Where and when was "Much Ado About Nothing" set?
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'Much Ado About Nothing' was set in 16th century Messina, in Italy. The play was performed in 1598-1599. The play begins in Leonato's home, with Hero, Leonato and a few other people relaxing and enjoying themselves.
The setting of the play is Leonato's estate in Messina, Italy. Leonato is the governor of Messina. All of the action takes place in this one setting; there is no movement to another place like many of Shakespeare's other plays that at least partially introduce a second setting. Prince Don Pedro and his group are from Aragon (Span) though none of the play takes place there. The time setting of the play is typically vague and could be just about any time.
Where: Messina, Italy
When: No specific time
The play is set in Messina, Italy, in and around Leonato's house (who the text makes clear is the Governor of the town). The soldiers, led by Don Pedro of Aragon, seem to originate in Aragon (in Spain) but their reason for being in Messina (we know they have just won a war of some description) is unclear - is it a personal visit, or have they been billeted?
Shakespeare's sources for 'Much Ado' seem to be drawn largely from classical or knightly romances (Ariosto and Bandello in particular are often cited as sources for the play) and so perhaps Shakespeare saw the play in similar terms. But unfortunately, he left no detailed information about the period in which he wants the play to be performed - and the absence of historically tracable characters (i.e. in 'Henry V', we can just rehearse the history of the real Henry V) makes it a difficult decision to make.
Scholars often believe that Shakespeare's plays were always performed in the modern dress of the day (a supposition fuelled by teh Peacham engraving of Titus Andronicus, which shows actors in versions of Elizabethan costume) - and so one could argue either that the play should be performed in Elizabethan dress, or in the modern dress of OUR day. Both could be seen as being true to Shakespeare.
The setting is in Messina, off the coast of Sicily. The theme of gender and class differences is strongly emphasised through instances such as Dogberry and Don Pedro, because of these differences it can be assumed that the play was aimed at a 15-16th century time period. Male honour is also a huge theme in the play as it generates the climax when Claudio rejects Hero. As male honour was more prominant in the 15th century than in later years it is safe to conclude the play was set in the late 15th century.
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