Much Ado About Nothing

9 September 2016

The negative and positive impacts of love are explored using various main characters in the play ‘Much ado About Nothing’. The play was written by Shakespeare in the Elizabethan era and therefore love was portrayed in a very different way, they would have seen a woman as less important in a relationship; in this era however we have very different views and see both genders as equal. Consequently as the play progresses the Elizabethan audience would relate a lot more to the courtly love that Hero and Claudio comprise.

The more unconventional relationship between Beatrice and Benedick may relate more to the relationships in this day and age. The strongest bond of love is between Beatrice and Benedick due to their cerebral relationship, a meeting of minds, as well as having a fun relationship grounded on loyalty. They experience negative impacts of love before the positive impacts; unlike Hero and Claudio’s relationship. It seems idealistic; love at first sight; however their bond was not strong enough to last when severely tested. This proved that their relationship was founded on social acceptance and practicality. They were not equals.

Much Ado About Nothing Essay Example

These ideas about the strong feelings of love and their negative and positive impacts can also be explored in a selection of pre 20th century poems. Beatrice and Benedick have a relationship that consists of witty argument and they both have a very negative attitude towards love. However as the play progresses-despite being so against the idea of love their opinions change and they gradually, unconventionally find out that they confused their love with anger and they do love each other; they finally realise that they enjoy their arguments and what they hated about each other they actually loved, they have a partnership.

Benedick says right at the beginning of the play ‘I will live a bachelor. ’ This short declarative statement shows us how adamant and confident he is about not falling in love and marrying, he is confident in his decision. He is worried about being cuckolded, made fun of. When Don Pedro says to Benedick ‘In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke’ (suggesting to Benedick that in time he will soon settle down and marry) Benedick carries on with the pun; he says ‘The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns, and set them on my forehead…. Here you may see Benedick the married man’. This suggests that he refuses to believe he will ever calm down enough to submit to love and will never be the ‘savage bull’ who will bear the yoke of a woman’s will as Don Pedro suggested. He mocks the idea- he is too sensible and rational to give in to the irrational ways of love. He says that he would have horns clapped on his head and writing branded into his forehead (a cuckold) suggesting that he thinks that any woman he marries would definitely cheat on him.

He doesn’t want to be made look less masculine by a mere woman. He thinks that love makes him vulnerable. This fear of being rejected and wounded is also represented in the poem ‘My Last Duchess’. The man in the poem is possessed by a sense of self importance, he is paranoid that his ‘Duchess’ is looking at other men and cheating on him supported by the quote ‘her looks went everywhere’. This is what Benedick thinks will happen to him, he is worried that if he does ever marry, the woman would still be interested in other men, and this would ruin his masculinity.

Despite this, when Claudio is talking to Benedick about Hero he says that he does not like her, he states that if Beatrice ‘were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her (Hero) as much in beauty as the first May doth the last of December. ’ So even though he has no intention in becoming married, he prefers the fact that Beatrice is bold and strong willed compared to the quaint and fair Hero. They have a relationship that is a lot more cerebral, they do not fall in love at first sight and they are too strong willed to woo each other in the conventional Elizabethan way.

Right in the beginning of the play, the first thing Beatrice says is: ‘I pray you, has Signor Mountanto returned from the wars or no’. She suggests that she doesn’t think very much of Benedick yet it was the first line she ever said in this play so it conveys some interest. This is subtle as she disguises her concern with an insult. The idea links to the quote ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ in ‘Sonnet 130’; he is saying that his mistress’ eyes have no light in them and nothing that would instantly draw him to her.

The first time it is read, no concern can be spotted in his words as it sounds instantly insulting but he still actually loves her despite flaws. Both these quotes give very subtle, secret messages. Beatrice uses two main semantic fields when mocking and insulting Benedick. The first one is about how much he eats and how much of an appetite he has. We know this because she is always commenting on it, for example: ‘he hath an excellent stomach’. This shows how little she respects him , she just thinks of him as a greedy man who thinks of nothing else but food, further supported by: ‘he is no less than a stuffed man’.

This could also be an innuendo that he has a sexual appetite as well as an appetite for food. Beatrice judges Benedick as a man who is un-loyal to women and just uses them: ‘he hath every month a new sworn brother. ’ and ‘he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block. ’ These quotes give us an idea on what kind of man he is; Beatrice is suggesting that he has new suitors so often because of his large appetite and she has a bitter attitude towards this because she may have been one of the women who had their heart broken by him long ago.

