In the play “Much Ado About Nothing” both the characters and their actions are concerned with “noting” or visually perceiving the other characters and the situations they find themselves in; ironically these perceptions are usually based on false or misinterpreted information. The “noting” in Much Ado is used to great effect, in that it propels the plot and dominates the characters relationships. “Much Ado about Nothing is centrally concerned with problems of knowledge and perception,” this is the main point in Nova Myhill’s article “Spectatorship in/of Much Ado about Nothing”, we will see how characters rely on perception to gain what they believe to be truthful knowledge.
How the characters think and view themselves are just as important, if not more so, than how we as an audience view them. We see this throughout the entire play, from the first scene all the way to the end. For example when Claudio asks Benedick “didst thou note the daughter of Signor Leonato?” (I, i, 130). We as an audience are immediately tied to visual perceptions. This is further carried on by Benedick’s response: “I can see yet without spectacles,” (I, i, 153). The eyes play a large role in how characters are perceived.
“Eyes in Much Ado are not what one sees with, but what one sees through-the filters that lead characters to see people in particular, conventionalized ways,” (Myhill). We can see this take action in such characters like Hero. Hero is portrayed as the dutiful daughter, quite, modest, and obedient to her father’s will; she is the perfect picture of the conventional Messina women. Beatrice points this out when describing her cousin she states: “Yes, faith; it is my cousin’s duty to make curtsy, and say, ’Father, as it please you’,” (II, i, 56-7). The perceptions or perhaps misperceptions of Hero lead to many of the problems throughout the play. Myhill states that “Hero characteristically lacks a voice and becomes in effect a sign to be read and interpreted by others.” What this does to Hero is make her one dimensional and a tool to progress the play. Her “lack of voice” enables others to create false perceptions around her. The importance of noting and perceiving a character through visual perception allows for falsities to be created.
This point brings about the importance of eavesdropping throughout the play. Since Hero has no voice one must be created for her by what others perceive and are lead to believe they perceive about her; in essence other characters visual perceptions become who Hero is believed to be. “Eavesdropping rather than conversation, is established as the accepted model for receiving credible information throughout the play…” (Myhill). This is true in many cases and certainly does not only pertain to our poor Hero; many of the characters in Much Ado are mislead from their interpretations by a belief in a supposedly authentic eavesdropping. This belief leads to many problems between characters, primarily...