Comparing Much Ado About Nothing


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In the first essay, written by Jean Howard, the main idea or thesis seems to focus on the antitheatrical aspects of the play. The actual thesis would be Shakespeare employs antitheatrical discourse in a way that advantages certain social groups without calling attention to the fact that it does that. Howard takes a Marxist approach to the play. She looks at how the conflict intertwines itself and makes a constant reference to the social aspects of each of the characters in the play. Howard starts by giving general ideas where she gives a brief summary of the main plot of the story that involves Don John, Don Pedro, and Claudio. She reads the play in relationship to antitheatrical tracts. This makes the political dimensions more apparent in the work. The play itself speaks to several different senses of social class. Although Much Ado about Nothing is a play, it mirrors the world as it was. It deals with the power being put in the hands of the "status quo" and it makes mention of the social order, especially the fear of women who want the same power as men.

Howard also mentions that the play seems to emphasize the consequences of sin, in this case, telling lies. She goes into the scene where Don John gets Margaret, Hero's servant, to play Hero as so to deceive Claudio. This would make Hero appear to be "easy" and make Claudio not want to marry her. Before all of this goes on, Don Pedro impersonates Claudio at the ball, to get in Hero's good graces. This is another lie. Even though Don Pedro's "trick" does more good than harm, the audience and readers are now given the job to cope with the morality of each situation. Most of Howard's reading of the play deals with the two impersonators (Don John and Don Pedro) and their sense of moral duty during this time. It also speaks to the social consequences of their practices. Howard suggests that Don John provides a moral reading because he is the chief antagonist in the play. She seems to say that in essence, he is evil and readers can identify and justify his actions because he is evil. Does that make it right? She also says that since he is the bastard brother of Don Pedro, his evil acts are ideologically significant because they identify the social disorder of those who have and those who have not.

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This play has been obsessed with the problem of how to see through the lies and find truth. Howard then goes into how this play seems to "engender" the readers about never getting to the real. I do not believe this. It is primarily, a play. If Shakespeare would have wanted us to read that much into it, he would have written a novel with all sorts of underlying conflicts and mysteries.

I do agree with Howard when she says that the only power displayed in this play is the power of the Theater. It has the ability to make an ignorant audience aware of what they are doing in society, who they are, and what type of labels society places on others. The role of these theatrical functions is to do just what they are supposed to do. That is to give a prospective view on the world at the time and to give the readers/audience a taste of informative entertainment.

The next essay that I looked at was actually an article that featured in Studies in English Literature during the spring of 1998. The article was written by Stephen B. Dobranski and is entitled "Children of the Mind: Miscarried Narratives in Much Ado about Nothing."

This article presents yet another reading of this play. It talks about allusions to past experiences of Beatrice and Benedick, deflection as an effective element of comedy, and the history of the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice. The actual thesis of the play is the idea that Shakespeare's strategy of evoking a fragmentary, undeveloped history, which enriches the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick, arises repeatedly in the play. "This technique of alluding to an undeveloped, possible history represents a neglected strategy of Shakespeare's dramaturgy (Dobranski 2)."

Dobranski then goes into the scene where Benedick's speech, filled with multiple allusions to Hercules, enhances the conversation he has with a soldier concerning his relationship with Beatrice. Benedick puts himself, as well as Beatrice, in ancient Greek times. Then Dobranski mentions the fact that for most of the play, before Don Pedro interjects, Beatrice and Benedick are at each other's throats. There is name-calling and constant put downs, this is what Shakespeare wants to use to help the audience/reader see that there was something going on with our oblivious lovers. It also is evident their was some past history because by the end of the play, Benedick offers to perform labors on Beatrice's behalf. Although we can not know what previously occurred between Beatrice and Benedick, the play's allusions to Hercules suggest the need for atonement or a woman's control to find forgiveness for his own crime (3).

This critic seems to focus on the history of B and B. He uses the exact text from the play and these give attempts to make some understanding of the speeches. Dobranski does not use any particular method of criticism to make his points. He makes his inferences strictly on the text. He uses a variety of speeches that all link back to the original assumption that something happened between them and this is why we meet them in medias res, the two having already developed an antagonistic attraction. Benedick is a character that knows the cause of her dismay and recognizes why Beatrice acts the way that she does. During Beatrice's conversation with Don Pedro, she gives us a glimpse of Benedick and Beatrice's past. By reading this speech, Dobranski goes into the words that Beatrice uses and defines them in terms of the text.

Dobranski makes good points and does it in laymen's terms. I agree with him on the ideas that Beatrice and Benedick are destined to be together and even though they have had a rocky past, they can have prosperous future together.

Both of these essays deal with one aspect of Shakespeare's work, Much Ado about Nothing. Although they deal with different aspects, they are both relevant to the deeper understanding of the play. Howard and Dobranski are two critics that obviously know what they are talking about and do not have any reserves about speaking their minds. They both state their beliefs in a clear and concise manner. I did not agree with everything that Howard said but Dobranski was clear on the points that he made and I saw not much opposition with his essay.



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