This idea of being cheated on and experiencing a negative impact of love is similar to an idea the poem ‘Ballad’ when it says ‘He has two hearts and I have none’. Beatrice says ‘a double heart for his single one’. Both of these women had their heart stolen by a man that they thought loved them, they gave away their hearts but did not get anything in return; Beatrice now has a bitter attitude towards both Benedick and love in general. She is also however independent enough to fight her own battles. The second semantic field she uses is about war and fighting.

First of all she lacks confidence that he was any help in the war, expressed by the quotes: ‘I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in theses wars? But how many hath he killed? ’ and ‘what is he to a lord? ’ These propose that she thinks he is worthless to the Prince and to the war. She mocks him and says ‘he is a very valiant trencherman’ just because he has a strong stomach and can eat anything. She continues to wound him with insults at the masked ball where she says Benedick is ‘the prince’s jester, a very dull fool’.

She does not want to be seen as less important just because she is a woman, she expresses her views blatantly. An Elizabethan audience would have seen this as very unusual and un-ladylike for a woman, she is not the typical quiet and modest person that she may have been expected to be considering she had an uncle of quite a high class. In response to Beatrice’s mocking at the ball Benedick is furious, he says ‘she speaks poniards, and every word stabs’, followed by ‘I would not marry her’.

Benedick shows that he has been hurt by Beatrice, he admits it; however the idea that he even thought about marriage without being provoked suggests that it is an idea in his mind, even though he says he would never marry her, the fact that he even considered Beatrice and marriage together proves that he has thought about it. When Beatrice and Benedick finally meet each other again they insult each other instead of politely greeting each other: ‘Lady Disdain! Are you yet living? ’ this shows that Benedick has no respect for Beatrice and they also have history.

The way he heavily punctuates this sentence by using exclamation marks and a question mark adds a comical, forceful idea- they are comfortable to insult each other straight away with cutting remarks. They have no intention on becoming lovers. They begin to start interrupting each other proving that Beatrice is not like the typical Elizabethan modest woman, she is not afraid to talk back at Benedick despite his status. Because she doesn’t have a father, nobody owns her; she was as independent as a woman could get in the Elizabethan era.

You can see Benedick’s arrogant nature when he says ‘I am loved by all ladies’ but ‘truly I love none’ suggesting that he is intent on staying alone and not giving into love despite the fact that many women would want to be with him. However Beatrice comes back at him with the witty statement ‘A dear happiness to women, they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. ’ Firstly this shows her confidence and intelligence, she can come back with witty remarks very quickly to put him back in his place, it also shows that she is not willing to listen to Benedick when he is being pompous.

They constantly insult each other with names of animal to wound each other for example: ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow’, ‘rare parrot-teacher’ and ‘a bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours. ’ All of theses quotes prove that all they do is argue in Act 1, they both have a very negative view and attitude towards love. Shakespeare presents their relationship as a clash of wit between two very confident and intelligent natured people. They frequently mock and argue with each other because they think of each other as inferior and too self-assured for the other’s liking.

This is why later on their friends think that they are well suited to each other and try to get each other to fall in love. Their relationship to an Elizabethan audience would have seemed unusual but their unique and interesting bond would have captivated the audience. Later on in the play Benedick is tricked into thinking that Beatrice is in love with him. He has a change in opinion completely, he says that ‘When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married ‘she’s a fair lady, I do spy some marks of love in her’. He is convinced that Beatrice is in love with him and resolves to return her affection.

Despite his previous confidence in staying a bachelor, once he found out Beatrice’s apparent love for him, he persuades himself that even though he will be mocked for changing his opinion, Beatrice is worth it due to her beauty, virtues and intelligence. The quote ‘I ne’er was struck before that hour’ in the poem ‘First Love’ portrays the same idea of quickly being struck with love, Benedick suddenly realised that he is in love and he abruptly changes his mind on Beatrice completely. The quote relates to the fact that Benedick had never been in love before he fell for Beatrice.

He was confusing his love with hatred; they have a bond, attracted physically as well as being bonded by a cerebral love. When Beatrice is tricked into thinking Benedick loves her, she says ‘Benedick, love on; I will requite thee Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand . If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee To bind our loves up in a holy band. ’ Beatrice realises and is tricked into believing that there is no pride or contempt in being unmarried as she once thought. She thinks that Benedick deserves her love back and resolves to be nicer to him and love him as he does her.

