Comment. Essay, Research Paper
Comedy may be used for serious social comment. Discuss this statement with reference to Much Ado About Nothing. Much Ado About Nothing is a humorous Shakespearean play, following the conventions of Shakespearean comedy. Characteristics of the play such as mistaken identity, complicated plots, romance and various twists and turns along the way make it an appealing comedy both now and throughout time. The language of comedy is used as a medium to communicate serious messages, because of its audience appeal. In Much Ado About Nothing dramatic irony is used to convey three very serious issues: class, gender and ethnicity. The comic aspect in the play makes these issues appeal to the audience as light-hearted, while at the same time places the issue into their minds. The conflict between genders in Much Ado About Nothing is described in the text as a “Merry war between the sexes.” (1:1:45) The characters, especially Benedick and Beatrice, quarrel with each other and at the same time they act in a flirtatious manner. The two pairs of lovers, Hero and Claudio and Beatrice and Benedick, are portrayed as two extremes of men and two extremes of women that have come together. Hero is the extreme of a perfect, loving daughter. She is obedient, quiet and seems to have no real personality of her own, whereas Beatrice is the extreme of a boisterous woman. She is loud, opinionated and difficult to please, especially if you are a man. Claudio and Benedick can be compared to each other in the same manner, with Claudio being like Hero and Benedick like Beatrice, This is humorous for the audience because none of these characters are just average but at the same time conveys themes of stereotypes in marriage. Women are also the object of many jokes in the play. “Her Mother hath many times told me so.” (1:1:78) Leonato is replying to a comment from Don Pedro that Hero may not be his daughter, and although Leonato is denying the accusation his answer is derogatory. He shows no shock or anger, and his answer is more to please Don Pedro than affirm the faithfulness of his wife. Women are also expected to be pure virgins when they are married, while men are never questioned over the matter. The lower class characters provide the comic relief during the play. Dogberry and verges are the two humorous watch guards who are continually being ignored. No one pays attention to them, even though they know what is really happening. The two guards who are never taken seriously eventually solve the main conflict that arises between Claudia and Hero.
Marry, sir, they have committed false report, moreover they have spoken untruths, secondarily, they are slanders, sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady, thirdly they have verified unjust things, and to conclude, they are lying knaves. (5:1:191-194) They are never taken seriously because of their social class. Dogberry and Verges are continually making jokes, “Do not forget that I am an ass.” (5:1:223-224) Many of their jokes are in regards to their job, when really they are very seriously dedicated to it. They are extremely fair, more than any of the upper class characters are. As the social classes of the characters decline, so to do the social expectations. It is not as highly required that a female be a virgin until she is married, as we can see from the acts of Margaret and Borrachio. When Claudio believes that hero betrayed him, he not only has a moral conflict in his head but has to deal with the social consequences within the community. That is why he felt it just to behave so violently. Sex before marriage was simply not accepted in the upper classes, and considered scandalous if it occurred. Much Ado About Nothing contains very few references to ethnicity. The references, which are used can only be found in jokes from the main characters. In the feature film one of the main characters, Don Pedro, is portrayed as a black man, even though there is no text to support this in the play. The director cast Denzel Washington because of his acting ability, not because of his colour. Characters in the play refer unflatteringly to Jews, Turks and Ethiops. ” Well, and you be not turned Turk.” (3:4:42) This comment from Margaret is directed towards Hero. To be turned Turk, means to change your mind. For Hero it refers to love and her future marriage. The use of language such as this may be unflattering but it was part of colloquial language. Shakespeare was not being racist, but by using the language shows us that in Shakespearean times the citizens were racist. Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy of mistaken meanings. The title means very simply: A Big drama over Nothing, with Nothing also meaning noticing. The play is based on first appearances and how they can be deceptive. When the characters act upon their first appearances they find that they create more conflicts than they actually need. It uses comedy to show how gender, ethnicity and class were thought of during the time but also it shows to us the consequences of first impressions. The play begins at the same place as it ends, with the love of Hero and Claudio, and the dramatic irony is that it could have all been avoided.