The Theme of Deception in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
It is clearly visible from the plot in Much Ado about Nothing that
deception plays a large role in the social structure of Messina, the
city in which the play is set. However, there is a clear distinction
between the types of deception used. Malicious deception is used to
shatter people's lives whereas benign deception is used to enrich the
lives of others.
In Act 1, Scene 1 we witness the 'skirmish of wit' between Beatrice
and Benedick. Throughout the scene they continue their 'merry war' and
a suggested reason for this is that Beatrice once gave 'a double heart
for his single one' indicating he may have once broken her heart. This
makes their later reunion more realistic.
The first of the benign deceptions is in Act 2 scene 1 at the masqued
ball. Everyone has their identities hidden by their masks, which is
deception in itself. Don Pedro takes this opportunity to woo Hero,
Leonato's only daughter and heir, for Claudio by pretending to be him.
Don John uses this as an opportunity to begin his malevolent
deception. In order to tarnish his rival brother, Don John pretends to
think that Claudio is Benedick and confides in him that Don Pedro is
wooing Hero for himself.
'my brother is in love, he is enamoured on Hero'
Claudio is young and naïve and believes Don John, however he only
finds out the information because he pretends to be Benedick. Not soon
afterwards the situation is rectified and Don Pedro assures Claudio he
was wooing Hero for him.
At the end of scene 1, Don Pedro yet again intends to 'undertake one
of Hercules' labours' but this time 'to bring Signor Benedick and Lady
Beatrice into a mountain of affection'. At about the same time Don
John reveals his plan to 'Misuse the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo
Hero, and kill Leanato' to Conrade and Borachio. Both brothers are as
manipulative as each other but in very different ways. As the two
plots run in parallel with each other, Don Pedro and his brother's
techniques and aims can be compared.
Two harmless gulling scenes take place in the play. Act 2 Scene 3
where Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato deceive Benedick. In Act 3 Scene
1 Beatrice is deceived by Hero and Ursula. Both Benedick and Beatrice
think they are eavesdropping on confidential conversations between
characters but the others actually know that they are listening. This,
however, makes it more believable for Beatrice and Benedick because
they are not being directly spoken too.
Both scenes are single sex scenes. This is probably because the women
and the men would handle the situation in two completely different
ways and it is easier for people to relate to other people of the
Benedick's gulling scene is more of a comic scene rather than the more