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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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What does Shakespeare tell the audience about trickery in Much Ado About Nothing?

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In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare certainly does portray a mixed and entertaining message about trickery and deception. On the one hand, Shakespeare uses trickery in this play to create benefit, but on the other hand, trickery also causes great destruction and grief, showing us that Shakespeare is pointing out that trickery can be used for both purposes.

We especially see trickery being used for benefit when we see the characters Leonato, Don Pedro, Claudio, Hero, and Ursula all uniting to try and trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love with each other. Benedick and Beatrice are two characters who love to hate each other due to their similarities in wit. As we see Leonato explain to the messenger in the first scene:

You must not, my lord, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them. (I.i.50-53)

In other words, Leonato is pointing out that all of the discord we see between Beatrice and Benedick is actually only because they are two very similar people who are very intelligent and love to show off their wit. In reality, Beatrice and Benedick actually think very highly of each other. If they did not, it would not have been so easy to trick them into falling in love with each other. We see that it was easy to trick them when we see Beatrice proclaim:

And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
For others say that thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly. (III.i. 113, 117-118)

We see Benedick make a similar declaration when he is tricked into falling in love with Beatrice by proclaiming her beauty, wisdom, and virtue, declaring, "I will be horribly in love with her" (II.iii.210-214). Hence, we see that in this one instance, trickery was used beneficially to join Beatrice and Benedick.

However, trickery is also used destructively when we see Don John trick Claudio into believing that Hero is unfaithful. As a result of this trickery, Claudio publicly shames Hero in the church before the altar, even daring to call her an "approved wanton," meaning a "proved whore" (IV.i.42). As a result of this trickery, both Hero's and her father's reputations are slandered and are severely grieved.

Nevertheless, we see trickery being used for benefit one more time in the play when we see Hero's family agree with the friar and decide to proclaim Hero dead, giving them a chance to clear Hero's name and make Claudio feel remorseful.

Hence, we see Shakespeare use trickery for both benefit and destruction in this play. While his use of trickery seems to be for entertainment purposes, we can say that Shakespeare is showing both the benefits and harm that can be derived from trickery.

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