Illustration of Hero wearing a mask

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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Critically analyze the opening scene of Much Ado About Nothing.

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A number of key events are introduced in the opening scene of this hilarious comedy, which effectively introduces the main characters and some of the conflicts that will come to dominate the play. Note how Claudio's violence is foreshadowed by reports of his "feats of a lion." Also, references to the way that appearances cannot be trusted likewise foreshadow the dark deeds of Don John. Beatrice, with her strong attack on Benedick, clearly shows herself to be challenging traditional gender roles, which are characterised in the meek, submissive, and above all silent Hero. However, the way that Beatrice attacks male arrogance and pretensions equally foreshadows her somewhat vengeful attack against Claudio in Act IV scene i.

Note how in this scene the love of Claudio, which is shown to be somewhat traditional and lacking in originality, is undercut constantly by Benedick, who continually challenges the romantic speech of Claudio with his own, rather more irreverent images, for example by saying: "Pick out my eyes with a ballad-maker's pen, and hang me up at the door of a brother house for the sign of blind Cupid." By the end of this first scene, Claudio will woo Hero, and Benedick and Beatrice have clearly engaged in conflict. The constant punning and use of language hints at the major theme of appearances vs. reality, as we see the way that words are used to yield many different meanings and can be manipulated by skilled orators, just as others are manipulated and fooled by the knavery of Don John and Benedick and Beatrice themselves are fooled into loving each other.

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