Shakespeare uses this play to show how appearance and reality are not always the same thing. At the beginning we see the apparent enemies, Benedick and Beatrice, engaging in witty banter that verges sometimes on the cruel. However, they are tricked into acknowledging their real feelings of love for one another.
Other examples of this theme can be seen in the masked ball, where mistaken identity is the cause of confusion and upset for both Claudio and Benedick. In the gulling scene, Benedick appears to hear his friends talk about Beatrice's love for him, but in reality the audience knows they are playing a trick.
In darker examples of the theme, Don John fools Claudio into believing his wife-to-be is untrustworthy by apparently showing him a scene of unfaithfulness. When Hero is accused, Leonato makes it appear that his daughter is dead.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare examines how appearances can sometimes be deceptive. Some of the key aspects are:
|How does Shakespeare show this?||Evidence||Analysis|
|Benedick and Beatrice appear to be enemies||When the pair first meet, they bicker and taunt one another.||"I / am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: " (Act 1 Scene 1)||Although they appear to dislike one another, both are easily persuaded of the other's love by the tricks that their friends play on them.|
|Hero's apparent infidelity||Claudio is tricked into thinking that Hero is unfaithful when Borachio sets up a scene in the window that makes it appear that Hero loves him.||"Proof enough to misuse the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero and kill Leonato." (Act 2 Scene 2)||Claudio is convinced by what appears to be Hero's unfaithfulness. However, the audience knows that this is not the reality.|
|Hero's apparent death||Hero faints after Claudio's accusation and Leonato is advised to pretend his daughter is dead. Hero appears dead, but in reality is taken into hiding.||"Let her awhile be secretly kept in, And publish it that she is dead indeed;" (Act 4 Scene 1)||Later, when Claudio discovers the truth, he agrees to marry Antonio's daughter 'unseen'. What appears to be a new wife turns out, in reality, to be Hero.|
What elements of appearance and reality does Shakespeare highlight in this Much Ado About Nothing?