Much Ado About Nothing

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Eyes Symbol Icon
Eyes are a metonym for perception in Much Ado About Nothing, which means that the word "eye" is often mentioned by a character who really means by it any kind of perception, not just sight. Eyes come up especially often whenever one character’s perceptions are being influenced by another character’s tricks. Leonato, for instance, says that Benedick and Beatrice have got their “eyes” for each other from other characters; he means that they see each other a certain way (adoringly) because he and the others have tricked them into it. Borachio deceives the eyes of Claudio and Don Pedro when he poses with Margaret at Hero’s window. At one point in the play, Claudio asks the rhetorical question “Are our eyes our own?” In Much Ado About Nothing, the answer to this question is often no.

Eyes Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing

The Much Ado About Nothing quotes below all refer to the symbol of Eyes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Much Ado About Nothing published in 1995.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

“Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker), Claudio
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 1.1.195-196
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Pedro and his men, including Benedick, have arrived at Leonato's house, Benedick and Beatrice quickly begin their verbal sparring, both saying that they are completely resistant to the charms of the opposite sex. Leonato then invites everyone to stay at his house for a month. Claudio subsequently tells Benedick that he is in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero. Benedick and Claudio then begin a conversation about Hero, love, marriage, and freedom, in which Benedick utters the quote shown here.

Benedick claims to cherish his status of bachelor, suggesting that marriage would constrict his freedom. He says that he isn't attracted to Hero, and he turns all of Claudio's praises into mockeries and insults to women and marriage in general. In this line, he asks, jokingly, if he'll ever see a 60-year-old bachelor again, since most men are so eager to get married. He claims that not enough men are committed to the bachelor life, comparing marriage to wearing a yoke like a beast of burden. Benedick's comment also adds humor and irony to the play, as a significant part of the rest of the play involves other characters trying to trick him into falling in love.


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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

“Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.”

Related Characters: Claudio (speaker), Don Pedro
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 2.1.143-178
Explanation and Analysis:

Don John and Borachio have just tricked Claudio into thinking that Don Pedro is in love with Hero and is wooing her for himself. After telling their lie, Borachio and Don John leave Claudio alone on stage; it is then that he offers his response to the false news in the form of a soliloquy.

Claudio says that friendship is constant and can be trusted in all areas except love and courtship. He concludes then that "all hearts in love use their own tongues," meaning he should speak for himself and not send a disguised surrogate to woo for him. He also says "let every eye negotiate for itself / And trust no agent." According to Claudio, love enters through the eyes, which in this play symbolize the senses in general. Thus a lover must trust only his own senses, and never the information and help of others. This notion is slightly ironic, since Claudio comes to this conclusion based on information he got from others who happened to be lying.

Also note how Claudio speaks about beauty as a "witch." There is an implication again that while Claudio loves Hero he is deeply afraid of being in love, and more specifically of being "tricked" into love by feminine beauty.  

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

“Even she: Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.”

Related Characters: Don John (speaker), Claudio
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 3.2.99-100
Explanation and Analysis:

Having failed to stop the courtship and engagement between Claudio and Hero, Don John now seeks to stop their impending marriage. To do so, he plans to put together a fake scene of Hero and a lover in the window to convince Claudio that his fiancee is being unfaithful. When Don John says that she has been disloyal, Claudio clarifies with, "who, Hero?" to which Don John responds with the quote, "Even she."

The end of the sentence is devastatingly simple: "Leonato's Hero, your Hero, every man's Hero." By mentioning Leonato, Don John makes the claim specific to Hero herself, by mentioning Claudio he makes the claim personal to Claudio, and with "every man's Hero" he delivers the harsh accusation that many men have been with her. Claudio and Don Pedro remain unconvinced, but decide to shame Hero together if they find out that the claims are true.

The simplicity of Don John's speech is well aligned with his tactics. While other characters (like Hero herself) stage false conversations to be overheard, Don John stages a false image to be seen. His deception relies on the eyes instead of ears; he insists that they witness visually. This insistence might be loosely related to Othello's demand for "ocular proof" when he believes his wife is unfaithful in Othello. Perhaps love can be generated by one sense alone, either sight or hearing (or overhearing exactly what someone wants to you hear), but infidelity and heartbreak need to be verified with proof – the senses must be checked against one another. 

Meanwhile, note how quickly Don Pedro and Claudio decide to shame Hero if they think she has been unfaithful. Love in the play turns quickly to misogynistic rage, again suggesting just how anxious men are with the idea of love, language, and fear of their wive's possible infidelity.

It is also worth noting that the word "Nothing" was also used in Shakespearean times to refer to a woman's sexual parts. And so the title of the play refers to the fact that the plot of the play involves much ado about sex, about virginity, and about all the misunderstandings ("nothings") about such "nothings."

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Eyes Symbol Timeline in Much Ado About Nothing

The timeline below shows where the symbol Eyes appears in Much Ado About Nothing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...He explains that before he left for war, he looked at Hero with “a soldier’s eye,” (1.1.297-298) but now has more delicate feelings for her. To help Claudio win Hero’s heart... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon only their own senses, and never the information or help of others: “Let every eye negotiate for itself / And trust no agent.” (2.1.177-178) When Benedick arrives to tell him... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...that he may have something to do with Benedick’s love, and Hero with Beatrice’s: “That eye my daughter lent her.” (5.4.23) (full context)