Sorry dat het in het Engels is maar we moeten het in de toets (voor bonus) in het engels antwoorden, dit lijkt mij dus veel handiger.
Eldorado chapter 1: Voorgeschiedenis (till ca 1100)
Riddles: I watched four creatures
In these riddles something is described in the form of some clues about that something. And the reader has to guess what it is.
Riddle 1: Bread. It has no bones (‘boneless wonder’) so it’s not a child. It grows, rises and expands and throws up a crust. Only bread fits that description. This riddle has a double meaning, as the rising and expanding thing can be seen as the male’s reproductive organ.
Riddle 2: Pen. The black tracks are ink. The support of the bird can be seen as the pen as pens in that time were quills (vogelveren). You move it around with your hands and so it flies. When it dives under the waves it the quill is dipped in ink. You can safely assume that warriors in that time couldn’t write or read. The struggling warrior continuously toiled pointing out the paths of the four creatures. The four creatures could be letters of the alphabet but that wouldn’t explain the fact that they were there in the beginning and the warrior is still figuring out the paths (he would already know the paths if it were letters. The paths are the lines on the paper made by the quill, which is a letter). The four creatures could be an extension piece of the quill with four ends. The fine gold is the paper. Parchment (in that time) had a color like gold and it was fine. But the most likely possibility: the four creatures could be the four fingers you use to write. As the warrior is probably analphabetic he has problems writing (probably can’t write at all). And so he struggles with the way he should set his fingers or hold the pen or move his hand.
Riddle 3: Ice. Water becomes something that has one or some qualities of bone. Bone is hard. And ice is hard too. So it’s ice. And also the only way to change water into soup is by adding some powder, this is not mentioned. And chalk isn’t very probable.
a creation of mankind so exquisite,
but doomed to throw light
on corridors and caves
and as long as darkness has the upper hand,
They will stand guard,
burn away the demons of the night
and stay nailed to the walls.
Only to move when the creator
needs their presence elsewhere
A torch, in the old days the fires (torch, fireplace, oil lamp) and the sun were the only things to create light. The sun won’t be there if the darkness has the upper hand. And so we are left with the choices candle, oil lamp, and torch. Only the torch stays nailed to the wall in that time.
In a kenning an object is described by comparing it with another one. Most of the time, the first word describes the theme or situation. And the second word is the funny part, the comparison. Most of the time, this object has a few aspects in common with the object that the author implies.
Eldorado has its own answer and I have my own interpretation of some of those kennings (battle-light and battle-serpent). I give the explanation for my own answer but also an explanation for the Eldorado answer
1. Sea-garment: zeil. It has something to do with the sea. And it’s a garment-like something that you use in the sea. The sail fits that description.
2. Peace-weave: vrouw. It has something to do with peace and it weaves. The only thing that weaves is the woman. In the middle ages a king would often give his daughter to the son of another king to ensure peace between the kingdoms.
3. Battle-light: zwaard (Eldorado answer) of pijl. It could be both. A sword is shiny so it reflects light. An arrow rains down from above (at big battles) just like light.
4. Battle-serpent: zwaard of pijl (Eldorado answer). In the bible Moses could change his staff to a serpent, in that context the sword could be a straight serpent. But much more probable would be the arrow. It shoots from a distance, just like the way a snake shoots towards you when it’s about to bite.
5. Head-jewel: oog. A jewel you have on your head. Your eyes are the only things with the same shapes.
6. Sea-horse: schip. Used as a transport you get on to get to a certain place (horse), you ride on it, the way you sail with a ship. Also it is used on the seas.
3b. war-eggs: hand grenades
war-bike: tank (modern), horse (middle ages)
face-curtain: veil (sluier)
On the test we’ll be asked to produce some kennings ourselves, you can do that the same way I did with 3b. First word: theme/situation second word: use your imagination to come up with a word that shares some qualities with the word that needs to be guessed. You could also just choose one from the shortlist of kennings back then:
slaughter-dew, battle-sweat: blood
whale-road, whale’s way, sail-road, swan-road: the sea
sea-horse, sea-steed: ship
Beowulf, a hero with supernatural power. The writer praises Beowulf but in the same time criticizes him for not being Christian (the writer is Christian). In this first part of Beowulf, he is a young rising hero who was establishing his reputation. His Swedish king permitted him to help the king of Denmark, Hrothgar, to kill the monster Grendell. Hrothgar welcomes Beowulf to his meadhall that is haunted by the fiend.
4a. Beowulf was stronger than Grendell (‘a mightier hand-grip’). The fight is portrayed as an epic one. Everything is written like it’s a clash of the titans. It’s a man-to-man fight; there are no weapons involved
4b. Grendell is humbled (‘his mood was humbled’) and almost sad (‘the horrible wailing’) about the great strength of his opponent so the monster is sad. But the victory of Beowulf is written like it is one of the greatest achievements in human history (‘Beowulf gained the glory of battle’, ‘the stalwart and strong, had purged evil’), it is written in a epic way. Beowulf is almost the saviour (verlosser).
The battle of Maldon
In 991 near the place Maldon the Anglo-Saxons faced the Vikings, the Vikings on an island and the Anglo-Saxons on a beach. The Anglo-Saxons had a strategic advantage because the Vikings needed to cross a land bridge to reach them. Byrhtnoth however granted the Vikings free passage. The battle of Maldon describes the bloodbath of his untrained men, presumably from the perspective of one of Byrhtnoth’s companions.
6a. I think it’s a stupid decision. I would never promise free passage to people who want to kill me. But perhaps from his view it was the right thing to do, it was the noble, heroic thing to do. His heart was speaking and not his mind.
6b. If God already has claimed the Saxons victorious it wouldn’t matter if they grant the Vikings free passage. God will decide who will be victorious and therefore strategic advantages don not matter. Another reason could be his noble ways and his pride. He would want to fight man to man instead of easily ripping off the Vikings because of a strategic advantage.
