In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the famous British poet William Blake wrote that "without contraries there is no progression - Attraction and repulsion, reason and imagination, and love and hate are all necessary for human existence" (Blake 122). As Blake noted, the world is full of opposites. But, more importantly, these opposites allow the people of the world to see themselves and their thoughts more clearly. For, as Blake asserts, without attraction, one cannot understand repulsion, and without imagination, one cannot understand reason. In Much Ado About Nothing (MAAN), William Shakespeare uses this idea of the power of opposites to show the differences in two types of love. Using the relationship, language, and actions of Hero and Claudio as a foil against those of Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare has painted a world in which the ideas of courtly love only serve to illuminate those of true love.
In an essay on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, William Kittredge defined the idea of courtly love that is illustrated in MAAN. Kittredge said that courtly love must involve a love that is extremely idealized and superficial, with the vassal or servant-like suitor, who is often a valiant knight, devoting himself completely to an ideal woman who is often the daughter of a powerful man (Kittredge 528-529). When this definition is applied to the relationship between Hero and Claudio in MAAN, one is able to recognize a perfect match. For example, Claudio, a young lord of Florence, is a valiant soldier as is shown in the first scene of the play with the comments made by the Messenger: "[Claudio] hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing ...
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...hat is truly Much Ado About Nothing, becomes a commentary on the idea of love. True love becomes illuminated through its reflection in its own foil - the ideals of courtly love. The true relationship of Beatrice and Benedick compared to the relationship of Claudio and Hero, gives the reader not only a better understanding of the power of the literary foil, but also a foil into which that reader can reflect and better understand himself.
"Blake, William." The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. CD-ROM. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.
Kittredge, George. "The Marriage Group." The Canterbury Tales: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. V.A. Kolve.
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1989. 523-530.
Shakespeare, William. "Much Ado About Nothing." The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt.
New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 1389-1443.
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