How does deceit function in the world of the play, and how does it help the play comment on theater in general?
Deceit, disguise, and concealment are all related in the play; sometimes the play treats these topics with humor, sometimes not. In any case, they all pertain to the greater theme that Shakespeare often treats, which concerns the ways in which appearances mask reality, so that it is difficult to tell one from the other. Beatrice and Benedict mask their true feelings from each other; indeed, perhaps they even mask them from themselves. Don Pedro deceives everyone, it seems, just for the pleasure of making trouble, and this almost causes great harm to the characters. The title Much Ado About Nothingseems very interesting in this regard, for it seems to diminish the importance of such deceit, suggesting that reality is not a stable thing to begin with, which is to say it is difficult to distinguish between it and the appearance of it, which has everything to do with theater. Plays are “appearances,” which we shouldn’t trust, but by means of such “appearances” or “deceit” they do reveal truths – we simply have to do a bit of work to discover them. So it is in the world of Beatrice and Benedict, and so it is in real life. The difference between appearance and reality, the tricks caused by deceit, might sometimes result in “much ado about nothing.”