6c. I think it’s good to know when you’re outmatched. And if you are you should regroup and try to fight them another day. And in the meantime work out a strategy with the info you have got by fighting them (like what kind of arrows are effective against their armor)
6d. Achilles from the Greek mythology, Hannibal who almost conquered Rome
7a. A.D. 991. This year was Ipswich plundered; and very soon
afterwards was Alderman Britnoth (47) slain at Maidon. In this
same year it was resolved that tribute should be given, for the
first time, to the Danes, for the great terror they occasioned by
the sea-coast. That was first 10,000 pounds. The first who
advised this measure was Archbishop Siric.
A.D. 993. This year came Anlaf with three and ninety ships to
Staines, which he plundered without, and went thence to Sandwich.
Thence to Ipswich, which he laid waste; and so to Maidon, where
Alderman Britnoth came against him with his force, and fought
with him; and there they slew the alderman, and gained the field
of battle; whereupon peace was made with him, and the king
7b. In the chronicle it is written like a description and in the poem there is a story around it. The chronicle purely states what important things happened in a certain period of time.
Chapter 2: De late Middeleeuwen (circa 1100-1500)
Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
In the late Middle Ages Christian believers would go on a pilgrimage to a sacred place. This way their sins would be forgiven. One of those sacred places was the tomb of Thomas Becket in Canterbury. On those pilgrimages pilgrims would often tell each other stories. In the Canterbury Tales Chaucer writes about such stories. Because almost every believer would try to go on a pilgrimage, the pilgrims are from many different social classes. In his story 29 pilgrims get together to tell stories. First Chaucer gives a description of those pilgrims (this also tells us a lot about life back then), in the portrait of…. in the General prologue. Each pilgrim tells their story differently according to their social class and their personality. The passage in Eldorado is a piece of the portrait of the wife of Bath. She was born under Mars and Venus. And astrologists back then believed that the personality of a person was determined by which sign of the zodiac (sterrenbeeld) they were born under. Medieval astrologists described the wife of Bath as: aggressive, untruthful, sensual, stubborn, chatty and convinced that she is always right.
2a. Bologna: de maagd Maria; Compostela: de graftombe van de apostel Jacobus (Santiago, St James); Jeruzalem: de christelijke heiligdommen en heilige plaatsen; Rome: de paus en de St. Pieter; Keulen: de graftombe van de Drie Koningen.
3a. She’s chatty (‘In company she liked to laugh and chat’). She has a lot of experience with love (‘and knew the remedies for love’s mischances, an art in which she knew the oldest dances’). She’s stubborn and aggressive because she wanted to be the first at the church (‘if indeed they did, so wrath was she’).
3b. In this context bold could have two meanings: fat or brave
red blushing face: amorous and passionate
bold face: outspoken, confident, stubborn, brave
large hips: sign of fertility
Bold face and large hips: amorous and passionate
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
A green knight interrupts one of king Arthurs parties, to challenge one of the Knights of the Round Table to try to decapitate him, but only if the challenger would go to the green chapel a year later to undergo the same fate. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge not knowing that his sword couldn’t hurt the green knight. A year later Gawain arrives at a castle not far from the green chapel. He is taken in by Bertilak the count of the castle. The make a deal, Gawain can stay 3 days in bertilak’s castle and bertilak will go hunting all day long for three days and hand in everything he captures, and as a compensation Gawain needs to give Bertilak all he gets in the castle. Bertilaks wife tries to seduce Gawain and finds it difficult to react properly. As a knight he shouldn’t just ignore the advances of Bertilaks wife, but as a guest he shouldn’t have an affair with the host’s wife. He tries to explain her that he can’t be with her and gets away with letting her kiss him, then according to their agreement Gawain returns the kiss to Bertilak. On the third day she gives him a green belt that would protect him from death. Gawain about to face the green Knight just couldn’t ignore the belt. He accepted it but didn’t give it to Bertilak and therefore failed his end of their agreement.
4a. He fails to keep his end of their agreement by not giving Bertilak the gift he got from Bertilaks wife. Also allows Bertilak’s wife to kiss him which is inappropriate and disrespectful.
Protected by the belt, he faces the Green Knight, who fakes two blows for the first two days in which he kept his agreement and for the third day in which Gawain fails to give Bertilak the Belt he wounds Gawain a little. The green knight then reveals himself as Bertilak. The whole challenge was meant to teach King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table something about humility and fallibility. But he also praises Gawain as one of the best knights, for the fact that he ignored the advances of his wife. Naturally Gawain, as a knight with much pride, is really ashamed and goes back to Camelot and tells Arthur and the knights about his lesson. They all laugh about it, but still wear a green balbric to honour this adventure of Gawain.
5a. He is really ashamed of himself (‘he shrank for shame’) he turned red of shame (‘the blood from his breast burst forth in his face’). He overreacts and sees himself as a worthless and honourless knight. It’s a typical reaction for young knight with almost no experience at all.
5b. Bertilak reacts fatherly, mildly and compassionately. Like a father wouldn’t be mad if you’ve made a mistake. He would try to teach you a lesson. Bertilak thinks Gawain has atoned for his fault. He sees Gawain being ashamed and uncomfortable and laughs away the tension. It’s a fatherly laugh of an adult or parent who is lightly amused by Gawain’s reaction.
5c. Arthur and his knights took it lightheartedly. They weren’t that serious about the story, that’s logical as they weren’t in the same situation as Gawain. They misinterpret Gawain. To them it’s the glorious adventure of Gawain who survived a blow to the neck. They view Gawain’s story as an amusing one. They try to laugh away the humility Gawain feels when he arrives. It’s a fool’s laugh when someone tries to mask their lack of understanding
Thomas Malory: Morte d’Arthur
At the end of the middle ages Malory brings together a lot of stories about King Arthur and translates them into English (from French, Latin, and common Celtic). He manages to make one big story out of it. The story depicts the end of Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table and Arthur’s kingdom Camelot. An affair between Guinevere, Arthur’s wife, and Lancelot, Arthur’s knight, is the cause of a fracture between the Knights of the Round Table which then results in a war. In this war Arthur gets fatally wounded.