Benedick does not express his love for Beatrice directly to her until later on in the play; he refers to her as ‘Lady Beatrice’ which in itself shows a dramatic change in his attitude towards her compared to earlier on when he insulted her, calling her ‘Lady Disdain’ previously when they met. Benedick also shows a genuine interest into why she is upset and tries to console her after she just watched Hero being slandered : ‘Is there any way to show such friendship? ’. He states ‘I do love nothing in the world as well as you’ suggesting that he finally admits he was wrong about never loving.

Benedick says to Beatrice ‘Come bid me do anything for thee. ’ And Beatrice replies ‘Kill Claudio. ’ Benedick will do anything for Beatrice and she is using this to her advantage. Beatrice is asking Benedick to prove his love for her by doing something to benefit her and to win her as a wife; it is so that he can be represented as a noble and respected man. This would have seemed normal to the Elizabethan audience, it is courtly love, and although their relationship has been unconventional so far, Beatrice is using emotional blackmail to get Benedick to prove himself which he does.

In Act 5 Scene 4, Benedick asks Friar Francis to marry him and Beatrice ‘this day to be conjoined, In the state of honourable marriage, In which (good friar) I shall desire your help’ suggesting that he wants to make Beatrice his wife in public and he is no longer ashamed. He says ‘To bind me, or undo me, one of them’; this metaphor Shakespeare wrote refers to him being tied down by marriage or the undoing of him as a man like the untying of a knot. The marriage can make or break him as a person; it could either turn out to be a negative or positive choice in his life.

The making of him is backed up by the quote ‘since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it. ’ He is absolutely certain that this is what he wants to do; he is very confident that he is in love with Beatrice and has no reason to worry. However, being married means that Beatrice will occupy his time a lot and he will no longer have such good friendships, there is also still a chance of him being cuckolded which could undo him as a man. It’s a risk he decides he is willing to take because he experienced falling in love and now he is adamant this is what he wants.

When the time finally comes, Benedick asks Beatrice to marry her and they find out that they had been tricked into loving each other, shown by the quotes: ‘They swore that you were almost sick for me’ and ‘They swore that you were wellnigh dead for me’ despite this confusion they are confronted with love sonnets they both wrote to declare their love for each other, they finally accept each other and get married. Beatrice says ‘I would not deny you, but by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told, you were in consumption. She is continuing with the witty remarks, saying that she won’t say no to him, but she needed persuasion and is only doing it to save his life, she is doing it in pity of him, despite this seeming harsh, she is continuing their unconventional style of love, they understand each other and it was just her way of saying yes without seeming too excited or in awe of marriage to Benedick. In ‘Sonnet 116’ it says ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments’. This reflects Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship.

They have a bond that is bigger than the standard courtly love that is most popular in the Elizabethan times. The fact that they argue shows Beatrice’s strong will compared to the common Elizabethan, reserved and modest woman. They are equal in their relationship with may not have been deemed as conventional. Beatrice and Benedick’s cerebral love and mutual respect means that when they fall in love their relationship represents substance over beauty, financial wellbeing and social acceptance. Benedick knows that he changed his mind even though he was previously so spiteful of marriage and love and o says ‘man is a giddy thing’; he knows that he will be mocked for changing his mind on love so radically and tries to make is seem as if it should be acceptable for a man to change his mind, he doesn’t always have to stick by decisions he made a long time ago.

Benedick also says to Don Pedro at the end of the play a statement contradicting what he formerly said: ‘get thee a wife, get thee a wife. ’ Benedick is suggesting that marriage makes you a better and more impressive man. This contrasts to the quote earlier in the play when Benedick says to Claudio ‘I hope you have no intent to turn husband, have you? It proves just how much Benedick has changed over the course of the play- from trying to prevent and put off Claudio marrying because he thinks makes you less of a man, to promoting marriage because he thinks it makes you a better, more well rounded man. His attitude towards love has changed spectacularly; Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship represents a positive impact of love. They went from appearing to be worst enemies to a married couple, they did not fall in love a first sight, they fought- but they got to know each other, and gradually their opinions on each other and opinions on love changed.

Their relationship is best represented by the ‘Sonnet 130’ by Shakespeare. The entire poem apart from the last to lines is about how much he doesn’t like his mistress, she is not extremely beautiful or incredible, she has imperfections, and nothing draws him to her. This is like Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship, they argue all the time and their strong personalities clash until right at the end, when they realise that they are in love and get married.

