MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING THEMES AND MOTIFS by Kayla Shelton
The importance of honor is a huge theme in Much Ado About Nothing. The Climax of the play is when Claudio rejects hero, accusing her of infidelity and violated chastity. He Publicly shames her in front of her father and the city. In Shakespeare’s time, a woman’s honor was based upon her virginity and chaste behavior. For a woman to lose her honor by having sexual relations before marriage meant that she would lose all social standing, from which she could never recover. In addition, this loss of honor would poison the woman’s whole family.Claudio’s shaming of Hero at the wedding ceremony obliterates her entirely. Leonato speaks of her loss of honor as an indelible stain from which he cannot distance himself, no matter how hard he tries. For women in that era, the loss of honor was a form of annihilation. In contrast, the man’s honor depended on male friendship alliances and was more military in nature. Unlike a woman, a man could defend his honor, and that of his family. As a woman, Hero cannot seize back her honor by herself.
Public shaming also plays a large role in the play. For example, even though Hero is ultimately justified, her public shaming at the wedding ceremony is too horrible to be forgotten. This kind of humiliation sustains more damage to her honor and her family name than an act of unchaste behavior would have. The language that both Claudio and Leonato use to shame Hero is extremely strong. Shame is also what Don John hopes will cause Claudio to lose his place as Don Pedro’s favorite: once Claudio is discovered to be engaged to a impure woman, Don John thinks that Don Pedro will reject Claudio as he previously rejected Don John. In addition, being illegitimate himself, Don John has grown up being constantly reminded of his own social shame, and he will do anything to avenge this. Ironically, in the end, Don John is shamed and threatened with torture to punish him for his crimes.
ENTERTAINMENT for the sake of entertainment
In addition, the theme of entertainment can be seen throughout the play. There is a lot of music and dancing, especially at the end of the play. The characters of Much Ado About Nothing spend much of their time engaging in elaborate spectacles and entertainments. The play’s title captures the sentiment of cheerful, light entertainment. The characters who merrily fight and fall in love in the beginning end up together in the end. In addition, courtship and marriage are compared to delightful court dances: “wooing, wedding and repenting is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinquepace”
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Much Ado About Nothing.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “Much Ado About Nothing.” Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.