Representations of Love in Much Ado About Nothing
Explore representations of love in Much Ado About Nothing In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare uses literary structures such as doubles and opposites in order to emphasise the plays main themes and ideas. McEachern claims “It is undoubtedly the most socially and psychologically realistic of his comedies, in it’s portrait of the foibles generosities of communal life. ” (McEachern, 2006, 1) One main theme I want to explore is love and how Shakespeare represents this in Much Ado About Nothing. The two main genres in Shakespeare’s dramas are tragedy and comedy.
Tragedy always ends in death and comedy always ends in a marriage. Although Much Ado inevitably ends in marriage, it differs from some of Shakespeare’s other romantic comedies as his other comedies usually portray love in a much more unrealistic way. “Much Ado About Nothing is best known for the ‘merry war’ between one of it’s two couples, and an oxymoron could also describe this comedy’s identity as a whole. Shakespeare offers a play of light and dark, of romantic union wrested from fear and malice and of social harmony soothing the savagery of psychic violence” (McEachern, 2006, 1)
In Act 1 Scene 1, Don Pedro, prince of Arragon arrives with his bastard brother Don John, and his two friends Claudio and Benedick. It is in this Act that Beatrice and Benedick first meet and the war of wits begin. Leonato states “There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her [Beatrice]; they never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them. ” (Much Ado, Act 1 Scene 1, 520) Although their words seem quite hateful to one another, at the same time it may also come across as flirtatious.
Before Beatrice even meets Benedick, she expresses her distaste for him, however, she talks about him in such great depth it is almost more like an obsession than hatred. Benedick teases Beatrice by saying “I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find it in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none. ” (Act 1 scene 1, 521) to which Beatrice replies “A dear happiness to women: they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor.
I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me” (Act 1 Scene 1, 521) By using the characters of Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare mocks the conventional type of love, romantic love, which is expressed by Hero and Claudio. This is also an example of how Shakespeare uses doubles in his play, as he uses the two couples to express two types of love. One being more realistic, that of Beatrice and Benedick, and the other being the more unrealistic, over the top romantic love expressed by Hero and Claudio.
Even though the plot is largely based on Hero and Claudio’s relationship, the witty banter and seemingly unromantic relationship between Beatrice and Benedick seems much more interesting to the reader and we are more interested in how their relationship will develop. It is this relationship that seems much more believable compared to Claudio and Hero’s fairytale love at first sight. It is through contrasting these two different types of love and through the different use of language that Shakespeare can mock the conventional romantic love. Claudio uses a totally different style of language to Benedick when they both speak of love.
Benedick is highly cynical and negative about love where as Claudio is more pretentious and elaborate when he speaks about Hero, for example when he says “Can the world buy such a Jewel? ” (Act 1 scene 1, 522). This language is completely different to the way that benedick speaks to Beatrice as the first thing he says to her is “My dear Lady disdain! Are you yet living? ” (Act 1 scene 1, 521) Benedick also speaks of his frustration of Claudio’s eloquent language when speaking of love as he states “He was wont speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier…his words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes. (Act 1 Scene 3, 529) This however is quite hypocritical of him as in Act 4 Scene 1, Benedick confesses his love for Beatrice and states “I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is that not strange? ” (Act 4, Scene 1, 541) to which Beatrice responds “I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest” (Act 4, scene 1, 541) This shows how dramatically their relationship has changed as the witty banter and insults have turned into confessions of love for one another.
It is often difficult to understand and accept the love between Hero and Claudio as it is so unrealistic. They fall in love with each other before they even truly get to know one-another, which therefore makes their love and marriage seem quite false and shallow. The fact that Claudio does not question Don John when he professes that Hero has been unfaithful, yet instead believes his word to be true, questions whether the love he has for Hero is sincere.
Surely Claudio would confront his future wife before coming to any sort of conclusion, however, even her own father believes this to be true and states “why she, oh she is fallen/ into a pit of ink, that the wide sea/ hath drops too few to wash her clean again,/ and salt too little, which may season give/ to her foul tainted flash” (Act 4 Scene 1, 540) Another aspect of the play that makes Hero and Claudio’s love very unrealistic is hero’s willingness to forgive Claudio after his bold accusations of her infidelity.
If his love for her was as strong and powerful as he made out, he would be more trusting of Hero in the first place. However, she seems to disregard this and does not question his behaviour, but instead is willing to carry on with the marriage. Bibliography McEachern, Claire. Much Ado About Nothing. 2006. the Arden Shakespeare Shakespeare, W. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. 1996. Wordsworth Editions Limited