Much Ado About Nothing

“Banter and bliss in Much Ado About Nothing”
By Richard McCoy

In Much Ado About Nothing, the battle of the sexes is more fraught and volatile than military battle. At the play’s beginning, the men return from war with high hearts, exhilarated by victory. Young Claudio is said to have “borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion” (1.1.12-14), and, accordingly, his commander, “Don Pedro hath bestowed much honor” on him (1.1.8-9). The Governor of Messina, Don Leonato, welcomes the officers, and right after Claudio spots the governor’s daughter, Hero, he declares her “the sweetest lady that ever I looked on” (1.1.174-175). He considers proposing but tempers his sentiments with practical calculations, asking, “Hath Leonato any son?” (1.1.274). Assured that “she’s his only heir” (1.1.275), he declares his love for Hero, proclaiming that since “war-thoughts / Have left their places vacant, in their rooms / Come thronging soft and delicate desires” (1.1. 281-283). Claudio is now eager to make love not war, but the deceptive schemes of Don John, villainous brother to Don Pedro, soon throw his “soft and delicate desires” into turmoil. Courtship and love-making prove to be more dangerous than military conflict.

To read the full essay, download Dialogues: Much Ado About Nothing 

“Resistance to Marriage in Much Ado About Nothing
By Gail Kern Paster

Cuckoldry jokes are in the air in the city of Messina as it welcomes Don Pedro of Aragon and his soldiers home from a victory over his bastard brother, Don John. The governor of Messina, Leonato, snatches a cuckoldry joke out of the air when he jokes to Don Pedro about having to ask his wife repeatedly for reassurance as to his daughter’s legitimacy…

The soldier Benedick is also suspicious of women as the agents of men’s humiliation and defeat. He expresses an almost pathological fear of betrayal in marriage: to be married is to wear the conventional horns of a cuckold, to have one’s own military bugle snatched away, to have it sounded in one’s own face…

For Benedick, what unifies all the stages of a man’s life is humiliating dependence on women, beginning with the infant’s dependence on maternal women for life and nurture—an early dependence seen by him as forerunner to the later sexual humiliations of the adult male. But for Benedick, the cuckold’s horns that he envisions as his own future headdress are those of a defeated soldier who has lost his bugle to another soldier. For such men, marriage threatens loss of a valued form of masculine singleness, a loss of control.

To read the full essay, download Dialogues: Much Ado About Nothing