Much Ado About Nothing: Love and Marriage in Shakespeare’s Play

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Love and marriage monopolize much of the characters’ thoughts in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and emerge as interconnected but not interchangeable themes. Read the following quotes expressing ideas about love and marriage, and then add several of your own examples to the graphic organizer. Review your quotes to consider how different characters perceive the concepts of love and marriage, and determine if they share any unifying ideas. Record your thoughts in the center of the graphic organizer.

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The characters all express negative thoughts around love. After thinking he got tricked by Don Pedro, Claudio vows to never trust anyone, even friends, when it comes to managing his love affairs. Benedick displays cynicism by proclaiming that he only will love a woman who meets so many standards that it is clear he never expects to find her. Beatrice turns love into a violent emotion, demanding that Benedick prove his love to her by killing Claudio.

Marriage is seen as having little to do with love. As Hero’s father, Leonato has the right to expect Hero to marry who he wants; thus marriage is about what the parent deems important. Hero, who hardly knows Claudio, seems unhappy on her wedding day, which reinforces her father’s statement. Don Pedro, who arranged the marriage, sees the relationship only in how it reflects back on him; now it reflects poorly since Hero has been publicly declared to be unvirtuous.

In some ways, ideas about love and marriage in the Renaissance were similar to ideas today. People were picky about who they thought were good enough for them, and some people just wanted to play the field and not settle down, while others thought if someone was in love with you, it gave you power over them. However, Renaissance ideas were very different when it came to how women were treated. In Shakespeare’s time, women had little say in who they married and just had to obey their father’s wishes. Women also were not supposed to have sexual feelings and could be dishonored if they had any sexual contacts before marriage.

Much of the drama in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing revolves around the relationship between Hero and Claudio. However, Hero has remarkably little to say. So what is Hero really like? As you read Acts 1 through 3, use this graphic organizer to make notes about Hero’s personality, paying attention both to how she reveals her personality through her own words and actions, as well as how others perceive her. Then, use this examination to evaluate whether it makes sense that Hero fails to deny Claudio’s false accusations at their wedding. Finally, write a short monologue to share a stronger response from Hero.

Now review what you’ve recorded in column 3, the details that describe Hero’s personality characteristics. Based on this list, do you think it makes sense that Hero did not speak up at the wedding and defend herself? Explain. No, I do not. While Hero often remains silent and lets others think what they want about her, she did take decisive action in another important matter: getting Beatrice and Benedick together. This action shows that she has gumption.

Although today the comedy genre can refer to any piece of art that is funny, a comedy written by William Shakespeare contained specific elements. In brief, a comedy is one of Shakespeare’s dramatic works that has an amusing tone, creates comic effects, and generally ends well. Shakespeare’s language creates a light-hearted tone and features wordplay, puns, and figurative speech. The plot revolves around misconceptions and deceptions, struggles of young lovers, and mistaken identities or characters in disguise. The happy ending involves a wedding.

As you read Much Ado About Nothing, note down the elements that demonstrate the play is a comedy. After finishing the play and completing the chart, respond to the discussion prompt. A tragicomedy is a play that makes use of elements from both comedies and tragedies, which are serious plays with unhappy endings.  For instance, a tragicomedy could be a serious play with funny moments or a happy ending, or a comic play that ends in the characters’ deaths. Do you think Much Ado About Nothing is a tragicomedy? Discuss this idea in small groups, citing specific parts of the text to support your answer.

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