William Shakespeare’s acclaimed comedy ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ intertwines humor and tragedy in order to produce a play based on social inversion, while adhering to the conventions of comedy and producing moments of pleasurable merry-making. There are tragic aspects of the play which make it less pleasurable; namely the ubiquitous presence of death. However, the restoration at the denouement solidifies its genre. Various social inversions are present and represented through the use of language, the raising of lower characters and the strength of the female characters within the play. While it would be ignorant to discount this as insignificant, it can be argued the play ends in such a way that it can be said to remain conservative.
Much Ado about Nothing can be considered under the genre of Burlesque, in that it occasionally normalizes serious topics such as death, treating them in a facetious manner. While the play does seem to follow the conventions of comedy, there are aspects that are characteristic of tragedy. “Hero swoons” in act 4 scene 1, and it is speculated that she is dead. Death is traditionally prevalent in Shakespearian tragedies and is not in place with a comedy. The events in this scene were altogether morbid; Hero supposedly dead while her father screams that “Death is the fairest cover for her shame”. Comedy itself does contain an element of conflict; it is the kind of conflict chosen that gives it a kind of complexity that is not usually found in other such Shakespearian comedies. Michael Dobson suggests that the play, while inspiring what is known today by the genre of romantic comedy, “still isn't a nice story”. This is primarily due to the resolution of the play. Although it follows the conventions of comedy, Hero merely fainted and the play ends in two weddings, it “depicts a world in which marriage is fragile, arbitrary and potentially traumatic.” A simple comedy would not have such a disturbing subtext; Leonato and Claudio formerly brought down from honor having disgraced an innocent girl are forgiven and taken back into the consoling proximity of nobility at the expense of Hero. Ergo it can be concluded that Much ado about nothing is a complex play in which the lines between comedy and tragedy are blurred.
However the repartee between Beatrice and Benedick would have undoubtedly produced laughter within a Shakespearian theatre, due to the prodigious number of upper class intellectuals viewing the play. Their quick wit and blatant discontent towards each other would have seemed appealing to those of a higher stature. Shakespeare would also ensure that there were elements of comedy available for those of a lower social standing. In Act 2 scene 3, lies an example of Shakespearian irony at the expense of Benedick’s certainty that “This can be no trick” in reference to the gulling performed on him by his counterparts. This would have caused the lower classes to feel a level of superiority and produced the ‘feel good’ atmosphere so prevalent in comedies even today. In the more modern 2012 interpretation by director Joss Whedon, the gulling scene is exaggerated, taken as a moment of comic relief amongst the more tragic aspects of Much Ado about Nothing. This ultimately reinforces the play as a comedy and an experience of pleasurable merry-making.
One important theme in ‘much ado about nothing’ is inversion; this is done through the use of language. While it can be argued that language in this play is a representation of a characters’ social standing and intelligence, it can also be asserted that Shakespeare is displaying what is said as more important than the way in which it is said. Benedick, the male antagonist of the play, does not speak in blank verse, but in prose despite being of profuse importance and prestige. Claudio while speaking more poetically “In mine eye, she is the…