Don John is the illegitimate half brother of Don Pedro in the play. Don Pedro is the Prince of Aragon and is highly respected throughout the play, whereas Don John is treated with cautious attention and indifference. In Act one scene three, Leonato greets Don Pedro rather enthusiastically and respectfully,
“Never came trouble in the likeness of your grace; for trouble being gone, comfort should remain, but when you depart from me, sorrow abides and happiness takes his leave”(1.1.80-83).
But he greets Don John civilly and Don John politely responds back, “I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you” (1.1.127). Immediately, both Leonato and Don Pedro exclude Don John in their conversation and walk away and Don John is not seen again in the play till Act one, scene three.
Don John is pretty much isolated with all the main characters except for his two companions- Borachio and Conrad. In act 1, scene 3, Conrad enquires about Don John’s unbounded melancholy, and Don John explains himself as follows,
“ I cannot hide what I am. I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no man’s jests; eat when I have stomach, and wait for no man’s leisure; sleep when I am drowsy, and tend on no man’s business; laugh when I am merry, and claw no man in his humour” (1.3.10-14).
As the scene progresses, Conrad warns Don John to be careful as Don Pedro took him in his ...
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...ck saying, “Think him not till tomorrow, I’ll devise thee brave punishments for him. Strike up pipers”(5.4.121-122).
With this ending and the treatment of Don John throughout the play, it is clear that he will never be able to mingle positively without suspicion, and with other characters. His harsh sentencing for deceit is hypocritical as almost every character in the play, from Don Pedro to Leonato himself have deceived people, albeit not with bad intentions like Don John. His reputation ever since he was born has dictated his life and his only alternative to being called an untrustworthy bastard is to become a “plain-dealing” villain, to forge himself his own identity. Although everyone believes he is a conniving villain, Don John’s just forcing himself to be one; to prove he has his own identity among the “posh” people of Messina even if it is antagonistic.
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