'Much Ado About Nothing' would have been pronounced 'Much Ado About
Noting' in Shakespeare's time. Noting would infer seeing how things
appear on the surface as opposed to how things really are. This
provides an immediate clue as to how the play and the presentation of
the story of the two pairs of lovers would be received by an audience
of the time, living as they did in a patriarchal society which was
based on social conventions and appearances. It can also be taken as
an initial comment by Shakespeare about that society and its values
and moral codes. Modern audiences, however, live in a more sexually
egalitarian society. Although appearances are still important, values
are more dependent on self-analysis and self-knowledge.
It is significant that the story of Hero and Claudio, the first of the
pairs of lovers, is one that Elizabethan audiences would have probably
been familiar with. Ariosto and also Spenser in the 'Faerie Queene'
had presented this love story as a tale of chivalry and high morality.
Therefore the audiences of the time would be familiar with the
conventional characters of Claudio and Hero.
Hero displays all the qualities the Elizabethan audience would have
admired in a woman. She knows her place in society. Her father is
there to be obeyed, and she herself recognises how she should be
punished were the charges against her proved to be true,
' O my father
Prove you that any man with me conversed
Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death.'
There is an absence of dialogue b...
... middle of paper ...
... upon flouting conventions as discussed.
In 'Much Ado About Nothing', one may argue that Shakespeare decided to
have two sets of lovers to provide the audience with contrasting
perspectives on similar situations. One may also argue that the two
contrast between what was expected at the time against the
unconventional. In both cases Shakespeare's presentation of the
relationships between these two pairs of lovers implies criticism of
his shallow society and its conventions. Perhaps he set the story in
Italyas he may not have wished to upset his benefactors at home.
Modern audiences may only perhaps gain an appreciation of this element
in 'Much Ado About Nothing' as a study of Elizabethan society.
Their empathy and interest may therefore be based to a greater degree
in the characterisation of Benedick and Beatrice.
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