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Deception in Much Ado about Nothing

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Much ado about nothing is set in a patriarchal world where women’s honour is very important. They have little to their name and no inheritance so they must protect their honour. The theme of deception directly links to the patriarchal society in Shakespeare’s time as shown throughout this play. Deception is important to this play as it links also with many of the other themes such as love and marriage. It is repeated in many of the scenes and has both positive and negative effects. In act 4 scene 1 deception appears in the form of the friar, holy man, who plans to deceive everyone. In act 5 scene 4 Claudio is deceived and is made to believe he is marrying Antonio’s daughter.

In the fourth act, the friar conspires to trick Claudio into believing Hero is dead. He says, ‘maintain a mourning ostentation and perform all rites that appertain unto a burial…’ this shows that even a man thought to be holy and righteous can be deceiving in this play. He is trying to make Claudio feel guilty and make him fall in love with Hero again.

However, Don John is the main deceiver in this play and is the cause of Hero’s slandering. He make Claudio think Hero has deceived him. In the scene before even her own father thinks Hero has deceived him. Hero’s reputation and the honour of her family is destroyed, she’ll have to go to a nunnery because she has lost her honour. Also, in this scene deception is linked to love. It shows how deception is more dangerous when you are in love as it causes more hurt, to both parties. This also leads on to the theme of marriage. Hero was shamed at her wedding in front of everyone after Claudio deceived her by pretending he was going through with it.

We can also see that in Elizabethan times a couple would marry after seeing each other maybe only twice. This means that Claudio was unable to recognise that it was not Hero in the window and did not know her enough to deny that she had deceived him.

In the second half of act 4 scene one Benedick and Beatrice are alone. In this part there is a sudden swing from the harsh tones Shakespeare used into a gentler, tender scene where Benedick and Beatrice show their love for each other. Benedick says: ‘I do love nothing more in the world so well as you. Is not that strange?’ it is strange as they were tricked into falling in love. This shows the positive outcome of deception.

Benedick is being kind to Beatrice but in her sorrow she twists his words. She say, ‘it were possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you. But believe me not, yet I lie not. I am sorry for my cousin.’ When Beatrice says this she implies that because she is a woman she will not be believed so she could say she loved him but there would be no point. This is what happened when Hero denied having an affair- she was called a liar, because Claudio was told by Don John that she had deceived him.

Benedick realises she does love him and says, ‘by my sword Beatrice! Thou lovest me!’ Beatrice replies, ‘do not swear and eat it!’ however, Benedick misunderstands. Beatrice is trying to say, don’t make a promise you can’t keep- don’t eat your word. He thinks she means his sword! He says, ‘…and I will make him eat it that says I love not you.’ This shows how much he loves her as he began as a misogynist earlier in the play.

Beatrice asks him to prove his love- by killing Claudio! He is so surprised he thinks she is joking. He says, ‘ha! Not for the wide world!’ this hurts Beatrice and she says there is no love in him.

Beatrice wishes she were a man so she could kill Claudio, as a woman could not. She says, ‘oh god! That I were a man, I would eat his heart in the market place.’ This shows how much she hates Claudio. She goes on to insult every man saying, ‘…men are only turned into tongue and trim ones too.’ This means that men are nothing but words- no action. This is partly directed at Benedick as he said he would do anything for her, yet he failed to accept killing Claudio.

Beatrice then compares Claudio to Hercules, ‘he is now as valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie and swears it.’ This shows the attitude in her time because even if a man lied he wouldn’t lose his honour, like a woman would, and may even be considered valiant. This means that men deceive a lot like Don John who everyone thought was a brave soldier but who is really a deceiver.

When she says, ‘I cannot be a man wit h wishing, so I will die a woman with grieving.’ She is trying to say that she will never get the privileges of a man when she wishes for them, so she will die a woman in her grief for her cousin. This links to Don John’s deception which tore Claudio and hero apart. However, in a round-about way it brought Benedick and Beatrice closer together and she was able to confide in him.

At the end of this scene we see Benedicks love and loyalty to Beatrice after she shows how strongly she feels against Claudio. Benedick says, ‘enough. I am engaged. I will challenge him…by this hand, Claudio will render me a dear account…’ this shows Benedick’s ultimate sacrifice for Beatrice. He and Claudio have fought in battles where they would trust each other with their lives. Claudio may have even have saved his life and this creates a very strong bond between them. It would seem as if Beatrice had asked Benedick to kill his own brother. Yet Benedick agrees because he loves her and would do anything to prove it. However, he never actually kills Claudio as he promised Beatrice and this is a mild example of deception but has a positive effect.

In act 5 scene 4 Claudio is once again a victim of deception telling us he is a weak character in the play. He is made to believe that he is marrying Antonio’s daughter. Leonato says, ‘you must be father to your brothers daughter’ meaning Hero. However, this is an example of how deception can have a positive effect as Claudio falls in love with Hero again.

Also, in this scene before the unveiling of the brides, Claudio tells a story. It is quite ironic that this story also revolves around love and deceit. ‘…and all Europa shall rejoice at thee as once Europa did at lusty Jove, when he would play the noble beast in love.’ This is a story where Jove turns himself into a bull to seduce Europa and he doesn’t know that he is a God. This deception also has a positive outcome.

Near the end of this scene Benedick and Beatrice discover that they were tricked into falling in love. Benedick says, ‘why then your uncle, the prince and Claudio have been deceived. They swore you did.’ And Beatrice says, ‘why then my cousin, Margaret and Ursula are much deceived, for they did swear you did.’ After they both say this they realise that it was not their friends who were deceived but they who were deceived! This yet again had a positive effect as they are married in the end.

In conclusion, we have found that deception comes in all shapes and sizes in this play. It can also tell us more about Elizabethan times and how deception occurs in everyday life, through eavesdropping and jealousy. Deception plays a key role in linking different themes together and is also very important to the play. In act 5 scene 4 Beatrice says, ‘no truly, but in friendly recompense’ when Benedick asks her if she loves him. She is lying to Benedick and also to herself. And this shows that because we are too busy trying not to be deceived by those around us, we forget that the biggest deceivers to us is ourselves.

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