Inconstancy in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) explains inconstancy as the recurrent and generally unexpected or impulsive change from one condition to another. It is the state or quality of being inconstant and unfaithful by virtue of being undependable or deceitful. Set in Messina, Sicily, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a very popular play generally viewed as one of his happiest comedies and is often performed in theatres. However, the playfulness and cheerfulness of the play is haunted by a cloud of melancholy which tells readers of the potential dangers and pain that can result from miscommunication, deceit and treachery. This play has two entwining plots; one revolves around the wooing of Hero by Claudio, which is momentarily disturbed by Don John, the villain in the play. The other plot revolves around Beatrice and Benedict who are in love with each other but keep engaging in witty arguments and “merry war” (Cook 190). The play mainly focuses on the problematic relationship between Claudio and Hero unlike that of Benedict and Beatrice which is more reliable. False reports, hearsay and rumours play a major role in the development of the play’s dual plots. This paper looks into the successive theme of inconstancy of the human nature in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and remarks on how a person can make foolish and regrettable decisions when they fail to make sober considerations.
In this play, women continuously get poor judgment from men and are portrayed as victims of inconstancy. Despite the great admiration that Don Pedro feels for Hero and Beatrice, he is completely ready to accept that Hero has been unfaithful to Claudio based on very little proof presented by Don John. Even the graceful Leonato, Hero’s father, accepts reports from Benedict and Don Pedro against his own daughter, a daughter he raised himself. From the play, it becomes evident that the male characters are quick to judge the female characters as harlots and relationships are attacked with rumours and misconceptions which cause failings, insecurities and lacks. Some critics have argued that in the end, Benedict and Beatrice are not significantly different from Claudio and Hero (Bevington 218). The play reveals a fundamental inadequacy of the human nature in dealing with the social world which has two mutually mistrusting genders. Humans are likely to harbour outrageous tendencies, even when they think they are being very sensible and their inadequacies are what cause so much “ado about nothing”. The important question is whether a person can survive all that “meaningless ado” (Auden 115).
Leonato stays in Messina with Hero, his daughter, Beatrice, a humorous and clever niece and, Antonio, his elderly brother and Beatrice’s father. Leonato welcomes some friends, soldiers from war: Claudio, Benedict, Don Pedro and Don John. Claudio immediately falls in love with Hero and decides to marry her while Beatrice and Benedict...