‘Most Comedies Can Be Criticised For A Lack Of Seriousness’. To What Extent Do You Believe This To Be The Case In The Play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’?

1713 words - 7 pages

‘Most comedies can be criticised for a lack of seriousness’. To what extent do you believe this to be the case in the play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’?
‘Much Ado About Nothing’ contains comedy throughout but it could be argued that seriousness is present in equal measure. They are portrayed simultaneously by Shakespeare in his play: where one scene is comedic to one part of the audience, seriousness could be interpreted by others. The writer uses comedy not only to entertain but to portray and challenge concepts of gender, class and other norms dominant in Shakespearean times but also remain evident in contemporary society. He also uses a leading male and female character to construct this ...view middle of the document...

Her high status is known immediately by the audience when Leonato refers to her as his ‘niece’. She is shown to be very outspoken, not only for her status but her gender, as women were perceived to and expected to be passive. By being unreserved with her words to Benedick ‘Nobody marks you’, an Elizabethan audience would have been shocked to see her behaviour because it is not in line with their norms. Nevertheless, this particular portrayal of an explicit woman in comparison to Benedick could have been done to purposefully expose the imbalance of power in their relationship. In comparison with Benedick, Beatrice should look inferior because of his deliberate representation. It could be said that Shakespeare portrayed Benedick as a war hero. The statement ‘He hath done good service …in these wars’, almost provokes the audience to favour him over Beatrice. However it could be suggested that Beatrice has been presented to always have the upper hand over Benedick, either by having the last say or by turning a devastating situation into her own hands. This is especially seen in Act 4, Scene 1 when she expresses her desire for Benedick to ‘kill Claudio’. Shakespeare cleverly builds dramatic contrast between the love scene moments before and Beatrice’s plea of retribution to make her words more sinister. By doing this, Shakespeare is demonstrating the power that Beatrice has as a woman and the hold she has over Benedick. In this scene, woman are not seen to be inferior to males, but show a dominant side to them that could be used against men, by seducing them.
Through the presentation of this comedic couple, it can be suggested that the seriousness of gender conflicts are shown because they haven’t been presented to be equal to one another. Even though Benedick is expected to be dominant, Beatrice proves that she can have her own way. In this moment, Shakespeare’s comedy does not lack seriousness.
To further my point, Shakespeare shows the negative impacts of gender through analysis of Benedick and Beatrice’s sparring comments. Black comedy is shown when Beatrice makes the point of ‘how many hath he killed? For indeed I promise to eat all of his killings’. This is a prime example of her forwardness but also her witty side. Her words create imagery of death but her tone could be interpreted as playful creating ambiguity. On one hand, she could just be competing with Benedick and trying to discredit his status as a soldier or she could be commenting on the futility of war since Benedick has just come back from a battle and she feels the need to be brash about the subject using black comedy.
Occasionally however, comedy does reduce the impact of a serious message. There is further mention of war in this scene, ‘merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her’. A contemporary audience would acknowledge the dark implication of war whereas a Shakespearean audience would not because of how common war was. The deliverance of the issue through a comedic...

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