Essay about Many characters in Much Ado About Nothing Act due to status

Submitted By John-Kendall
Words: 992
Pages: 4

"Many characters in 'Much Ado...' act as they do because they are keen to protect their status.' Choose two characters: can you apply this statement to them? How does their status anxiety affect the way that the audience regards them?"

The play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is set in a small Italian town with a clear system of hierarchy. This affects the characters behaviour as they often act to protect or status. Claudio is a young, stereotypical hero and acts, at some periods in the play, purely to impress higher characters and hold onto his image. Despite this other characters such as Dogberry try and enhance status and behave in a way typical of people of their status.
Status is a very important aspect of the play, many actions can be attributed to characters acting on status. For example Leonato is very hospitable throughout the play towards the soldiers returning from war. This is up until Hero is wronged by them. He wants to be seen in a good light by the higher status character of Don Pedro. His actions include saying ‘never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace’, he is trying to show he has the means to let him stay for free and that such a high being is welcome. Status defines characters and their actions. All characters have a status, there is a clear social structure in Messina that reflects this; Don Pedro is at the top with the likes of the watch at the bottom. It is worth noting that all women have a lower status that all men, despite people like Beatrice having far superior wit and intelligence. This is a good example of a patriarchal society and shows how the women in the play are expected to be quiet, like Hero, and generally don’t try and protect their status. The obvious exception to this is Beatrice who almost has free reign to act how she wants as she has no status to protect.
Claudio is the character who acts the most on status, due to his alliance with Don Pedro and hero status. This means he has a lot to lose and he must keep his image or he will lose everything that makes him a powerful character. Claudio is a character that has just returned from a war and has been honoured by Don Pedro. This leads to him always trying to preserve his status as a hero, especially by following his moral code and not allowing a tarnished bride. He believes this is something unbecoming on somebody of his status and will decrease his honour. His reaction and want for a public shaming shows this, he wants to be seen undoing the wrongs himself, this protects his status and doesn’t allow rumours to circulate as everyone has seen it. Much of what he does in the play is associated with increasing his status: he is always trying to impress Don Pedro and Leonato and he is trying to be funny, an attribute that is in high regard in Messina. Claudio’s need to protect his status makes him disliked in the audience as he seems arrogant and not interested in the wrong he has committed. The best example of this is after Antonio and Leonato have an argument about Hero and Don Pedro and Claudio enter acting facetiously. We expect them to apologise or at least console Leonato, in fact Don Pedro seems disinterested and replies ‘we have some haste’. He really wants to speak about love with Benedick, a small matter at this crucial time in the play. He wants to stay on Don Pedro’s side instead of consoling Leonato, this would take him away from what Don Pedro sees in the incident and Claudio doesn’t want to risk losing his association with him. Overall, Claudio’s attempts to raise his status only make the audience dislike him more after his bad treatment of Hero at the wedding.…