Much Ado About Nothing - The Importance Of Noting Essay

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Discuss The Importance Of Noting In Much Ado About Nothing

Noting, or observing, is central to many of the ideas in Much Ado About Nothing. The word nothing was pronounced as noting in Elizabethan times, and it seems reasonable to presume that the pun was intended by Shakespeare to signal the importance of observation, spying and eavesdropping in the play. As a plot device, these occurrences propel the action and create humour and tension. The perils of noting incorrectly are portrayed and this leads naturally to the investigation of another major theme, the discrepancy between appearance and reality. Shakespeare uses the problems of illusion, deception and subjectivity of perception to examine the Elizabethan patriarchy, and he shows how
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Hero’s shame could have been avoided. Noting is one of the plays main preoccupations, and making observation integral to the plot demonstrates and emphasises its importance.

Because noting/observing has such importance in Messina (and, by implication, Elizabethan society), manipulation and deception are used by the dark forces in the play to exercise power and control. Don John is a stock Elizabethan villain whose intention is to harm all those involved in his downfall – especially Claudio. Twice he tries to convince Claudio that Hero favours another. These episodes both involve deception and slander and this malevolence distorts Claudio’s perception of the events. Both times Claudio notes incorrectly and his willingness to believe falsehoods and attribute blame – first to beauty (“for beauty is a witch” 2. 1. 135), then to Hero’s base nature (“savage sensuality” 4.1. 135) – also point to self-deception about love, honour and women. Claudio’s failure to distinguish appearance from reality is brought about by his romantic idealism. Hero becomes an illusion in which all womanly virtue and beauty are contained (“Can the world buy such a jewel” 1.1.108-109). He can not note Hero’s flesh and blood humanity and, later, he can not note her innocence. His devotion to courtly ideals seems to be the real reason he can not distinguish appearance from reality and Don John’s slander only reinforces his natural…