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Degree of tragedy in Much Ado about Nothing

            Although the word tragedy is often depicted as an occurring event that leads to catastrophic calamities and misfortunes, the Greek philosopher Aristotle determined that a tragedy, like all poetry, is a kind of imitation that aim’s to bring about the “catharsis” of the spectators and arouse in them a sensation of pity and fear. Shakespeare is very well known to use these elements in his plays to trigger the emotions of the audience. The play Much Ado About Nothing should be considered a Shakespearean tragedy due to several elements that take place throughout the play. These elements include catharsis, a struggle between good and evil, and external conflicts that are all present in the play and that are essential to a tragedy.

To begin with, the play Much Ado About Nothing should be considered a tragedy because it contains a rich amount of catharsis, which is a significant element in a Shakespearean tragedy. In his plays, Shakespeare uses catharsis as one of the main components of a tragedy in the sense of the purification and purgation of emotions, particularly pity and fear or any extreme change that allows the audience to feel and release emotions. It permits the spectators to identify with the characters of the play, hence take their losses more personally. Throughout the play, several events of catharsis take place that allows the audiences to expresses their emotions for the characters. Death is one if the intrinsic identities of a Shakespearean tragedy, which is considered self-evident as shown in most of his plays. In the event of Don John’s evil plan to cause mischief and ruin the marriage of Claudio and Hero the night before the event, we witness prior to the scene of betrayal,  Claudio says “ If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her, tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, will I shame her” (III, ii, 116-118).  This statement leaves the audience gasping for the tragic result. The intensity then becomes even greater after Claudio accuses Hero at the wedding for being unfaithful to him. In a state of shock, Hero then begins to faint and later presumed dead by the friar at the wedding. Catharsis is also expressed to the spectators when Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio, his best friend, for the sake of her cousin’s humiliation and death. In those events, Shakespeare builds up a massive amount of catharsis in the audience, making them expresses emotions of both fear and pity for the characters involved.

Secondly, a crucial element to a Shakespearean tragedy is a struggle between good and evil; hence, the play Much Ado About Nothing should be considered as a tragedy since this element is very much present throughout the main plot of the play. Evil in Shakespeare’s plays is always disguised and usually ignored by the characters because they are ignorant towards the evil motives of the antagonist, while the element of good is always portrayed openly and freely visible. Shakespeare introduces Don John as the dark side of the play, the one who induces the other character to commit erroneous actions or the one that misleads them, while Claudio and the others are shown as happy and joyful characters.  Claudio is represented as the antithesis character of Don John. While Claudio enhances the good and honorable values of the play, Don John is completely the opposite; he stands for evil and villainy. Through several instances, we can see the supremacy of evil versus the suppression of good in the play. This element can be traced before the arrival of Don Pedro and his men from the war they won against his bastard brother Don John thus foreshadowing the good versus evil in the play. 

Joyful of their victory Don Pedro, Claudio, and Benedick are welcomed back from the war by Leonato. Where Don John develops a vast hatred towards Claudio since he was fighting at Don Pedro’s side and was his right-hand man. Claudio was one of the main reasons for their victory during this war. Don John driven by hatred and jealousy decides to destroy and bring disaster to Claudio’s life. Once Don John learns about Claudio’s intention to marry Hero, he was determined to devise his mischievous plan to ruin their marriage by deceiving Claudio into believing that Hero cheated on him before the wedding. He also attempts to break the trust between Claudio and Don Pedro at the masked ball when Claudio is misled to believe Don Pedro wanted to keep Hero for himself when Don John says “Signior, you are very much near my brother in his love. He is enamored on Hero. I pray you dissuade him from her; she is no equal for his birth. You may do the part of an honest man in it” (II, I, 24).  Considering that Claudio and Don John are represented as the good and evil in the story, these two scenes demonstrate the struggles between good and evil in the play.

            Finally, External Conflict is a vital element of a Shakespearean tragedy. The play Much Ado About Nothing should be considered a tragedy because it contains a vast variety of external conflicts that drive the main plot of the story.  Every tragic hero in a Shakespearean play must be confronted with external conflicts that must be addressed. In the play, several characters have to undergo through a variety of external conflicts.  Such as the conflict between Don Pedro that reflex everything that is noble and Don John that suffers by comparison. Although they share the same family name, Don John is always compared as the bastard child and in comparison to wealth and status; Don Pedro will always be higher because he is the true blood of the family.  In response to his general sadness and jealousy of his brother, Don John says “’I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any. In this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain” (I, I, 16) and proceeds to cause trouble by devising a scenario to fool Claudio into thinking that Hero was unfaithful and ruining their marriage. Another example would be the conflict between Claudio and Hero. Claudio’s jealous nature allows Don John to easily fool him into thinking Hero is unfaithful. Claudio confronts Hero at the altar and says “Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it. You seem to me as Dian in her orb, As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown; But you are more intemperate in your blood / Than Venus, or those pamp’red animals / That rage in savage sensuality” (IV, I, 66) and not only breaks her heart, but destroys her reputation.

 

             In conclusion, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing should be considered a tragedy due to the rich amount of catharsis, struggle between good and evil, and external conflicts that Shakespeare emphasizes in this play. These elements are vital in determining the characteristics of a Shakespearean tragedy. Throughout the play, we can easily trace these essential elements to deduct that this play could, in fact, be considered a tragedy due to the occurring events of the plot.                                                                

 

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