Monday, September 24, 2012

Who's in Love with Who?

 Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is already, a very interesting play. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the title. It seems here that Shakespeare is blatantly telling his audience that the conflict that occurs in this play is unnecessary. This informed the rest of my reading of the first two acts very much, and helped me formulate the two questions I will attempt to answer here.

In the play, Beatrice and Benedick seem to at first despise each other, but with small clues like Leonato explaining that theirs is a “merry war” (1.1, 50) and eventually telling Claudio that Beatrice is secretly in love with Benedick the reader may think otherwise. My first question is centered on this belief. In act II, scene 1 Don Pedro, the prince, decides that he will take it upon himself to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love because he believes they will be good for each other. At first Leonato doesn’t seem sold on the idea. He states that “if they were but a week married they would talk themselves mad” (2.1, 307-308). It is only after Don Pedro puts pressure on the group to follow him on this venture that Leonato tells Claudio of Beatrice’s secret love, while Benedick is in ear shot. I wonder, is he only making this up to please the prince and trick Benedick into thinking that Beatrice is in love with him? The tile of the play would seem to suggest so, and Spark Notes states that “Beatrice mocks him again before departing, but the infatuated Benedick interprets her words as containing hidden messages of love” (Summary and Analysis of Act II, scenes i-iii) which also suggests deception on Leonato’s part. Based on this evidence I would assume that Beatrice is not really in love with Benedick.

The other question that I have is about the love triangle that is going on in the play with Claudio, Don Pedro, and Hero. In the play Claudio reveals to Benedick that he is in love with Hero. In turn, Benedick tells Don Pedro this news who he decides to win Hero for Claudio by pretending to be him at the masquerade. During the masquerade Claudio over hears that Don Pedro is wooing Hero and becomes very upset because he does not know that Don Pedro is doing it for him. This is my question: Is Don Pedro really doing this for Claudio or is he wooing Hero for himself? First of all, it is strange that Don Pedro doesn’t tell Claudio this plan and get his blessing beforehand. In addition, I’m surprised he would even want to do this in the first place because if it works and Hero finds out that her wooer is really Don Pedro then she might want him instead of Claudio. On the other hand, Don Pedro is the prince so he probably feels that there is no need to tell Claudio because he should be happy the prince is doing anything for him. Furthermore, it seems like it is in his nature to play match maker, since we see this with Benedick and Beatrice as well. Therefore, in this case I would say that he is not trying to woo Hero for himself, but that he is genuinely trying to help Claudio.

Either way, it seems to me that Don Pedro is at the center of the drama in this play and that miscommunication and perception are the themes that will drive the plot, as the title Much Ado About Nothing  seems to suggest. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if my specific questions are answered and if my predictions are correct!

1 comment:

Cyrus Mulready said...

I'm thinking about how to connect these two interesting quesitons, Sam, and it occurs to me that the thread that runs between both is the problem of perception. How can we know if someone is in love with us? Why do we ever make assumptions about another person's feelings or beliefs? These are interesting questions to a dramatist like Shakespeare, and in both the instances you cite the plot revolves around the interesting things that people do to convey their feelings. In the case of Beatrice it is funny because, even as she attempts to put off Benedick, he interprets her actions as meaning the opposite--that she loves him! So even when we try to be clear about how we feel, human interactions always leave open the possibility for confusion.