(Click the themes infographic to download.)
Reputations in Much Ado About Nothing seem to be easily made... and just as easily lost. The primary conflict of the play surrounds Hero, one of the female leads, unfairly losing her reputation as loyal and chaste woman.
Much of the interesting drama action happens because reputations are in no way guaranteed to be accurate. What’s said or believed about a character (even though it’s taken as gospel) is as likely to be true as it is false. For example, we hear a report of Claudio before we meet him, and though the messenger praises Claudio’s maturity, Claudio proceeds to be immature for the remainder of the play.
Finally, reputation also impacts how characters view themselves; characters who get wind that they have a bad reputation often attempt to improve themselves. Overall, reputation is not a reliable gauge of character in Much Ado About Nothing.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
- Why is Claudio introduced as a young soldier who has earned a good reputation in battle before we actually meet him? Does this color our thinking of him at all? Do you think it influences Hero? Finally, does Claudio live up to that reputation?
- What is Beatrice’s reputation in Messina? Her uncle hints that she’s an old maid and therefore destined for hell, but he seems to love her anyway, and doesn’t push her to marry like he pressures Hero. Does this mean her family has written her off as a lost cause? Do others perceive her as a happy woman or as a shrew?
- Hero is among the many people willing to say she might as well have been dead while her reputation was stained. Is this a bit melodramatic, or could her reputation really mean that much?
- What role do public declarations play in the story? If Hero had really been dead, would it simply have satisfied Leonato for Claudio to declare her innocence publicly at her tomb? What other public (or non-personal) declarations are there in the play?
Chew on This
Reputation is more important than love to Hero and Claudio.
In Much Ado About Nothing, reputation is in no way related to the depth of a person’s character.