William Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing became popular in the early 1600’s, a time when Elizabethan English was commonly spoken. In Elizabethan times the word nothing was instead recognized as noting. Shakespeare uses this pun in his script intending to signify the importance of observing and noting that takes place throughout the play. Many of the characters participate in the actions of observing or noting throughout Much Ado about Nothing in order to stimulate the action and to generate tension and humor.
The noting becomes evident in the first act of the play when Claudio notices Hero and questions Benedick, “Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signor Leonato?” Benedick responds by saying, “I noted her not, but I looked on her” (1.1. 155-157). Benedick establishes a distinction between merely looking at someone and noticing someone closely by the way he criticizes Hero. From their observations it becomes clear that Benedick and Claudio perceive Hero as two different people. Claudio describes Hero as “a jewel” and he continues to say “she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on” (1.1. 174-180). In disagreement, Benedick describes Hero as “too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise” (1.1. 164-166). Hero becomes an illusion to Claudio where he can not note her humanity because he fails to distinguish appearance from reality.
As Claudio proceeds to fall deeper into the illusion regarding Hero, Don John plots to undo Claudio merely through observations and creates tension between him and his soon to be wife. When Claudio observes Margaret (whom is impersonating Hero) having sexual relations with Borachio, he instantly disregards the little amount of faith he had in Hero and is convinced by his observations that she is unchaste. The illusive noting that Don Jon arranged causes Claudio to shame Hero at their marriage ceremony. Claudio’s observations became more powerful than his love for...
Cited: Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. New York. Bantam Books, 1993.
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