In this scene Shakespeare introduces a dramatic change in tone: presenting a juxtaposing, darker, more tragic atmosphere to that previous to it. This in turn creates a striking climax to the dramatic tension and threat posed by those agents of disorder in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.
This dramatic contrast in mood is generated through the uprising of conflict between the aristocracy and the house of Leonato. Claudio’s misguided hatred for Hero is expressed through a callous, graphic and manic denunciation due to her knowledge of “the heat of a luxurious bed”. Thus presenting the implications of a dramatic change in circumstance for Hero and her family. However the inner conflict between Claudio’s perception of Hero being “most foul, most fair” and the use of the oxymoronic alliteration in “savage sensuality” reveal a divided instinct and the degree to which his a lack of temperance has led him to pursue revenge whilst uncertainty still governs him:
O what men dare do! What men may do!
What men daily do, not knowing what they do!
Although Claudio intends to comment upon Leonato he unintentionally reveals his own shortcoming: that ironically Claudio doesn’t himself know the implications of what he is doing due to him being misinformed or, that in truth, Leonato is in fact innocent. Such consequential drastic violence based on misinformation is striking, making this a powerful moment in the play, particularly as the audience recognises that he has been misled and in turn is misleading those around him.
Such misrepresentation and misinformation is the main cause of confusion in the scene, greatly infecting those most vulnerable: evidently in Leonato whose rhetorical question “are these things spoken, or do I but dream?” expose a disbelief, portraying the bewildered vulnerability of an old man. Claudio’s decision to denunciate Hero at the alter and her subsequent swooning heightens the degree of brutality and indiscrimination which compels Claudio. With such humiliation and degrading of the innocent, the audience is aware that the moral world of the play is being transposed to that of injustice, presenting potential tragedy for the house of Leonato, Hero and ultimately Benedick and Beatrice whose love for each other is threatened by the conflict, as it presents a potential division between Beatrice and her family, and Benedick and his fellow soldiers.
This potential for a descent into tragedy allows a situation by which the audiences initial perception of the aristocracy is transformed, presenting the flaws and weaknesses of the characters and revealing the extent to which these flaws, when put to the test, present a...