The passage in Eldorado is after King Arthur’s death. Lancelot comes to Guinevere to profess his love for her and talk her into staying with him. But when he gets to her she explains that she cannot be with the man that caused a war. It was their love that killed so many people. She tells Lancelot to go to his castle and marry someone so he can live happily ever after and that she would stay in the nunnery to atone for her fatal mistake and seek forgiveness from God. He then tells her that he cannot live happily without her. For they share the same destiny. And so he will do the same elsewhere.
7a. Guinevere feels responsible for what happened. She asks Lancelot to leave her alone (‘thou forsake my company’). They were the cause of a war and so they should be separated (‘through this man and me all this war has been wrought’). In Lancelot’s answer you see no sorrow at all.
7b. Guinevere is torn apart by guilt and wants to atone for her mistakes (‘I may amend my misliving’), which is her past affair with Lancelot. She does this by staying in a nunnery and praying for the rest of her live. You can read her dedication to ask forgiveness from God. She parts with Lancelot out of guilt, she finds it immoral and wrong what she has done. Lancelot came to her in the first place to bring her back to him. You can also read that in (‘I had cast to have you had into mine own realm’). Lancelot parts with her only out of his love for her as that is what she wants. And because their destinies are one and the same (‘but the same destiny’) he can’t live a happy life without her. He will do the same as she does and try to make amends. You can read in his loving words (and tone) that he won’t ever stop loving her. Guinevere acts to seek forgiveness from God (Medieval), Lancelot however acts on his feelings (renaissance).
Chapter 3: Renaissance (1500-1700)
Sir Thomas Wyatt
Tried to translate or edit Petrarch’s sonnets.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Experimented with Petrarch’s sonnets and sometimes would change the structure.
He even developed the blank verse in which there was no rhyming involved.
One of the later playwrights and poets who was inspired by Wyatt and Howard. He developed a free sonnet, the Shakespearian sonnet. Along with the Petrarchan sonnet it was the most commonly used sonnet in poetry
Shakespeare wanted to subvert the traditional love poems and developed his own free sonnet.
A 14-line sonnet, traditionally written in iambic pentameter. Sentences are 10 or 11 syllables long and words are in a stressed/unstressed pattern. So if the first word is stressed the second one isn’t and the third one is. Example: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” It consists of 3 quatrains (4 lines) and a couplet (2 lines) at the end. The quatrains have the rhyming scheme: a-b-a-b and the couplet rhymes c-c. In both his sonnet and Petrarchan sonnet there is a turn in the content. The first quatrain (or maybe even the couplet) where that happens is the called the Volta (the turn is also called the Volta). The first two quatrains may ask a question on which the last quatrain and the couplet may give the answer. Two quatrains can also give arguments for a problem or question described in the first quatrain and then the couplet could be a simple conclusion. But it could also be a different structure; it’s not as structural as the Petrarchan sonnet.
A Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octave (2 quatrains of 4 lines) and a sestet (last six lines: two times 3 lines). The rhyme scheme for the octave typically is: a-b-b-a-a-b-b-a. The sestet is more flexible and would have different rhyme schemes: c-d-e-c-d-e, c-d-c-d-c-d, c-d-d-c-d-d, c-d-d-c-e-e. The first two were mainly used by Petrarch. The octave and the sestet usually contrast in some way. For example the octave could introduce a problem or question on which the sestet gives an answer. Most of the time, the first quatrain introduces the problem or question. The second quatrain develops that problem. And the last two quatrains usually comment on that problem or give a solution. The Volta is when the sestet starts. The main theme of the Petrarchan sonnet is the unreachable woman. The lover (or the poet) is in love with a woman but cannot receive her love because she is unreachable. Petrarch praises the love for a woman, and the women herself is on a pedestal of inaccessibility and beauty.
In this sonnet Shakespeare makes fun of the traditional Petrarchan sonnet. This sonnet is a parody of the Petrarchan sonnet. The Petrarchan sonnet is all about the beauty of the woman, the desirable qualities and the unreachable love for the woman. Sonnet 130 is a parody on the Petrarchan sonnet.
Line 1: The woman is compared to other beauties (like the sun in the first line) but it’s never positive. The woman is the opposite of those beauties. Her eyes are ‘nothing like the sun’.
Line2: Her lips were not red at all; red lips were desirable in that time. Even coral was more red than her lips were (‘coral is far more red’).
Line 3: Her skin was grey and not snow white (‘her breasts are dun’).
Line 4: Her hair was like wires (‘black wires grow on her head’), which is not desirable at all. Long steep hair was desirable. Also she has dark hair while gold hair was the sign of beauty.
Line 5, 6: It was desirable to have cheeks that have the color of roses. She doesn’t have that (‘no such roses I see in her cheeks’)
Line 7,8: Here he talks about her ‘breath’ that ‘reeks’. She has a really bad smell compared to the smell of perfume a mistress should have.
Line 9, 10: ‘music hath a far more pleasing sound’ than her voice. In the Petrarchan sonnet the woman would often have a voice like music (music to the ears). A beautiful woman needs to have a voice that has the same beauty (for the ears) like good music.
Line 11, 12: He talks about the way she walks; ‘when she walks, treads on the ground’. She stamps on the ground compared to the elegant way the woman floats in the Petrarchan sonnet. Also you can deduce from the fact that the mistress stamps when she walks that she is rather bulky.
Line 13, 14: Here he comes with a new take (this is the Volta). He concludes that she still as beautiful as the normal lover, by not looking like the typical beautiful woman (really the opposite).
