his own pure brain, Fashioned to Beatrice” (Act 5, Scene 4 – 86-87) Hero then retorts: “And here’s another, Writ in my cousin’s hand, stol’n from her pocket, Containing her affection unto Benedick. (Act 5, Scene 4 – 88-90) The couple then marries alongside Hero and Claudio; another party who faces doubts throughout the play are united with a final happy ending. A double marriage of the main four characters would be a jubilant celebration in which could conclude the laughs of the comedy and also issues a happy ending to all that endeavoured hardships throughout the play.

Finally, where Benedick merrily declares: “Come, come, we are friends, let’s have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts, and our wives heels. ” (Act 5, Scene 2, 111-112) Thus wrapping up the jovial tale on a merry note, ensuring it was a light-hearted comedy for viewers. It is apparent how the happy ending of Much Ado About Nothing conforms to Shakespeare’s consistent element of Shakespearean comedies.

Much Ado about Nothing has proved that Shakespeare writes his plays in accordance with an easily identifiable genre; in this case, such elements have defined this play to be an unmistakable comedy. Shakespeare’s use of mistaken identity, young lovers working to overcome obstacles and happy endings have been continued throughout a number of comedies such as the Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, defining the means of a traditional Shakespearean comedy.

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