The Title In Much Ado About Nothing

Essay, Research Paper

Much Ado About Nothing exemplifies a kind of deliberately puzzling title that seems to have been popular in the late 1590s (compare, “As You Like It‰). Indeed, the play is about nothing; it merely follows the relationships of Claudio and Hero, and in the end, the play culminates in the two other main characters falling in love, which, because it was an event that was quite predictable, proves to be much ado about nothing. The pronunciation of the word “nothing” would, in the late 16th Century, have been “noting,” and so the title also apparently suggests a pun on the word, “noting,” and on the use of the word “note” as an expression of music. In II.2 (l.54), Balthasar is encouraged to sing, but declines, saying, “note this before my notes; there‚s not a note of mine that‚s worth the noting.” However, Don Pedro retorts, “<sum>Note notes, forsooth, and nothing,” playing on Balthasar‚s words, and also demanding that he pay attention to his music and nothing else. In addition, much of the play is dedicated to people “noting” (or observing) the actions of others (such as the trick played on Beatrice and Benedick by Leonato, Hero and Claudio); they often observe and overhear one another, and consequently make a great deal out of very little. At the beginning of the play, Claudio and Hero eventually come to admire one another, and Benedick and Beatrice play off each others‚ wit in a manner that is all too cosy to be convincingly vicious. It ends with Claudio and Hero‚s marriage, and with Beatrice and Benedick proclaiming their engagement. The irony is that, were it not for the fuss created over the nothingness in between, the play would indeed be about nothing. The middle section of the play centres on the false assumptions of Benedick and Beatrice, as well as the lies told to Claudio about Hero‚s supposed death. Considering that the saga is thus based around lies and assumptions, which both amount to nothing in terms of the truth, we can conclude that the drama is indeed about nothing. Not even Don John manages to remove the nothingness from the play ˆ he purposely invokes lies about Hero and Don Pedro, which eventually amount to nothing when Hero and Claudio are united. In fact, the irony is that Don John‚s evil produces good in the end, because it provokes the crisis of the play, and results in a strengthening of love. The idea of noting is also continued throughout the play, and is particularly exemplified by the changing relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. They play games with each other‚s wit, which in the end amounts to nothing because they fall in love. At one point, Benedick surreptitiously notes, “I do spy some marks of love in her [Beatrice],” whilst Claudio also observes Margaret speaking with Balthasar, but mistakenly notes that Margaret is Hero, and Don John purposely notes the masked Claudio for Don Pedro. These three examples of noting continue the play‚s theme of false observations.In addition, there is a strong theme of music and dance running through the play. Balthasar introduces the first piece of singing to the performance: ” Be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe Into hey, nonny, nonny.” The characters all dance several times throughout the play; in the late 16th Century, organised dancing such as that portrayed here was perceived to be a sign of sophistication. In this way, the idea of the word “nothing” meaning music and dance implies the important connotation that the tale‚s characters are of a high social status. By considering these three different aspects of the word “nothing” in the title of “Much Ado,” it is possible to say that indeed the title is suited to the events of the play. The main action (ie: Claudio and Hero) concerns nothing, because Don John‚s trick is a lie, as is Hero‚s apparent death; and yet Claudio creates much ado over both situations. In addition, Benedick and Beatrice spend much of the play observing, or noting, the actions, words and behaviour of each other (and also of Don Pedro, Claudio, Leonato and Hero, who set up a trick to try to unite them), and music plays an important role in this. Considering the close link between the three meanings of the word “nothing,” particularly in the late 16th Century, I think that the title is an excellent description of the main events of the play.


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