For the characters of Much Ado About Nothing, romantic experiences are always connected to issues of freedom and shame. If dignity comes from having a strong and free will, then love, desire and marriage are a threat to it. This is the position taken by most of the characters. Benedick, for example, compares the married man to a tame, humiliated animal. The events of the play confirm this position on love and dignity taken by most of the characters. Benedick and Beatrice begin the play seeming witty, aloof and superior to the others. But by the end, their love has made them somewhat ridiculous. Like puppets, they are manipulated by their friends.
Ironically, Much Ado About Nothing suggests that the characters fear of shame in love is more likely to lead to embarrassment than love itself will. Terrified that marrying Hero will dishonor him, Claudio shames her publicly. But when the truth comes out, his outburst seems silly. The same goes for Beatrice and Benedick: their extreme resistance to love and marriage (and the accompanying shame and loss of freedom) makes them look all the more ridiculous when they finally give in. They also lose more of their freedom: while Claudio chooses Hero, Benedick and Beatrice are chosen for each other.
At the same time, Much Ado suggests that giving in to our strong feelings for other people is unavoidable. Despite the shame of going back on their principles, despite the knowledge that the whole thing was set up by others, Benedick and Beatrice are happy in love—perhaps this happiness is more important than dignity and freedom. As Benedick puts it, “man is a giddy thing,” and the play ends with joyous dancing.
Marriage, Shame and Freedom ThemeTracker
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing
“Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?”
“Speak low, if you speak love.”
“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.”
“Oh what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!”
“There is not chastity enough in language
Without offence to utter them.”
“But mine , and mine I lov'd , and mine I prais'd,
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her; why, she— O! she is fallen Into a pit of ink…”
“O! that I were a man for his sake, or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”