The quote from the sonnet ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ expresses how dull she is using a metaphor, but he loves her despite her flaws: ‘And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare’ . He is saying that he thinks that she is just as special as any woman that other poets have made fake comparisons about. Benedick says that Beatrice is ‘a rare parrot-teacher’ in the beginning of the play, but then goes onto saying that ‘I love thee. In the end they get married and Benedick and Beatrice love each other unconditionally despite their faults; this proves a positive impact of unconditional love. The quote ‘Love’s not time’s fool’ from ‘Sonnet 116’ also presents a similar idea to Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship; it is durable and strong enough to stand the arguments and persiflage. The quote is personifying time and love, time has no control over love’s path. Hero and Claudio’s relationship is conventional. It is founded on idealistic and romantic love in the beginning and it is based on first impressions.

Claudio upon returning from the war perceives Hero as beautiful and wants to marry her. He does not know anything about her aside from her appearance and the wealth and power that would come from the marriage. This idea of love at first sight is similar to in the poem ‘First Love’ when the man says ‘I ne’er was struck before that hour’; he had never seen hero before but was suddenly struck with the emotion. Claudio is unsure of himself from the very start. He has to ask Benedick what he thinks of Hero: ‘Is she not a modest young lady? ’ to make sure his judgement is acceptable.

Another aspect of love is also presented when he says ‘Can the world buy such a jewel? ’ He is possessive, suggesting that he can buy Hero like an object. They are not equals but this idea would be accepted in an Elizabethan audience. Claudio also gets Don Pedro to ask for Hero’s hand in marriage for him. Hero does not speak a lot on any occasion; she is a very stereotypical naive, shy, pretty, wealthy, young woman who is owned by her father to an extent. She gives most important decisions to other people to decide for her and a lot of the Elizabethan women would have related to Hero.

Hero and Claudio would appear to make a very suitable and ideal couple, a young knight and a young woman from a wealthy background. Later on in the play Claudio suddenly experiences a negative impact of love, proving that falling in love at first sight can be difficult to handle. The theme of jealousy is shown when he thinks that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself. There is already no trust in the relationship: ‘Tis certain so, the prince woos for himself. Friendship is constant in all other things, Save in the office and affairs of love’.

He mistrusts Don Pedro’s loyalty to their friendship. He later says ‘Farewell therefore Hero’ . This suggests that he assumes things and gives up easily, he is immature and is easily lead into believing the disloyalty of his friends and Hero, there is no foundation to their bond. This theme of jealousy is similar to the poem ‘My Last Duchess’ when he says ‘Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her, but who passed without Much the same smile’. He believes that his Duchess is easily pleased and flirts with every man she passes, he is very judgemental, very much the same as Claudio.

A lot of caesura is used in this quote, it makes you read it slower and this drags it out making it more dramatic, the author wants you to feel more sympathy for the man and to think that what she did was unacceptable. He was being melodramatic about the situation like Claudio was. This small misunderstanding was included in order to show the audience how fragile Hero and Claudio’s relationship is, there is very little trust and loyalty despite how convinced Claudio was in the beginning when he was sure he loved Hero. Further on, as the play progresses Don John plans a trick to play on Claudio to destroy his relationship with Hero.

He uses Margaret (a serving girl) to pretend that she is Hero, and Borrachio spends the night with her in plain view of anyone that walks past. Don John then persuades Claudio to come and see how he is being cheated on. Claudio is very quick to assume that Hero is disloyal and easily impressed; he has no trust for her or faith in her. He is vulnerable to trickery and deception. He states ‘why I should not marry her tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her’. Claudio never goes and talks to Hero to confront her with what he thought he saw her do.

He decides to shame her in public rather that discuss what happened. This links again to ‘My Last Duchess’ when he says ‘Who’d stoop to blame this sort of trifling? ’ He thinks that he shouldn’t have to stoop as low as to tell his wife to behave herself, she should be able to control her behaviour. This is similar to Claudio’s reaction; Claudio would never lower himself for such an unfaithful and untrustworthy woman and would not even talk to her, he thinks that he shouldn’t have to put up with a woman that is no longer a virgin.

An Elizabethan audience would have been a lot more understanding and sympathetic towards Claudio after this as they would have seen Hero as worthless, it was normal for women that were no longer maidens to be shunned in society in that era. Claudio’s feeling of betrayal contrasts to part of ‘Sonnet 116’ when it says ‘Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds’ meaning that if the person changes for better or for worse you would still love them if your relationship is built on true love; love should be constant.

