‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by William Shakespeare contains many aspects that anchor the Elizabethan conventions of comedy, but allows us to question whether the ending gratifies the audience and does it actually create a satisfactory dramatic catharsis? Aristotle first discussed the concept of catharsis. He believed that “the poet's aim is to produce pleasure in the spectator by eliciting from the representation the emotions of pity (for others) and fear (for oneself)”. I believe ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ creates a satisfactory dramatic catharsis by Shakespeare intertwining Elizabethan comedic conventions with other forms of comedy in order for characters to receive their cathartic, happy ending. We are able to say ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is a problem play as it does not fit into one genre, but still consists of a typical Shakespearean ending.
Over the course of the play, we see various key conventions relating to the characters of Claudio and Hero. The relationship between these two can be described as inconsistent, yet conforms to the structure of ‘Separation’, ‘A struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty, often presented by elders’ and finally ‘Reunification’ where the characters are granted a ‘Happy Ending’. A Shakespearean comedy is one that consists of a happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters. Claudio and Hero’s unpredictable romance is the main plot, which begins the controversial action and ignites all subsequent events. They are a very conventional young couple as their relationship is based on first impressions where Claudio “look’d upon her with a soldier’s eye”, further connoting his naivety and how Shakespeare used aesthetic ideals, reiterating beauty over substance. However, we could argue that Claudio isn’t in fact romantic at all as he questions, “Hath Leonato any son, my lord?” perhaps suggesting he isn’t as romantic as we first thought. He wants to know if Leonato has a son so if he were to die, Leonato would give all his worth to Claudio and Hero.
The relationship happily conforms to the accepted rituals of aristocratic Elizabethan courtship and marriage where it was under Don Pedro’s control to “woo”. However, the playwright was interrupted by the character of Don John, who acts as a catalyst in the play. Due to Claudio being a naïve and inexperienced young character, he tends to believe everything he hears. For example, as Don John informs Claudio of the ‘affair’ that has happened, Claudio immediately questions Don John by asking “Disloyal?” showing his gullible characteristics as well as his naivety. Shakespeare uses the ideals of gender hierarchy, portraying Claudio as the more dominant character in the relationship as he doesn’t give Hero a chance to explain herself and instantly wants to“shame her”.
However, in Claudio’s defence, it is possible to say he doesn’t need to get a secondary source as the accusation was told by another noblemen, connoting how a man’s view is entirely valid without there being a need for questioning. On the whole, we could also say how Don Pedro shows his naivety also by saying “And, as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join with thee to disgrace her” reiterating his social status and how he could evidently, make or break the relationship, but does this by stooping as low to Don John’s level, where in fact, he should show his maturity further in the play. Shakespeare conforms to the conventions of the two being separated and reunited towards the end of the play, suggesting a sense of catharsis as the two characters received their happy ending, enabling the audience to be satisfied with the total outcome, despite the negative occurrences throughout.
Don John is a character that conforms to conventions of Elizabethan comedy by acting as a catalyst. He’s the prime villain in the play but is also accompanied by two other characters. Borachio and Conrade. Although Don John is the main catalyst, it is potentially...
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