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Much ado about nothing Introduction

I'm one of Shakespeare's wittiest and most romantic plays. There might be 37 of us, but I'm pretty popular. I'm a comedy with some feisty characters. And you know what I think?

Much Ado About Nothing

Who Said It and Where

Well, the fact of the matter is no one directly says "much ado about nothing" in Much Ado About Nothing. It's the title of the entire play. So we're guessing it's pretty important. The play is a total rom-com, so nobody dies and there are some marriages at the end. But it's a lot more than just hearts, flowers, and meet-cutes. It's also really, rip-roaringly funny.

In fact, this title sums up some of the funniest action in the play. What do we mean by that? Let's break down the word "nothing." The title of the play, given that "nothing" was pronounced as "noting" in Shakespeare's day, clues us in to the fact that noting is central to all of the action.

Noting is a motif throughout the entire play in the form of observation, music, and written notes. Here are just a few examples:

  • when Claudio asks if Benedick noted Hero
  • when Friar Francis says he's been busy noting Hero at the wedding
  • when Benedick jokes about sheep's guts as strings on an instrument
  • when Balthasar plays his notes
  • when letters ultimately reveal Benedick and Beatrice's love at the end of the play

See what we mean?

But the play really revolves around misnoting—the problem of people wrongly interpreting what another person does or says. Benedick and Beatrice are manipulated into noting false conversations about their mutual love, and Don John sets up Claudio and Don Pedro to wrongly observe (or misnote) Hero's loyalty.

The play constantly points out the difficulty of observing correctly, as observation is always subject to interpretation, and interpretation is often wrong. This doesn't mean that misnoting can't have good outcomes—after all, Beatrice and Benedick do get together as a result of it—but Shakespeare is essentially laughing at the follies that result from it.

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