Comedy in Much Ado about Nothing Essay

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Pages: 6

Explore the importance of disguise and deception in Much Ado about Nothing. Are they merely effective plot devices?
Much Ado about Nothing was written by William Shakespeare in 1598, towards the middle of his career and during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Disguise and deception are used to great comic effect, as well as to drive the main and sub-plot forward. However, an attentive audience may notice how disguise and deception can also be seen to develop characters and relationships, and show some serious underlying concerns that Shakespeare may be trying to express.
An instance where disguise and deception are used to fuel the main plot is at the masked ball. The simple fact that everyone there is wearing masks, or ‘visors’
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A feminist critic may view Claudio’s untrustworthy nature as a way to show the position of women at the time, and Claudio’s patriarchal view that women are either angels or whores. However it also shows Don John’s highly deceptive nature in wanting to ruin the marriage, acting as the ‘plain-dealing villain’, an essential character for a comedy, wanting to overthrow Claudio, the ‘young start-up’ who ‘hath all the glory’. It appears these acts of deception are merely done out of jealousy, with no tangible reason behind them, showing that he is the classic antagonist character who enjoys causing trouble just for his own satisfaction.
The sub-plot is driven by disguise and deception, which takes the form of the gulling of Beatrice and Benedick. Here deception is used to great comic effect in order to manipulate the two sub-plot characters into accepting each other. There are many similarities between these gulls, including the language used as well as the way in which the gullers decide to go about doing so. In both cases the gullers tell stories of what they have heard, whilst Beatrice and Benedick disguise themselves in the bushes, thinking they are the deceptive ones when actually they are the ones being deceived themselves. This moves the plot forward as they begin to believe the deceptions and start to question their own beliefs, ultimately leading to a