We have just finished looking at Act I in class of this play, and I was surprised to discover that about half of my class thought that one of the reasons behind Don John's scheme was that he was in love with Hero and wanted to spoil things for Claudio so that he could get Hero for himself. What do you think? Have you had any other students agree with this idea? Have you seen any productions where this has been shown? I am trying to focus on teaching subtext and the different interpretations of Shakespeare, but even so, I think this interpretation is stretching the text just a tad too far. What do you think?
My philosophy is that any interpretation can be right as long as it is backed with support. There is a difference between original and creative theories and just plain misunderstanding a text. I think this is a combination of the two. You must also remember that a modern audience will always look at a work with modern eyes, and see things that they would not have seen then.
What evidence do they give for supporting this version? It's an interesting take on things, and while I have not had students suggest this as a possibility, it would put an interesting spin on things. It's not as surprising as the student who told me Ophelia drowned herself in the river because she was pregnant with Hamlet's child, but nonetheless interesting if the student can point to evidence within the text to support their premises. I love it when they think for themselves and come up with new and different yet possible avenues to explore!
It's an interesting idea, but I do think it is stretching it a little like you said. There is very little down the track to suggest that Don John was specifically doing this for Hero. However, if your class can find appropriate and satisfying supporting evidence for this, then the interpretation is fine I believe. I must admit though, I never thought of that idea - I thought Don John was pure evil (and he admits it himself while speaking to Conrad!) and that was that.