History Topic


Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado about Nothing, written around 1599 is considered one of William Shakespeare’s finest plays. It incorporates aspects of comedy with tragedy. Historians consider the context and the characters of the play reference the 16th century Italian wars. This war consequently involved France,the Roman Empire, England as well as the Spanish kingdom of aragon Italy and the ottomans. As such the diverse countries involved in the war where represented by some of the characters. Don Pedro the prince and his brother Don John hail from Spanish controlled Aragon, while Claudio was from Florence and Benedick  from Padua Italy. It is also important to note it was published under the rule of Tudor England and specifically while Elizabeth 1 was in power. This was an Era where the arts, literature really flourished.

Two aspects to consider when examining this play is firstly the distinctive motif of balls and dances amongst the social elites in which they disguise themselves or wear masks. This common feature also found amongst other plays is utilized in much ado about nothing. Claudio who is courting Hero and Benedick who is after the Beatrice all come to a ball wearing masks. Critics of shakespere often found it difficult to belive that one can find it difficult to recognize someone simply because they wore a mask and as such stated “a fictional play should at least be believable”.

Secondarily, the aspect of how society viewed witchcraft, children born out of wedlock that were deemed “bastard” is commonly found in Shakespeare’s plays. The character Don John who was the brother of the prince Don Pedro plays the antagonist role of causing Hero to be defamed and always wants anyone around his prince brother Don pedro to be brought down in rank and stature. In elizabethan society , bastard were considered evil by nature and thus could never be socially accepted to do good. A high ranking judge once declared “if a bastard becomes good that cometh to him by chance, but if he become evil, then that cometh to him by nature” .

These two aspects provide unique insight when reading Shakespeare’s plays and provide context for Much Ado about Nothing. It also helps to identify themes that are hallmarks to Shakespeare’s plays.