The following paper topics, each with a sample outline, are designed to test your understanding of Much Ado About Nothing.
Each deals with the play as a whole and requires analysis of important themes and literary devices.
Shakespeare interweaves two love stories in Much Ado About
Nothing, the Claudio-Hero plot and the Benedick-Beatrice plot. Write an analytical essay on the ways in which they parallel or counterpoint each other in characterization, in dialogue, and in plot structure.
I. Thesis Statement: The Claudio-Hero and the Benedick-Beatrice love stories are interwoven in Much Ado About Nothing through a series of parallels and contrasts in characterization, in dialogue, and in plot structure.
1,. Hero and Beatrice are kinswomen and good friends and Claudio and Benedick are comrades-in-arms and good friends
2. Both couples knew each other in the past
3. Both couples are learning to discriminate properly and to estimate each other's true value
4. Both couples' ability to love will be tested
1. Claudio and Hero are slaves to convention and Benedick and Beatrice are free spirits
2. Claudio seeks a wooing intermediary and Benedick woos directly
3. Claudio and Hero rely on knowledge, and Benedick and Beatrice rely on their intuition.
4. After professing their love, Claudio and Hero are easily derailed, but nothing will stop Benedick and Beatrice
III. Dialogue A. Parallels
1. Both couples are educated aristocrats
2. Both couples talk about marriage
3. Both Claudio and Benedick speak about their fears of cuckoldry
4. Both couples will learn to speak more directly
1. Claudio and Hero usually speak inverse and Benedick and Beatrice usually speak in prose
2. Claudio and Hero comply with social superior's voices and Benedick and Beatrice challenge social superior's voices
3. Benedick and Beatrice radically change their speech patterns and Claudio and Hero do not
IV Plot structure A. Harmony of plots
1. The Claudio-Hero plot and the Benedick-Beatrice plot are harmonized because they are friends
2. The Claudio-Hero plot and the Benedick-Beatrice plot are harmonized because they are both love stories
3. The Claudio-Hero and the Benedick-Beatrice plot are both harmonized by their gaiety until crisis occurs
B. Polarization of plots
1. The polarization of the plots begin when reflective Benedick will no longer play court jester for Claudio and Don Pedro
2. The crisis in the Claudio-Hero plot, the refusal and accusal of Hero, precipitates an extended crisis in the Benedick-Beatrice plot
3. The crisis in the Benedick-Beatrice plot, Beatrice's demand that Benedick kill Claudio, accelerates the polarization between the two plots
4. The two plots are completely polarized when Benedick agrees to, and then challenges, Claudio
C. Reconciliation of plots
1. The Claudio-Hero plot is reconciled with the Benedick-Beatrice plot when Benedick releases penitent Claudio from his challenge
2. The Claudio-Hero plot is reconciled with the Beatrice-Benedick plot as both couples prepare for their double-wedding
V. Conclusion: Shakespeare uses parallels and counterpoints to interweave two love stories, one based on convention, the other on invention, in a pattern that begins in harmony, splits in crisis, and resolves in reconciliation. Sample Analytical Paper Topics 109
(The entire section is 1575 words.)
1. Much Ado About Nothing is supposedly a comedy: Beatrice and Benedick trade insults for professions of love, and Claudio and Hero fall in love, out of love, and back in love again. But the play contains many darker, more tragic elements than a typical comedy. In what ways is this play tragic?
2. A central theme in the play is trickery or deceit, whether for good or evil purposes. Counterfeiting, or concealing one’s true feelings, is part of this theme. Good characters as well as evil ones engage in deceit as they attempt to conceal their feelings: Beatrice and Benedick mask their feelings for one another with bitter insults, Don John spies on Claudio and Hero. Who hides and what is hidden? How does deceit function in the world of the play, and how does it help the play comment on theater in general?
3. Language in Much Ado About Nothing often takes the form of brutality and violence. “She speaks poniards, and every word stabs,” complains Benedick of Beatrice (II.i.216). Find examples of speech and words representing wounds and battles in the play. What do Shakespeare and his cast of characters accomplish by metaphorically turning words into weapons? What does the proliferation of all this violent language signify in the play and the world outside it?
4. In some ways, Don Pedro is the most elusive character in the play. He never explains his motivations—for wooing Hero for Claudio, for believing Don John’s lie, even for setting up Beatrice and Benedick. He also seems to have no romantic interest of his own, though, at the end of the play, without a future wife, he is melancholy. Investigate Don Pedro’s character, imagine the different ways in which he could be portrayed, and ascribe to him the motivations that you believe make him act as he does. Why is he so melancholy? Why does he woo Hero for Claudio? Is he joking when he proposes to Beatrice, or is he sincere? Why would Shakespeare create a character like Don Pedro for his comedy about romantic misunderstandings?
5. In this play, accusations of unchaste and untrustworthy behavior can be just as damaging to a woman’s honor as such behavior itself. Is the same true for the males in the play? How is a man’s honor affected by accusations of untrustworthiness or unfaithfulness? Do sexual fidelity and innocence fit into the picture in the same way for men as it does for women? Examine the question of honor and fidelity as it relates to four male characters in the play: Benedick, Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro. What could Shakespeare be saying about the difference between male and female honor?