Much Ado About Nothing as an Exploration of Conformity
In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice and Benedict rant about marriage for most of the beginning of the play, while Claudio raves about how wonderful it will be being married to Hero. Yet in the end, Claudio exchanges his marriage to Hero for an opportunity to bash her in public, while Beatrice and Benedick marry despite that they were mortal enemies for most of the first three acts. How did the situation swing around to this degree? Beatrice and Benedick had been using the most extreme metaphors to demonstrate their scorn of each other and of marriage, and Claudio had been doing the same to demonstrate his love of Hero. Not only did none of these three characters mean what they were saying, but meant the reverse, and the people that plotted to bring them together or pull them apart plotted because they understood on some level what each really wanted.
Beatrice and Benedick seem to have had some relationship before the beginning of the book that ended badly. This suggests that the initial situation between Beatrice and Benedick was one of mutual attraction, not of the overt hate they seem to flaunt at the beginning of the play. Scorn of this magnitude is rare among people who dislike each other from the start, and seems very unlikely in a broken up couple. In addition, both Beatrice and Benedick turned out to be very willing to abandon their smear campaigns as soon as they are convinced the other is aching for them. It is ridiculous that one would abandon one's own principals to bail out a hated enemy in trouble. This makes clear that their attitude toward each other is an act. If this is so, what is the purpose of the act? Neither Beatrice nor Benedick ever seems to discover their own version of the act, much less search for why exactly they were doing it. Yet the purpose of the act can be found in its effect : those around Beatrice and Benedick 'trick' them into getting together again, having seen on some subconscious level what the act is for. It is a signal to them to do exactly what they do. Would anyone ever try to bring two sworn enemies together if they believed the animosity was really there? The entire situation and result is a farce of conformity. Beatrice and Benedick most likely fell apart over some minor quarrel. Both of them being intelligent, several cutting insults probably insued. Escalation led to a total separation which neither of them could cross without breaking several social barriers at once, and so the dance : signaling through their apparent immense hatred of each other that they wanted to be together and could not bridge the gap.
With Claudio the situation is reversed. Although there is a misunderstanding between...