Knowing the desirable qualities one can make an alternative but this time centered around Petrarch’s meaning of beauty:
My mistress’ eyes light up, like the sun
Nothing is as red as her lips
Her skin is white, like the snow
I have seen roses damasked, red and white
Just like her cheeks
And no perfume smells as delightful
as my mistress’ refreshing breath
I love to hear her speak
her voice pleases me inside just like music
I never saw such a goddess go
walking with such elegance
This could be an example of what Shakespeare wanted to make fun of.
Shakespeare parodies all of the desirable qualities in this example by letting the mistress in his sonnet have the opposite qualities.
Petrarchan beauties Shakespeare’s parody
Eyes shine/ light up like the sun Eyes nothing like the sun
Lips red as coral Lips less red than coral
A skin white as snow Dun skin (grey)
Golden long steep threads/hair Dark hair like wires
red blushing cheeks Neither red nor white cheeks
Breath that intoxicates like perfume Breath reeks (stinks)
Voice like music Music is far more pleasing
Walks elegantly (almost floating) and quietly When she walks, she treads on the ground
5a. Shakespeare’s sonnet has 3 quatrains and a couplet instead of 4 quatrains. His rhyming scheme is abab cdcd efef gg instead of abba abba cde cde or abba abba cdc dcd (Petrarchan).
5b. In Petrarch’s sonnet the woman is a divine Goddess who is inaccessible (with the beauties described above). In Shakespeare’s sonnet the woman is a normal woman who is accessible.
5c. No, he loves her for who she is. She is normal (maybe that’s why the lover is attracted to her) and not like a divine god, but that doesn’t make her unattractive to him; she is actually a goddess to him (‘I never saw a goddess go’). To the lover in the sonnet the mistress is just as beautiful (maybe even more) as the idealized, unreal dream women. (zie. Last four lines)
War of the Roses
A series of wars fought for the English throne fought between the branches of the royal house of Plantagenet; the house of Lancaster (red rose) and the house of York (white rose). It is called the war of the roses because both houses have a rose as emblem. They fought between 1455 and 1485.
Henry IV crowned himself king and established the house of Lancaster by disposing of his cousin Richard II. His son Henry V succeeded him. But when Henry V died his son, Henry VI, was just an infant. The Lancastrian claim to the throne descended from John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III. Henry VI‘s right to the crown was challenged by Richard Duke of York, who claimed to be a descendent of Edward III’s son (this was true). This caused the War of the roses.
In the fights the crown went back and forth between Edward IV of York (great great grandson of Edward III) and Henry VI of Lancaster (the mad king). When he died, his 12 year old son Edward V succeeded him and his brother (Edward IV’s brother) Richard III was tasked to be the protector of the realm. But when he declared the late King Edward’s (IV) marriage with the mother of Edward V invalid (and an assembly of lords agreed), he was crowned king himself, as Edward V was no longer a legitimate heir and Richard III was next in line (he was Edward IV’s brother). His reign ended at the battle of Bosworth Field where he was killed by Henry Tudor (from the house of Lancaster), who created the Tudor dynasty. He was crowned Henry VII. He married Elizabeth of York to reconcile the two houses.
This play is all about king Richard III who was killed by Henry Tudor. Henry Tudor killed Gods representative on earth, and in that time it was not taken lightheartedly at all. Therefore Henry used the invention of the printing press to portray Richard III as a demonic tyrant. That way people would understand why Henry Tudor killed Richard. Thomas More wrote this view of Henry down in History of King Richard III. This work was the source for Shakespeare’s play Richard III.
Whether Shakespeare liked Henry’s adaptation of history or not does not matter, as Shakespeare needed to portray Richard as a villain too. Because if he didn’t he would probably be killed by Henry Tudor. And therefore Richard III is portrayed as a villain.
The play starts right after the death of Henry VI (In this play Richard III killed him), his brother Edward IV has brought peace and seized the throne.
In the first passage in Eldorado Richard III (Edward IV’s brother) promises himself to be a villain (this is in the beginning of the play). In his monologue he gives his reasons why he would be a villain. Another important aspect is that in the play Richard talks to the audience and tells them about his schemes. He entrusts the audience with his evil plans, this has a sympathetic effect.
7a. it’s a period of peace (‘piping time of peace’) so there is no war to be fought. He is bored (‘have no delight to pass away the time’). He cannot prove a lover because of his deformity. He cannot pass away the time by fighting or by being a lover. And so to pass the time he decides to be a villain (last 3 lines)
7b. He could have worked on science, gone on a discovery voyage, focused on the arts (painting) or written some poems.
The reason that Richard III still vows to be a villain is because he wants to make the people around him just as miserable (he hates ‘the idle pleasures these days’) as he is. It is a period of peace and so everyone is celebrating. Without the war there to pass his time, he is bored. He cannot partake in the celebrations because of his deformity. This is for two reasons: 1. He himself is not happy with his physical appearance 2. We could assume that people weren’t keen on a deformed person. And so everyone was happy and he wasn’t. He wants to be happy (based on his sarcasm in scene I example: ‘And now, instead of mounting barbèd steeds To fright the souls of fearful adversaries, He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber’) and wants to make the rest miserable (he wants to turn everything around). This way Richard III is described as a monstrous, selfish being. Also he intends to seize the crown (not actually said but implied). England is obviously not oppressed or subject to tyranny, and Richard’s own brother holds the throne. That Richard intends to upset the kingdom by seizing power for himself therefore renders him monstrously selfish and evil.
And so he sets in motion his plan to seize the crown (last page scene I).
Clarence hath not another day to live;
Which done, God take King Edward to His mercy,
And leave the world for me to bustle in.
For then I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter. ( =Anne)
What though I killed her husband and her father?
The readiest way to make the wench amends
Is to become her husband and her father;
The which will I, not all so much for love
As for another secret close intent
By marrying her which I must reach unto.
But yet I run before my horse to market.
Clarence still breathes; Edward still lives and reigns.
When they are gone, then must I count my gains.
