How the Characters in Much Ado About Nothing Learn to Love
The title of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing has sparked scholarly debates about its meaning for centuries. Some say it is a play on the term “noting”, revolving around the theme of all sorts of deceptions by all sorts of appearances (Rossiter 163). Others claim it has more to do with everyone making a fuss about things that turn out to be false, therefore, nothing (Vaughn 102). Regardless of these speculations, there is something rather profound going on in the play that is worth making a big deal about: four characters in the play learn about love, and eventually, how to love.
The four characters that learn the art of love are Beatrice, Benedick, Claudio and Hero. From the first viewing/reading of the play, Claudio and Hero seem to be the main focus. However, looking deeper into the entire play, and/or if you read any scholarship on Much Ado About Nothing, the true fascinating plotline involves Beatrice and Benedick.
The main difference between these two couples involves how they learn the art of love. At the beginning of the play, Claudio is the first one out of all the lovers to express his affections for someone else; however, he seems to have the weakest grasp on the concept of love compared to everyone else. Claudio hints of his growing feelings for Hero when he asks Benedick what he thinks of her (I.i.161). Benedick, who has a disdain for marriage, is not very helpful to Claudio. However, he does manage to draw out of Claudio the reason for his inquiry: “In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I look’d on” (I.i.188).
This first glimpse into Claudio’s heart reveals mostly shallowness. His first words about Hero revolve around her looks. Hero’s beauty is all he seems to be concerned about since he makes no mention of her other possible virtues and attributes. Claudio also does not seem to know much about Hero, thus explaining why he is asking Benedick about her. He not only wants to know that his budding feelings are justified, but he wants to make sure that his choice of lady is indeed worthy of his honor. Even if Hero is fair, if she will not compliment Claudio’s social status, he will not marry her (Ranald 74). The notion of honor will come back to the forefront of this play later on.
During this first scene, it quickly becomes clear that he knows he feels something for Hero, but he is unsure of exactly what his feelings mean. While talking to both Benedick and Don Pedro, Claudio describes his feelings as passion first (I.i.219-220), and then he says, “That I love her, I feel” (I.i.228). Claudio’s lame profession of love for Hero mirrors the shallowness of his previous comments.
Claudio is not trying to be small-minded though. Because Claudio is a soldier above all else, it seems reasonable that he might not know if he’s in love or not. Claudio, Ranald says, “is less the romantic young man in...