Themes In Much Ado About Nothing

Topics: Plays

This sample of an academic paper on Themes In Much Ado About Nothing reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.

Much Ado About Nothing is essentially a romantic comedy. One of the central themes is love and the plot centres on the characters expectations and the way in which they deal with ‘love’. Although Much Ado About Nothing is typical of many of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies there are ‘dark’ elements, which run throughout the play.

As soon as the play begins in the first scene, the reader is introduced to Don Pedro and Don John: two brothers. Don Pedro is an important nobleman from Aragon; he is socially superior to everyone else and is often referred to as ‘Prince’. Don John on the other hand is the illegitimate brother; he is often referred to as ‘the Bastard’. In Elizabethan times illegitimate children were perceived as evil, they were socially inferior as a result of the circumstances in which they were conceived.

They were often seen as a representation and reminder of the sin through which they were created.

Why Is Don John So Miserable?

Shakespeare immediately establishes a strong connection between the negative connotations and attitudes that were present in Elizabethan society at the time regarding illegitimate children and Don John’s character. He does this by ensuring that the reader notes the dark shadow that Don John’s presence casts during the otherwise happy and jovial first scene where everyone gathers to welcome Don Pedro and his men back from the war.

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At first during Act I Scene I there is no mention of Don John in the conversation, and there is no direct speech addressed to him. Only once Leonato has finished greeting Don Pedro and Beatrice and Benedick have exchanged wry remarks does he eventually turn to greet Don John. This implies that although Don John and Don Pedro are brothers and should be treated as equals, Don John is treated as an inferior simply because he is illegitimate.

As a contrast to the jovial exchange between Leonato and Don Pedro, the exchange between Leonato and Don John is short and succinct. Don John’s reply to Leonato’s greeting, Act I Scene I Lines 140-41 ‘I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you.’ implies that he is a brooding man, that he has deep-rooted issues and troubles and is very melancholy. His disposition and nature all seem to be a result of his unfortunate background.

As a result of his background Don John appears to be extremely resentful. His resentment is manifested through his actions and behaviour. Right from the beginning of the play from when we are introduced to Don John he is presented in a negative light.

During Act I Scene III Don John is in the company of one of his followers and companions, Conrade. During this scene Shakespeare reveals Don John’s unpleasant nature. Conrade asks Don John why he is so miserable and dejected. Don John replies’ ‘There is no measure in the occasion that breeds, therefore the sadness is without limit.’ Don John is telling Conrade that there is no limit to his misery. Don John’s reply indicates that he is self-indulgent, his anger and frustration at his situation has led him to become embittered. He is so self-absorbed that he refuses to let anyone talk him out of his anger.

When Conrade presses him for an answer Don John replies telling him that even if there was a reason it would make no difference. Already Shakespeare is presenting Don John to the audience as an unreasonable and melancholy man who will not change for anyone. Shakespeare emphasises this aspect of Don John’s character through his next speech, where Don John professes his stubborn and insensitive character.

‘I cannot hide what I am. I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no man’s jests; eat when I have stomach, and wait for no man’s leisure; sleep when I am drowsy, and tend on no man’s business; laugh when I am merry, and claw no man in is human’

Again Shakespeare emphasises Don John’s self-centred nature by the repetitive use of ‘I’.


Don John is the antithesis of Don Pedro; he is the opposite of everything the play wants to be about. The dastardly plan to ruin Claudio and Hero’s wedding is as a result of his hatred for marriage, as well as his resentment towards Don Pedro and anyone who is close to him.

It is the ideal of ‘marriage’ that has caused him to be in his unfortunate position. The fact that he was born out of wedlock may have led him to hold a deep hatred for marriage. If there were no marriage, if marriage did not exist, he would not have to endure the ridicule and degradation that he suffers at this moment.

As well as Don John’s ‘plain dealing villain’ there are other elements of darkness throughout the play. Shakespeare uses the device of deception in different instances to show the reader that all is not as it seems, and often judgements made on observations are wrong. There are two main instances where the plot involves deception and deceit. Firstly there is the plot to bring Beatrice and Benedick together and second there is the more malicious plot, devised by Don John, to ruin Claudio’s marriage to Hero.

The whole farce through which Benedick and Beatrice are eventually brought together and led to reveal their true feelings for one another is carried out using the device of deception. Although there is no malicious intent, the act of deception its self is negative as it is based on playing with people’s feelings.

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Themes In Much Ado About Nothing. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

Themes In Much Ado About Nothing
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