First his older brothers need to die, because when they are dead he would be the heir to the throne. His eldest brother Edward IV and his slightly older brother Clarence. He already took care of his brother Clarence by planting rumors so that his brother King Edward IV would be suspicious of Clarence. In scene I Clarence gets escorted to the tower of London (the dungeons). So this part of his plan worked. Also to move closer to the throne he needs to marry Lady Anne Neville, she was married to the son of the previous deceased king Henry IV. Her husband and her father-in-law (deceased king Henry IV (house of Lancaster)) were killed by Richard. But he still tries to marry her as marrying the former to be queen would strengthen his position in the royal house and make him a more likely candidate for the crown.
And so when she (Anne) arrives at the royal palace with the dead body of Henry IV (to mourn the deceased King), he tries to court her. (zie passage Eldorado). Naturally she loathes and hates him, as he killed her husband and king (father-in-law Henry IV). He first tries to win her over by praising her beauty. When that doesn’t work he uses a witty trick. As she hates him he gives her the choice to kill him right away…… or to marry him. He reduced her choices to those two. Also this could strengthen the romantic approach Richard takes: if you don’t forgive me kill me, indicating that he doesn’t want to live if she doesn’t forgive him (‘If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive, Lo, here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword,’). Anne accepting the sword Richard gives her, she prepares to strike. While she is preparing to strike he tells her all the time:
Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry
But ’twas thy beauty that provokèd me.
Nay, now dispatch; ’twas I that stabbed young Edward
But ’twas thy heavenly face that set me on.
She drops the sword after hearing this. As now she hears that it was her fault that Richard III killed her husband and father-in-law (she is an accomplice). Also she hears that it was love that made him do this, his love for her, which meant that he wasn’t the typical cold-blooded killer (or so it seems).
And then Richard tells her: ‘Take up the sword again, or take up me’. This makes her think that not choosing for one choice (not choosing to kill him) would mean choosing the other choice (marrying her). And therefore she reluctantly accepts the ring he gives her. After she leaves, Richard gleefully celebrates is conquest. He as a deformed being wooed Anne who was just recently widowed because Richard killed her husband. He is really proud of this achievement and is overjoyed.
8a. constantly he confuses her by admitting that he killed her husband and father-in-law. Most killers wouldn’t admit to their killings (especially of a king and crown-prince), but he does. Also he praises her beauty and romantically approaches her. This is not what a typical killer would do. And then he gives her the chance to kill him. You could understand her confusion. At last he challenges her to kill her or marry her. He reduces her choices to ‘take up the sword’ (killing him) or ‘take up me’ (marrying him). He makes her think that not killing him would mean agreeing to marry him.
8b. Its kind of risky as Anne is emotionally unstable (she just lost her husband and father). This would mean she is really unpredictable, there is not telling what she might do. In scene I he already says that it would be really hard to woo a woman in this mood. He plays all or nothing as not having her hand would mean not being able to seize the throne which in his terms could be just as bad as death maybe even worse <--- safe way to go; Eldorado explanation.
But another explanation: he as a genius already knew that telling her that it was her beauty that made him kill her husband and king, would make her drop the sword.
8c. He makes her think that these two choices are the only one. He gives her no other choice. This way not giving into the first choice meant agreeing to the second choice as there are only two choices and she has to choose.
8d. Richard seemed very content. We was proud of himself, because it was a difficult challenge to woo (he as a deformed being) a woman in this mood, but he was victorious.
8e. I cannot see how a woman who has lost her husband to someone would marry that same someone. It definitely is abnormal. Richard seems like a good guy (he isn’t). He puts on his good guy mask. He seems like a guy who is crazy in love, and it seems genuine. But then again he is a master-deceiver.
Shakespeare’s contemporary and a talented playwright. He had many contacts in the world of espionage. He died in a bar fight. Scholars still don’t agree on whether it was just a bar fight between two drunken men or was it the organized murder of a secret agent who knew too much.
Marlowe’s most famous play is Doctor Faustus. It’s about the renaissance scholar Faustus who knows all there is to know to men. But he seeks more knowledge and for the sake of mankind he seeks divine knowledge. He does this by conjuring Mephostophilis, the devil. He makes a deal with the devil; 24 years of omniscience (alwetendheid), power (omnipotence) and eternal youth in exchange for his soul. He misuses this knowledge. While he first promised to use this knowledge for the sake of mankind he know uses it for his own pleasure (luxury, romance, adventurous journeys, and practical jokes). A religious old man tells him that it is not too late to seek forgiveness from God. God would forgive him if he stops his evil practices. But Faustus doesn’t listen and therefore after some time it is too late to turn to God.
The devil speaks (before the passage in Eldorado) to Faustus by showing him visions of hell. He knows he has till midnight. In the passage of Eldorado the clock strikes eleven. Faustus has an hour to live till the devil comes and takes his soul to hell. In his last hour Faustus exhorts the clocks to slow and time to stop (‘time may cease and midnight never come’ till ‘a natural day’ lines 4-8), so he can live a little longer and have a chance to repent (line 9: ‘that Faustus may repent’). From ‘O I’ll leap up to my God’ till ‘the heavy wrath of God’ Faustus turns to God, Christ and Lucifer. After that till watch strikes again (11:30) he talks about heaven and hell.
Impose some end to my incessant pain;
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be sav'd!
No end is limited to damned souls.
Right after the second time the watch strikes (11:30) he begs God to have some mercy and make him stay in hell for hundred thousand years (He had a one way ticket for eternity to hell. He wouldn’t return from hell and so a hundred thousand years is really nothing compared to eternity). Zie stuk hierboven for his plea to God.
Then he asks God why God doesn’t take souls (because then he would gladly give his soul to God even though he promised his soul to Mephostophilis)
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
After that he reasons that if he was a beast he would be happy. As the souls of beasts would cease to exist after they die instead of facing eternal damnation in Hell (Faustus’ destiny)
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang'd
Into some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv'd in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu'd in hell.
He curses his parents, for they made him exist. After that he curses himself and the devil. The devil deprived him from the joys of heaven. But then again it was his choice to sell his soul, so it’s his fault.
