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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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Discussion Topic

The intriguing and puzzling aspects of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing

Summary:

The intriguing and puzzling aspects of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing include its exploration of deception, misunderstandings, and the complexities of love and honor. The play's intricate plot, involving mistaken identities and eavesdropping, creates a blend of comedy and drama that challenges characters' perceptions and relationships, ultimately leading to reconciliations and revelations.

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What makes Act 3, scene 3 of Much Ado About Nothing interesting?

My favorite character of the play, Dogberry, is introduced in this scene.  Dogberry, as the town constable, is telling the night watchmen to be on the lookout for any mischief or trouble as they begin their nightly watch.  There is special concern since Prince Don Pedro is in town and the wedding of Hero, the governor's daughter, is to take place the next day. His challenge to the watchmen is very funny because of how Dogberry misuses the language.  For example, he uses the word "allegiance" in a way that it means the opposite of it's real meaning, he says "desartless" for "deserving", and he says "tolerable" when he means "intolerable".  Also, he tells the guards it is OK for them to fall asleep rather than talk and make noise, and if the drunks won't go home when asked, just to let them sober up first, then send them home.  He is not a man possessing good sense at all.  He is pure comedy whenever he appears in the play.  The other part of the scene isn't as funny, but it is highly important to the action of the play because Borachio tells Conrade about the deception he helped Don John carry out to dishonor Hero as a means of revenge against Claudio, Don Pedro's right-hand man.  The watchmen overhear this exchange and arrest both Borachio and Conrade thus giving proof later to Hero's innocence.

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What is intriguing and puzzling about act 5 of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing?

One key part of the plot revolves around Don John"s framing Hero to trick his brother Don Pedro and Claudio, her fiancé, into thinking she was unfaithful. When this succeeds, those who believe her concoct another plan, to trick people into thinking she is dead. Everyone then operates based on the notion that she is dead. Because her honor was falsely smeared, she must be avenged. The newly declared lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, believe her, and Benedick (reluctantly) agrees to fight a duel. However, Don John's treachery is uncovered and the duel called off.

Claudio, although grief-stricken over Hero's death, agrees to do what her father asks: marry Antonio's daughter. Not until the wedding is it revealed that the bride is (Surprise!) Hero herself.

The harshness of this plot in many ways seems out of place in a comedy, but it served in part as a device to keep the audience invested in Don John's comeuppance. Also, because Hero is Beatrice's cousin, it is appropriate for her to have a hand in seeing she is avenged. And as Benedick has just sworn his love for Beatrice, he might very well desire to prove himself worthy by fighting the duel as she asks.

Modern audiences also often find it a bigger surprise that Hero doesn't dump Claudio, as he doubted her honor and treated her badly. But she also treasures her honor, so perhaps she interprets his actions as appropriate.

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