An Understanding Evil
Several of William Shakespeare’s plays focus on the presence of a
characters public appearance in the eyes of spectatorship and observation, and the
problems that result from misunderstandings. Although it is dark at times, Much Ado
About Nothing is a comedy that exemplifies this theme. As spectatorship is an action
characters engage in, it becomes a challenge to keep up with the motives and truthful
appearances of identities throughout the play. Due to Claudio’s ability to be easily
manipulated, his motives behind rejecting Hero are masked by Don John’s evil attempt to
destroy him and his marriage. In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio is viewed as a victim
of spectatorship and Don John as the perpetrator. Although Don John engages very
minimally throughout the play, he portrays the misunderstood evil that drives the drama
Shakespeare’s writing underlies a broader point to be made on the precarious
nature of engaging in spectatorship: it can easily go wrong. The nature of a character’s
intentions can easily be lost as they guess what is going on, drawing to false conclusions.
As shown throughout the play, this uncertain nature of spectatorship is what leads to the
importance of the characters decisions. We see this first hand as Don John and his
scheming nature attempts to trick Claudio into believing Hero is unfaithful through a
plotted “investigation” the night before their wedding. “The word is too good to paint out
her wickedness. Go but with me tonight, you shall see her chamber window entered,
even the night before her wedding day” (3.2.5).
As mentioned before, Shakespeare’s writing throughout the play focuses on the
overall concept of misunderstanding. In this play, misunderstanding is the main drive
towards the plot and its reason for being labeled a comedy. Don John’s purposeful
portrayal of misunderstanding onto characters such as Claudio is out of pure malevolence
and envy. We learn of Don John’s unpleasant feelings towards Claudio from the start of
“This may prove food to my displeasure.
That young start-up hath all the glory of my overthrow.
If I can cross him any way, I bless myself every way.
You are both sure, and will assist me?” (1.3.3).
While Don John believes Claudio to be the reason he was overthrown by Don Pedro, he will stop at no limit to destroy whatever he can in Claudio’s life through manipulation and Claudio’s misunderstanding.
In Much Ado About Nothing, the definition of nothing is crucial as it shapes the
actions of characters. Nothing could be a reference to observation,...