Curs'd be the parents that engender'd me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer
That hath depriv'd thee of the joys of heaven.
Then the Devil comes to take him, he screams (last few lines) while this happens
An important aspect in this passage is the use of time and length of the parts that go with it. The first half hour is has much more words (31 lines) and therefore is more detailed it’s in slow paced compared to the second half hour. The second half hour has 19 lines and this speeds time up. We get the feeling that the end is near. This makes this part more exciting. He has fewer lines in the same time frame. And when the clock strikes twelve, in his last moments he has a few lines (8 lines) left. Presumably these lines don’t take that much time in the story as the devil to take his soul when it’s twelve o’ clock. In his last moments he has eight lines in a few seconds. This is read as a ‘slow-motion’. And this part is more detailed. In the context of your live flashes before you in a few seconds when you die, this is really the same. At the end of his live, he indeed has a few seconds. And the last 8 lines take those few seconds. This way Marlowe is able to speed things up and slow things down.
10a. there are 58 lines in total. 31 lines for the first half hour, 19 for the second half hour and 8 for his last few seconds. The hour of 60 minutes has 50 lines so that’s almost one line per minute. In this hour the first half hour is slow paced while the second half hour is faster. For the second half after you’ve read a line more time has passed in the story than in the first half hour. The last few minutes are in slow-motion. After each line around a second has passed (this we can presume from the fact that devil comes and takes Faustus’ soul a few seconds after 12 o’clock) and so it’s very slow-paced. He has 8 lines for around 8 seconds which is second per line.
*note that the minutes and seconds that I am talking about are in the play, not in real life.
10b. He manages to make things exciting by speeding up the second half hour. It has less lines compared to the first half hour so that’s how he speeds things up. Much more time passes with each line. And so we get the feeling that the end is near, very near. This is the cause for the excitement as the reader knows that we’ve almost reached the ending.
10c. First he curses his parents, who made him exist, and Lucifer, who deprives him from the joys of heaven. But then he curses himself as all of this was his fault. This is typical for the renaissance because in the renaissance people believed that they themselves were responsible for what happened to them.
John Donne and the Metaphysicals
After the period of baroque the medieval Memento Mori was replaced by carpe diem. Poets like John Donne tried to seduce their lovers with variations of the argument: enjoy your life, right now while you can; tomorrow can be too late.
Some baroque poets tried to portray this message spectacularly. Mainly they used the conceit: an image, comparison or argumentation in which two seemingly unrelated subjects are forcibly put together. Because of their use of logic, paradox and ‘metaphysical’ arguments these baroque poets were called the metaphysical poets.
In A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning John Donne tries to console his lover due to his approaching departure abroad. In this poem is a famous conceit: the compass and love.
The form is not that difficult. He uses quatrains with rhyming scheme abab. Also he uses iambi tetrameter. It is different from the iambic pentameter from sonnet 130 in one way; instead of 10 syllables it has 8 syllables in the stressed-unstressed pattern. From the name (iambic …meter) you can deduce how much syllables are used in each line. Tetra means four; this is used to indicate that there are four groups of syllables (one stressed the other unstressed).
And with the table below one can deduce how much grouped syllables there are (and also the total number of syllables in each line because that’s just double the number of grouped syllables)
Numeral prefix Number of grouped syllables (stressed and unstressed)
The poem is essentially a sequence of metaphors and comparisons, each describing a way of looking at their (John Donne and his lover) separation that will help them to avoid the mourning forbidden by the poem’s title (forbidding mourning). The part in Eldorado is the conceit of the compass.
Before the first line Donne talks about how their souls are ‘one’
Line 1, 2: And even if their souls are two instead of one, they are like the feet of a compass.
This seems kind of impossible but later on Donne explains how this makes sense.
(Compass has two translations in Dutch: kompas and passer. But Donne talks about the passer as the kompas wouldn’t fit the description given in the poem. A kompas doesn’t have to feet but a passer has.)
Line 3, 4: Those feet are connected in the middle of the compass. The center foot fixes the orbit (punt die je eerst op papier zet om op te steunen) of the outer foot helping it to describe a perfect circle (punt waarmee je de lijn trekt).
Lines 5-8: This is where it is made clear who is the feet in the middle and who is the outer feet. The center feet sits in the center while the outer feet roams. But the outer feet can always go home. He also uses a sexual insinuation (verwijzing) here (‘and grows erect’). The Donne is the outer feet as he will be the one to leave (‘roam’). His lover will stay home and therefore stay put in the center.
Lines 9-12: Here he builds on his conceit. Thy firmness makes my circle just: he talks about the support the center feet (his lover) gives him. And makes me end where I begun: when you start drawing a circle with your compass, you start somewhere ->you draw a circle-> and you end where you began with drawing.
So he compares himself and his lover to a compass. He is the outer foot who will leave and she is the center feet that stays (at home) and gives support. In that time this was the case with a lot of people. The woman would stay home and take care of the house and children while the man goes away to work. And because they are the feet of a compass, they are connected (through the middle) in a way even though they are separated physically. And no matter how far the Donne goes they will always be connected. Because of this connection Donne will always return (‘as that comes home’ and ‘and makes me end where I begun’). So actually Donne and his lover are never fully separated because they will always have that spiritual connection that makes them go back to each other. Also you apply the usage of you compass to Donne’s situation. 1. You prepare to draw a circle with it: Donne prepares to leave 2. You draw the circle: the line you draw (circle) is Donne’s journey on which he gets (spiritually) supported by his lover (the support the center foot gives the outer foot while drawing the circle). 3. You finish the circle: Donne is preparing to get back to his lover. 4. You fold your compass so that the feet touch each other (this way you can put it in your pen case): the feet meet; Donne has returned to his lover.
12a. the scientific world of geometry is brought together with the spiritual world of love.
12b. zie mijn uitleg hierboven: this poem is perfect for Donne and his lover as it is about their departure.
