A Marxist study of Much Ado About Nothing
Using the Marxist approach to one of Shakespeare’s comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, this essay deals with the unconscious of the text in order to reveal the ideology of the text (as buried in what is not said) so as to discover the hegemony behind the text. The ideology perpetuated in Much Ado About Nothing revolves around, centrally, ensuring the needs and insecurities of the aristocratic – the need for a patriarchal power, the need to reject, stigmatize and dominate the lower class and women. According to Elliot Krieger in A Marxist Study of Shakespeare’s Comedies, there is a “primary world” and a “second world” in each of Shakespeare’s comedies. The second world is a location towards which “the characters, hence the action, move” (1). The primary world is the actual location which the characters originally inhabit, while the second world is where the characters escape to. This second world is an alternative to the primary world, a different perspective for the characters to see the objective reality. It represents a state of mind which “shelters or separates them” in the primary world as the protagonists “circumscribe all of objective reality with their subjectivity” (3). While the protagonists “experience the second world as a retreat, withdrawal, or replacement” releasing their private fancy in this second world, others experience the second world “as a domination, an exhibition of authority” and “a restriction on their own autonomy” (4). In Much Ado About Nothing, the honourable prince Don Pedro and his illegitimate brother, Don John the Bastard, conjure up a second world of their own respectively. The second world of the former succeeds and sustains itself at the end of the play while that of the latter falls through hopelessly. The success and failure of the two different second worlds demonstrates the fact that “only a protagonist who has social degree, and power, can develop a second world in which personal whims organize the social experience of others, in which the needs of the subject’s ego replace the history of the primary world”(4). Hence, this Shakespearean comedy has the sole purpose of unconsciously serving the aristocratic in upholding their ideology, an ideology that has in turn become the hegemony for all in society. After the victory of the war in the primary world, Don Pedro arrives at Messina with his troops of soldiers and soon sets up the first "second world" in the play, aiming to “to bring Signor/Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of/affection the one with the other” (II. i. 284-287) through the means of deception. Lady Beatrice, with her quick wits and independent character, often directs her wisdom and outspoken defiance against men: “Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust?”(II. i. 40-41) Her hatred of the opposite sex, which is most intensely overt in her verbal war with Benedick, unconsciously disturbs men and poses a threat to their virility. Beatrice must not have her waywardness left unruled: “I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband” sighs Leonato (II. i. 37). Indeed, Don Pedro’s subtle affection for Beatrice can be taken as more than a romantic interlude; it might be an unconscious attempt of the patriarchal ruling class to subjugate the agency of women by marrying them: “Will you have me, Lady?” (II. i. 252) Beatrice, as an independent and outspoken woman in the primary world, must be objectified and have her freedom forfeited in a man’s hands – if not Don Pedro, then Benedick. This fantasy is to be conducted in the second world – a response to the social condition in the primary world. The taming and exorcizing of the strong woman Beatrice is further expressed in the two instances of gulling. As proposed by Neely, Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio “alleviate his (Benedick’s) fears about Beatrice’s aggressiveness by a lengthy, exaggerated tale of her desperate passion for him: ‘Then down...
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