Much Ado About Nothing

As the title would suggest, the characters in Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy are prone to making a big fuss over very little. But there is a lot of fun on the way — the plot bursts with elaborate schemes, misunderstandings and bruised egos, as two couples make their way towards a happy ending. Hero and Claudio fall instantly in love, only to be torn apart by the lies and manipulations of others. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice are the heroes of countless rom-coms to come: witty and strong individuals, who declare that they will never fall in love.


Above all, Much Ado About Nothing is a love story. But the classic romance of Hero and Claudio is far less interesting than the love which blossoms between Beatrice and Benedick — bickering rivals, who find each other extremely annoying. How do we know who is right for us?


In Shakespeare’s courtly world, the roles for men and women are clearly defined — and riddled with double standards. Men are allowed to sleep with prostitutes, but women must remain pure. Bendick wants a perfect wife, but is far from perfect himself. Thankfully, Beatrice is around to challenge these ideas. But have we learned anything?


This is a society in which wit is all. The characters are constantly riffing off each other, filling their language with puns and lighthearted teasing. Their clever banter is a way of showing off their social status, but does it do them any good?


When Hero is accused of being “unchaste”, she is publicly shamed and rejected by Claudio. If true, the alleged behaviour would have been unacceptable at the time, but her punishment was clearly too harsh. How have attitudes changed? And are we still guilty of double standards for women?


The play is full of lies, schemes and hidden identities. Sometimes, these lighthearted japes help to bring people together — and sometimes they almost ruin lives. Is there ever any excuse for dishonesty?