12c. I expect it to be applicable to the situation. Just like Donne’s poem
After some time Donne becomes a preacher at the cathedral of St.Paul in London. In his meditations he uses the same techniques as in his former love poems.
In the part of meditation 17 Donne says that everyone is one. No man is an island: no one is alone. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main: everyone is part of a much bigger thing; mankind. And so everyone is one. When someone dies a clod of the main (continent) is washed away. And so it diminishes Donne. As everyone is a part of Donne he loses a piece of himself (metaphor: cloth of the continent) when someone dies. Therefore when the church bell tolls because someone died and you wonder for whom those bells toll it tolls for thee. Donne doesn’t need to know who died as he knows a part of him died. And so the bells toll for thine death.
13a. He attacks the attitude: ’if I am not involved, it is not my business’. Donne thinks it’s everyone’s business when someone dies, as we all are a part of the main whether we like it or not. So if someone in Turkey dies of a car bomb and you zap away because it has nothing to do with you, you are wrong! The man/woman that died in that bombing is your fellow human, more importantly he/she is part of you
13b. Hemmingway wanted clarify the people that thought ‘I don’t care what happens in Europe’ that what happened in Europe was also their business. So the Americans shouldn’t just stand idly by (afzijdig houden van) what happens in Europe (in Spain the conflicts between communists and fascists).
With paradise lost Milton hoped ‘to justify the ways of God to men’. The poem is written in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) and needs to be read aloud. The poem is rather difficult because of its Latin based sentence constructions.
The main character is Satan, the angel that out of pride refused to kneel before God’s creation (mankind) and got banned from heaven. He then uses his powers to oppose mankind and God. His greatest achievement was (in the form of a snake) convincing Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. It was forbidden to eat from that tree but Eve because of Satan did.
Eve went to work (on her own) on a piece of land (Adam wasn’t happy with it) to prove she is his equal. Satan knowing that Eve is vulnerable without Adam approaches her and convinces her to eat from the forbidden apple tree. In the passage in Eldorado she reasons whether she would give the apple to Adam or not.
First she reasons whether he should partake in her happiness. Then she thinks that she shouldn’t give him the apple as now the knowledge gained from it compensates for the gender difference. She has always been inferior to Adam and with this knowledge she can be equal or even be superior to Adam. Then she thinks: ‘but what if God saw everything? Then she would be punished with death and Adam would marry another Eve and live happily ever after, this while I’m dead. The thought of it kills her. So she decides to share her fate with Adam. After that she goes to Adam and he against his better knowledge ate from the apple.
14a. zie hierboven voor haar gedachtengang. After eating the apple she knows she will be punished with death. And then Adam would go on to live happily with another Eve. She even can’t handle the thought of it and wants Adam to share her fate which is death. She won’t accept that Adam would live happy and she would be dead. And therefore wants to take Adam down with her. There are two choices for her, Adam and her living happily ever after or they both die. There is no other possibility. And as she will die it is the second choice for her. Before eating the apple Eve was innocent and impulsive, but after eating it she became selfish, evil and sinful. Eating the apple changed her personality.
14b. If she really loved Adam she wouldn’t take him down with her but allow him to live happy without her. She lures Adam into her fate, rather than taking full responsibility and undergo to punishment. She has her own selfish reasons to take Adam down with her, and it definitely isn’t out of love. She just can’t stand the fact that Adam would live the rest of his life happily without her. She acts out of jealousy, she is jealous of Adam’s future happy life without her. And if she can’t have that same life he can’t either.
15a. No he isn’t convinced by Eve’s arguments. He knows it was wrong of her to eat from the forbidden tree. But still against this better knowledge he still eats from the apple. He does this because he genuinely loves Eve (was overcome with female charm) and would never leave her alone in any situation. He knows it’s wrong to eat from the tree but he has no other choice. And he was not deceived so it’s him making that decision.
15b. Milton’s version had a sense of judgment. The Bible just states what happened without judging. Milton’s version however is a psychological description of the events. You actually read the selfish thoughts of Eve. And therefore it makes you judge her as selfish. In the bible you don’t know what the persons are like so you can’t judge them. Milton describes the characters by describing their thoughts. Milton sees Eve as the reason of human misery, as she made the first impulsive move to eat from the forbidden tree and then acted in a selfish manner. Also you see that Satan approaches Eve and not Adam because he wouldn’t be able to convince Adam; he was intellectually superior to Eve. Eve was the easier target so Satan went for it. He portrayed the image of the originally sinful woman. He wrote this poem this way so that the reader would think of Eve as the sinner, this is because of the selfish thoughts we read of her. We don’t have that with Adam. And therefore his version is really woman-unfriendly (misogynistic). This poem caused men to think of women as if they needed protection from the devil. As they are really vulnerable to the devil the man should protect them from doing something stupid.
Much ado about nothing
Leonato, a kindly, respectable nobleman, lives in the idyllic Italian town of Messina. Leonato shares his house with his lovely young daughter, Hero, his playful, clever niece, Beatrice, and his elderly brother, Antonio. As the play begins, Leonato prepares to welcome some friends home from a war. The friends include Don Pedro, a prince who is a close friend of Leonato, and two fellow soldiers: Claudio, a well-respected young nobleman, and Benedick, a clever man who constantly makes witty jokes, often at the expense of his friends. Don John (the bastard), Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, is part of the crowd as well. Don John is sullen and bitter, and makes trouble for the others.
When the friends arrive at Leonato’s home, Claudio quickly falls in love with Hero. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice resume the war of witty insults that they have carried on with each other in the past. Claudio and Hero pledge their love to one another and decide to be married. To pass the time in the week before the wedding, the lovers and their friends decide to play a game. They want to get Beatrice and Benedick, who are clearly meant for each other, to stop arguing and fall in love. Their tricks prove successful, and Beatrice and Benedick soon fall secretly in love with each other.
