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The Theme of Honor in _Much Ado About Nothing_ Essay

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Honour has never been easy to obtain. It is the characteristic that all strive for. It is an ambiguous measure of worth, and is only genuinely in the eyes of the beholder. Throughout the play Much Ado About Nothing, honour is pursued relentlessly by all of the characters, each in a unique way. The moral casualties on the pursuit for honour seem to be a direct result of the motivations of the pursuer. Claudio and Don Pedro have an extrinsically motivated drive for honour. They only want recognition, to wear it as a badge to show off their accomplishments. Benedick is motivated intrinsically, what he strives for is internal satisfaction, not recognition. Through wit, charm, selflessness and intrinsic motivations, he gains honour without wreaking havoc. While Benedick proves he is the golden standard for an honourable man, Claudio and Don Pedro also emerge as honourable men, however their trail of moral dilemmas will tarnish their reputation for ever.


The pursuit of honour by Claudio and Don Pedro is nothing short of obnoxious. All of their endeavors are public and have a serious effect on someone, and that is no accident. Such an egocentric approach is typical for all extrinsically motivated honour seekers, and the consequences of their actions are par for the course. By having all of their endeavors made public, their apparently honourable deeds will be rewarded, regardless of the true effects. Since Claudio and Don Pedro are so preoccupied with the superficial results of their actions, it is not surprising that dramatic misadventures transpire. When Don John suggests to Don Pedro and Claudio that “...[Hero] has been too long a-talking of, the lady is disloyal” (III,ii,89-90), they are faced with a decision. To trust in Don ...


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...to be ostentatious. By trying to quantify such an internal characteristic, honour loses all of it’s meaning. In a society where the lavish ends justify any means doing the right thing falls by the wayside. Benedick went on his pursuit of honour the right way, he did not destroy, he only built and he is the golden standard for an honourable man. Don Pedro and Claudio were selfish, their extrinsic motivations blinded them from doing the right thing, the moral destruction they caused will stay with them forever. Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro all earned their honour, but the matter in which they earned it is what separates them. The extrinsic motivations of Claudio and Don Pedro caused so many moral dilemmas that they will forever be looked down upon. Honour is the characteristic that all strive for, but only once motivated intrinsically can it ever truly be attained.


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