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Deception in Much Ado about Nothing

Richard Henze
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 11, No. 2, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama (Spring, 1971), pp. 187-201
Published by: Rice University
DOI: 10.2307/450059
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/450059
Page Count: 15
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Deception in Much Ado about Nothing
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Abstract

Much Ado About Nothing is about right deception that leads to marriage and the end of deceit and wrong deception that breeds conflict and distrust. Proper deception, that of Benedick and Beatrice by Don Pedro and his friends, succeeds because Benedick and Beatrice are self-deceptive in their pretense that each is the last person the other would marry. Wrong deception, that of Claudio by Don John and Borachio, succeeds because Claudio is deceptively suspicious and faithless. Through Claudio, Shakespeare displays the power malice acquires when it appears respectable. Danger to social harmony comes not from Benedick and Beatrice nor from Don John, so obviously dishonest that he can fool only a fool; the dangerous one is Claudio, who conceals his suspicion behind a mask of virtue and fidelity. Deception depends on deception, and the double deceptions, reinforced by doubly significant images of eating, noting, fishing, and hunting, unify the play.

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