Year 11 English Literature- Much Ado About Nothing Essay
Much Ado About Nothing uses the stage to create a little world in order to examine the society at large. Discuss how the world created in the text allows the dominant ideologies of the time to be explored.
Examine and make notes on Much Ado About Nothing focusing
on a selection of both male and female character.
Attention should be paid to the manner in which the language and actions of the characters reflect the dominant values of Elizabethan society. -
Consider how the ideas either challenge or endorse the attitudes and values of the target audience. -
Evaluate the difference between Elizabethan and modern gender expectations.
Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing is set in the seaport town of Messina in Sicily, and reflects the dominant values of an English Elizabethan society. The play tells the story of Claudio of Florence, Hero the young woman with whom he falls in love, her witty cousin Beatrice and her male counterpart Benedick. The Prince of Aragon, Don Pedro and the Governor of Messina, Leonato have an exalted status due to their positions of power thus they are in control of the gulling of both Benedick and Beatrice. The antagonist of the play, Don John who is the bastard brother of the regal Don Pedro, provides the deceit, lies and denigrations, which bring dark notes into the plot development of the play. The minor characters such as Friar Francis who is symbolic of the influence of the church and the serving class such as Borachio, Margaret, Dogberry and the sentries illustrating the entire range of social classes and thus reflecting the macrocosm of Elizabethan England. The dominant ideologies of the Elizabethan era are portrayed to the audience through the plot line, the actions and language of the characters. These ideologies include the divine social order, gender roles, role of the church and the state, war and loyalty. Shakespeare employs the stage to create a microcosm in order to examine the dominant ideologies of Elizabethan society.
The importance of social status in the Elizabethan era was portrayed in the small society of Messina through key characters and how they addressed one another. The rank order of Messina is like the system of Elizabethan England. There were respected figures such as Don Pedro at the top of the social ladder, who was addressed as "my lord". Leonato, as he is Governor and has the responsibility of acting as host to the prince and his knights for their month-long presence in his city, is addressed as "Signor", as is Benedick, as he is a companion of Don Pedro. Claudio is referred to as "Count" and he is also a companion of Don Pedro. The characters of lower class such as Verges and Dogberry are employed as comic relief for the lower class of Shakespeare's audience who would be able to relate to the characters and to most of the discourse. Dogberry's hilarious use of malapropisms is employed to illustrate his lack of education and his lower class status.
"Comparisons are odorous, palabras, neighbour Verges
" "If I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all of your worship."
The improper use of language provides comic relief from the darkening plotline as well as providing for the lower class audience members of the Elizabethan era. This world created on the stage is a hyperbolic representation of the class structure of the Elizabethan era.
In Shakespeare's plays the pronouns "Thou/thee/thine" and You/your' send clear social signals. The use of You' when addressing one person implies distance, signifying respect for your superior and courtesy to your social equal. For example, Beatrice throughout the play addresses Benedick in the you' form. "I would not deny you, but by this good day I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told, you were in a consumption." (Act V, Scene IV; 93) As Beatrice and Benedicks...
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