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Introducing Shakespeare

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Introducing Shakespeare

1b). The concept of love in Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing is a complex idea as well as an impulsive act and can been seen among many of the characters. In particular, the relationships between the young lovers Claudio and Hero as well as the mature couple Benedick and Beatrice both demonstrate how uncomplicated it can be to fall in and out of love, the different ways that exist to fall in love, as well as what little substance in needed to base any decisions of love on.

The play begins with the citizens of Messina awaiting the return of the army of Don Pedro from war. As he returns he is accompanied by, among others, his close friends and fellow soldiers Count Claudio and Signior Benedick. Among the citizens present at the army's arrival is the lovely Hero, the daughter of the Governor Leonato, along with her cousin Beatrice. Once the army arrives the young soldier Claudio realizes that he has fallen in love with Hero. This feeling of love engulfs Claudio and forces him into a state where all of his thoughts lead to Hero. When Claudio was at war all he was thinking about was war, and now all he could focus on was Hero. He is so overwhelmed with the intense emotion of love that he tells the Prince that he wishes to marry her. The arrival of the army also reunited Signior Benedick and Beatrice who illustrate that they have a very verbally abusive relationship. Upon their meeting the two of them call each other names and seem to have a light-hearted quarrel. Everyone around them laughs and enjoys their remarks but both Benedick and Beatrice mean more then what the others deem as jokes. Beatrice sees Benedick as a womanizing bachelor and Benedick sees Beatrice as a cold, distant woman. The meeting between Claudio and Hero has a very different outcome from the meeting of Benedick and Beatrice. Claudio and Hero quickly develop a common love for each other while Benedick and Beatrice seem to have a common dislike for each other. This rapid growth of love between Claudio and Hero demonstrates how unpredictable the idea of love in Shakespeare's play is. The relationship between Benedick and Beatrice however, demonstrate the complexities of love as well.

The play continues with a masked ball thrown in honor of the arrival of the soldiers. During the celebrations the Prince tells Claudio that he will woo Hero in Claudio's name so that they can arrange a marriage between them. The masked ball allows people to communicate in ways that they would never otherwise do. With everyone at the ball wearing masks, people pretend that they are not who they actually are. The Prince is pretending to be Claudio because Claudio is not able to woo Hero for himself and needs the Prince's experience to do it for him. As Claudio watches the Prince he is wrongly informed by Don Jon that the Prince is actually wooing Hero because he intends to marry her himself. As soon as Claudio hears this he instantly decides that he is no longer in love with Hero and does not want to marry her anymore,

"Tis certain so, the Prince woos for himself. Friendship is constant in all other things save in the office and affairs of love. Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues. Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent, for beauty is a witch against whose charms faith melteth into blood. This is an accident of hourly proof, which I mistrust not. Farewell therefore, Hero" (2.1. 170-180).

Claudio is so quick to believe that both his friend the Prince and Hero betray him. He instantly lets Hero go without any fight or any real proof as well as denouncing his close friendship with the Prince. He was quick to believe the deceitful Don Jon and not investigate the matter any further. This swiftness of falling in and out of love that Claudio experienced with Hero illustrates that the subject of love, especially loved based on almost nothing tangible, is very unreliable in nature.

The relationship between Benedick and Beatrice continues to develop and demonstrate more trials and tribulations of love. In Act 2 scene 3 The Prince, Leonato, and Claudio trick Benedick to believe that Beatrice is in love with him when she in fact does not like him in the least. They discuss how she pines for him and is so overwhelmed with feelings of love, but that she will never let Benedick know. Benedick is taken back by this news because he believed that Beatrice hated him, which was closer to the truth. After Leonato, Claudio and the Prince leave the garden Benedick thinks about what he had just heard and begin to analyze his own feelings about Beatrice. Before he heard Leonato, Claudio and the Prince he was not very fond of Beatrice but it suddenly changed,

"...Love me? Why, it must be requited! ...They say the lady is fair; 'tis a truth, I can bear them witness. And virtuous; 'tis so, I cannot reprove it. And wise, but for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her!...here comes Beatrice. By this day, she's a fair lady. I do spy some marks of love in her" (2.3.233-248).

This quotation demonstrates how Benedick suddenly goes from disliking Beatrice to asserting that she is very beautiful, fair, and virtuous and that he returns her feelings of love. He even claims to be able to see on her face that she is in love with him. His disposition has suddenly changed from a sarcastic womanizing man to a love struck idealistic boy.

That same day Beatrice is tricked into believing that Benedick is in love with her when she overhears Hero and her woman in waiting Ursula discuss Benedick's feelings. Beatrice is taken back at hearing this unusual news, but nonetheless, she falls in love with Benedick as well, "...contempt, farewell, and maiden pride, adieu...and Benedick, love on; I will requite thee...my kindness shall incite thee to bind our loves up in a holy band..."(3.2. 115-120). Beatrice has also suddenly changed her opinions of both Benedick and love. She suddenly returns Benedick's love and she even talks about marriage. This quickness of falling in and out of love is a common theme in the play Much Ado About Nothing.

The similarities as well as the differences between these two couples can be clearly seen. Claudio and Hero as well as Benedick and Beatrice fall madly in love with each other without much analysis of their situations. In the beginning of the play Claudio and Hero fall in love without even exchanging more then a few words to each other. Benedick and Beatrice clearly demonstrate a common dislike for each other, however, once they simply hear news that the other person has feeling for them, they too fall deeply in love without even mentioning their previous harsh feelings.

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