Claudio clearly does not truly love Hero because when he thinks he sees her being disloyal, he is very quick to decide that she should be shunned and slandered as soon as Hero loses her value. When the wedding comes the next day Claudio displays his disgust at Hero. He tells her that she is ‘more intemperate in your blood, than Venus’. He will not marry her because she is no longer pure, now she resembles a ‘rotten orange’; she is worthless in his eyes, a ‘wanton’. He says to Leonato ‘take her back again’ like Hero is just a possession being passed on from one man to another.

In the poem ‘The Flea’, a contrasting view is presented. John Donne writes that there is no problem with being intemperate for example when he says ‘A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead’, trying to persuade his mistress that she will lose nothing and he will always love her. In the poem ‘To his Coy Mistress’ the same viewpoint is given. Andrew Marvell writes ‘This coyness, lady, were no crime’ showing that he thinks being intemperate is nothing to be ashamed of, he is syllogistic, building up his argument against staying temperate for example ‘Time’s winged chariot hurrying near’ ‘Now therefore, while the youthful hue… et us sport while we may’, hinting that they do not have enough time to wait, you should live in the moment. The characters in the play have a very different view to this because of the era the play was set in and their statuses.

Claudio is shocked and appalled that Hero could do such a thing and shamed her in front of everyone. She lost all the pride and virtues she ever had. Claudio assumes and concludes that when Hero blushes, it is because she is guilty, he says ‘Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty’ ‘Comes not that blood as modest evidence’ and ‘Behold like a maid she blushes here! . Claudio thinks that Hero has no honour any more, she presents herself as a maid and covers up her true self, disguising herself cunningly. He thinks that he has proof. This is similar to in the poem ‘My Last Duchess’ when he assumes the worst of his Mistress, he has trust issues proved by the quotes ‘The depth and passion of that earnest glance’ ‘joy into the Duchess’ cheek’ and ‘half flush that dies along her throat’ referring to her blushing.

He thinks that it is not just his presence that makes her blush, he is jealous of her apparent flirtatious manner but she hasn’t done anything; he is irrational, all she was doing was enjoying life. Claudio is assuming the worst without proof. He is extremely quick to judge for the second time proving how little trust he has in Hero, he does not even ask her about the whole misunderstanding. Hero is being slandered and shamed in front of everybody she knows which would make anybody blush in such a situation.

His mind is set on shaming her so that everybody knows that she is an un-loyal and impure woman, he does not treat it like a private matter. If he had an open mind they could have talked it through and figured out that it was just a trick. The positive impact of classic, courtly love that seemed to be apparent in the beginning of Hero and Claudio’s relationship was suddenly destroyed by a lack of trust and communication. Claudio was not loyal to Hero and discarded her as soon as he their relationship was put under pressure, proving that the only foundation of their bond was based on appearance.

They then both experienced the negative impacts of love like heart break, jealousy and distrust. When Claudio finds out that Hero was actually innocent and ‘died’ he is instantly apologetic towards Leonato, but even when he finds out that her death was a trick and finally marries her, he does not apologise to her directly, he has not matured over the course of the play and has not changed at all which is why he is not a character that is liked in the play. He never admits that he was wrong to shame Hero.

When Hero was shamed she did not push forward the idea that she did not know what they were talking about. She says ‘I talked with no man at that hour, my lord’, but this is the only form of defence she brings herself to say. She still refers to Claudio as ‘lord’ suggesting that although what is happening to her is tragic, she is still polite, timid and quiet; she is unable to defend herself. The quote from ‘Ballad’ –‘He stole away my liberty’ sums up what happened to her.

Everybody trusts Claudio’s judgement especially due to the Prince (Don Pedro) backing up his argument; in the Elizabethan era, if a women was caught being unfaithful, she would become nothing. She would be disowned and lose everything. Her freedom was taken because of a misunderstanding. If Friar Francis did not trust and help Hero, her relationship with Claudio would never have been brought together again. In ‘Sonnet 116’ it says love ‘it is an ever-fixed mark’ which is what love has always been to Hero. She always loved Claudio; she fell in love with him romantically and would never do anything to hurt him.

Although Hero was naive in the beginning of the play, but she was always innocent and after she was shamed, she got married to Claudio and a new hero was unveiled, a fresh start. Although Hero did nothing wrong, her relationship with Claudio presents a negative impact of love. Their love never had any foundation or trust and was extremely fragile, it seemed like Claudio viewed everybody else’s voice and opinion above Hero’s and they never spoke. Despite this, Shakespeare portrayed Hero as a likeable character and so when she got the happy ending that she deserved, the audience would have been happy for her.

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