Much Ado About Nothing


William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing: Genre 1 key example

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Explanation and Analysis—A Shakespearean Comedy:

The play falls within the comedy genre. Shakespeare's plays are generally categorized as either comedies, histories, or tragedies. Although the boundaries of Shakespearean comedy are often a source of contention, plays within this genre are typically characterized by a humorous tone and convoluted plot.

Much Ado About Nothing features both of these conventions. The wordplay, innuendos, and sharp exchanges of wit between the characters, especially Beatrice and Benedick, are a source of humor throughout the play. Meanwhile, the characters' scheming generates many instances of mistaken identities and deception, resulting in a complex and multilayered plot. Shakespearean comedies also tend to culminate in marriage; indeed, Much Ado About Nothing achieves resolution once the main characters form suitable marital matches: Hero with Claudio, and Beatrice with Benedick. 

It is notable, however, that the play features tragic elements as well, such as the brutal shaming of Hero after false rumors spread about her promiscuity. In contrast with the lighthearted tone of most other parts of the play, Leonato's language in Act 4, Scene 1 as he mourns the apparent defiling of his daughter is ruthless: "Why, doth not every earthly thing / Cry shame upon her?" When Claudio learns of Hero's apparent death in Act 5, Scene 1, his language is deeply tragic: "Sweet Hero, now thy image doth appear / In the rare semblance that I loved it first." In fact, the scene in which Claudio mourns Hero's death during her staged funeral would be appropriate for a tragedy. In this way, the play blurs the boundaries of its genre.