An Exploration of the Use Shakespeare Makes of Misunderstanding and Deception in the Play Much Ado About Nothing
Misunderstanding and deception in Much Ado About Nothing are key themes in the play. In Elizabethan times the word “Nothing” was pronounced “Noting” and so the title would have given the audience the initial clue that in this play the importance of noting, spying, appearance and eavesdropping will cause trouble throughout. It is important to define the difference between misunderstanding and deception. Instances of misunderstanding are very often simple mistakes. Misunderstanding means having an erroneous interpretation of the truth. Deception is to intentionally mislead or provide untruthful information.
Benedick is the character in the play that most fits the Elizabethan stereotype of the scared bachelor fearful of cuckoldry. “That a woman conceived me, I thank her” Benedick acknowledges women for the good part they have played in his life. “I will do myself to trust none”, although he still has a deep distrust for women. And so he declares, “I Will live a bachelor”. The gullings of Benedick and Beatrice highlight many anxieties that were truly felt in Elizabethan times. Shakespeare uses the gullings of Benedick and Beatrice as the main point of symmetry in the play. It is a double plot, applied twice. The power of illusion is enhanced when fabrications compel Benedick and Beatrice to confess their love for each other. The audience know from the character names that this pair are meant for each other. Benedick means he who is to be blessed and Beatrice’s means she who blesses. Both characters have an ironic sense of their own mind, both are scorners of love and have pledged lives if bachelor and maidenhood.
Benedick and Beatrice are gulled in the orchard. Both characters are eavesdropping and are visible to the all-knowing audience, but are concealed to their friends on stage. Their friends know they are being overheard, so Benedick and Beatrice are