Much Ado About Nothing Questions and Answers

William Shakespeare

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting Much Ado About Nothing questions.

How do we see political strife and power struggles in Much Ado About Nothing?

One of the most common themes in Shakespeare's plays is the political strife between a rightful ruler and those who challenge that rule. We see it most clearly in MacbethRichard II, and several other history plays, but Shakespeare also explores it in Much Ado About Nothing in the form of Don John, the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro, who attempts to create distrust between Don Pedro and his most loyal followers and friends. The illegitimate son or brother becomes almost a stock character in Shakespeare—he cannot be trusted; his only goal is to sow discord in an otherwise peaceful reign; and he has few, if any, redeeming virtues. The subtext here and in other plays is that rightful rulers or leaders must always be aware of attempts to destroy their rule.

How is deception a theme of Much Ado About Nothing?

Shakespeare explores, among other things, the positive and negative effects of deception in Much Ado About Nothing. On the positive side, Don Pedro, with help from Claudio, Leonato, and Hero, plans to bring Benedick and Beatrice together in love through a complicated deception. He obviously believes that the war between the two is based on their hidden feelings—in other words, their love is hiding behind their pride. This drives the first half of the play. The second half, however, is centered on deception whose end is to destroy happiness and reputation: Don John and his cohorts try to ruin both Claudio's and Hero's lives, as well as the lives of those surrounding the two. That the play turns out positively is good—after all, this is a comedy—but Shakespeare's point in his use of deception is that it can be used to further human relationships in a positive way just as it can be used to destroy relationships. In the case of Much Ado, deception can go hand-in-hand with both comedy and tragedy.

What is Don John's ultimate goal?

One of the enduring questions about Much Ado About Nothing is why Don John, the Prince's illegitimate brother, goes to such lengths to destroy Hero's reputation and therefore her marriage to Claudio, one of Don Pedro's closest companions. In other words, what has Hero done to deserve such treatment? The answer is not a thing, but that is beside the point.

In Act II, Scene II, Borachio, Don John's supporter (actually, as it turns out, henchman), explains a plot that will have devastating results—the ruining of Hero's reputation, the complete embarrassment of Don Pedro, Claudio's love for Hero destroyed, and even perhaps the death of Hero's father, Leonato, presumably from shock.

It is bad enough that Borachio could create such chaos, but it is even worse that Don John—even though he is no friend to his own brother—would consent to the destruction of an innocent. His reaction to Borachio's plan, of course, leads to an insight into his villainy:

"Only to despite them I will endeavor anything."

Don John's primary target, as Professor Emma Smith has observed, cannot be Hero—even though she will suffer the most immediate harm. Don John's goal is to destroy the two primary men involved: his brother and Claudio. In this plot, Hero is what we now euphemistically call "collateral damage"; that is, she is the person whose disgrace will, in turn, devastate both Claudio, for having loved her, and Don Pedro, for having wooed her on Claudio's behalf. Don John essentially seeks to cast doubt on Claudio's and Don Pedro's ability to discern true worth and, by extension, their ability to judge all other things rightly.

In a world in which rulers must appear completely dependable and accurate in their judgment of people and motives, Claudio's and Don Pedro's failure to discern Hero's flawed character renders their ability to judge all other things suspect, thereby casting doubt on their inherent right to rule in a turbulent world.