But Don John has decided to disrupt everyone’s happiness. He has his companion Borachio make love to Margaret, Hero’s serving woman, at Hero’s window in the darkness of the night, and he brings Don Pedro and Claudio to watch. Believing that he has seen Hero being unfaithful to him, the enraged Claudio humiliates Hero by suddenly accusing her of lechery on the day of their wedding and abandoning her at the altar. Hero’s stricken family members decide to pretend that she died suddenly of shock and grief and to hide her away while they wait for the truth about her innocence to come to light. In the aftermath of the rejection, Benedick and Beatrice finally confess their love to one another. Fortunately, the night watchmen overhear Borachio bragging about his crime. Dogberry and Verges, the heads of the local police, ultimately arrest both Borachio and Conrad, another of Don John’s followers. Everyone learns that Hero is really innocent, and Claudio, who believes she is dead, grieves for her.
Leonato tells Claudio that, as punishment, he wants Claudio to tell everybody in the city how innocent Hero was. He also wants Claudio to marry Leonato’s “niece”—a girl who, he says, looks much like the dead Hero. Claudio goes to church with the others, preparing to marry the mysterious, masked woman he thinks is Hero’s cousin. When Hero reveals herself as the masked woman, Claudio is overwhelmed with joy. Don John is cast to prison and Margaret is declared innocent as she didn’t know anything about Don John’s evil plans. Benedick then asks Beatrice if she will marry him, and after some arguing they agree. The joyful lovers all have a merry dance before they celebrate their double wedding.
Literary devices: Much ado about nothing
Prose and verse
Shakespeare wrote his plays using two different kinds of language: verse and prose. You can tell if a passage is written in verse if:
a.) the words do not go all the way across the page;
b.) the first word on each line is capitalized, regardless of the sentence break;
c.) there is a regular rhythm of unstressed and stressed syllables;
d.) there are usually 10 or 11 syllables in each line.
You can tell if a passage is written in prose if:
a.) the words go all the way across the page;
b.) the first word of each line does not begin with a capital unless it is the first word of a sentence;
c.) the words do not share a consistent rhythmic pattern.
As a general rule (applicable in about 95% of the cases) you can assume that
a.) Upper class characters speak verse; lower class characters speak prose.
Conversation between Don Pedro and Claudio (upper class and serious) about marriage vs. the conversation Dogberry (humorous and lower class) has with his fellow watchmen.
b.) serious material will be in verse; comic material will be in prose;
conversation between Don Pedro and Claudio (upper class and serious) about marriage vs. the conversation Dogberry (humorous and lower class) has with his fellow watchmen.
c.) noble characters will speak verse; villains will speak prose;
d.) Romantic passages will be in verse; non-romantic passages in prose.
For example when Benedict and Beatrice profess their love for one another.
Change from prose to verse and vice-versa sometimes indicates a shift in the character (benedick and Beatrice professing their love).
Much ado about nothing is unusual for Shakespeare in that the characters speak in prose rather than verse most of the time. However, even when the passages are in prose, they contain the brilliant imagery typical of Shakespeare. The characters who speak most often in verse are Claudio and Hero, perhaps as part of an effort by Shakespeare to demonstrate—and sometimes to mock—their lofty feelings of love, and Leonato (also Antonio his brother), Don Pedro and Friar Francis, perhaps to express the formality of their roles as governor, prince and priest, respectively. Don John mostly talks in prose as he’s the villain. Benedick and Beatrice mostly talk in prose because their talk is mostly not serious. And when it is they talk in verse (at Hero’s wedding she talks in verse as it is a serious matter) (also when they profess their love to one another). Borachio mostly talks in prose but when he talks to Don Pedro his superior he talks in verse (after he is caught by the night watch). Also at the last scene where Claudio meets the mystery girl he is to marry is almost entirely in verse as it is a very serious matter (only the part where benedick and Beatrice tease each other at the end when benedick asks Beatrice to marry her is prose). Dogberry talks in prose as he tries to be an important person, this results in some funny conversations. Also he is from the lower class and most of the time they talk in prose. Margaret is one of Hero’s maids and most of the time she talks to Hero an upper class person and superior to Margaret. Therefore she talks in verse. Also the manner of the maids says something about the person they work for as they are responsible for how the maids act. And so they need to talk in a nice manner which is verse.
Almost all of Shakespeare’s verse is in called blank verse, meaning there are 10 or 11 syllables in each line, in iambic pentameter (five units or feet in an unstressed/stressed pattern) and the lines are unrhymed, or blank (the same). Sometimes Shakespeare will use verse which is rhymed with similar sounds at the end of the lines. Such rhymed passages are done to make the contents more formal (Claudio’s and Don Pedro’s speech before Hero’s tomb in Act V, scene 3 of Much Ado about Nothing)
Bawdy: Shakespeare’s name for sexual references. Bawdy can be explicit, as in Much Ado About Nothing when Beatrice in Act III., scene 4 at line 62 says, “I am stuffed,” meaning she has a cold; Margaret answers, “A maid [virgin] and stuffed [meaning pregnant]!” but also implicit and not so obvious. More examples:
Claudio: Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest your daughter told us of.
Leonato: O, when she had writ it and was reading it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?
First Claudio talks about the sheet of paper on which Beatrice love note to Benedick.
Leonato then refers to a bed sheet on which Hero found Benedick and Beatrice (this didn’t really happen just a joke).
Much ado about nothing
The title is a bawdy. This is because nothing was a slang term for vagina (in Shakespeare’s day).
“With a good leg and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world, if ’a [he] could get her good will” (II i 15-18). Beatrice says this to her uncle Leonato. Here the double entendres (double meanings) are leg (= “penis”), foot (= “fuck”), and will (= “sexual appetite”). Her uncle responds that she will never get a husband if she is “so shrewd of tongue.”
Benedick says to Beatrice: “I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thine eyes” (V ii 99-101). In a sexual context die meant ‘to experience orgasm’.
Malaprops: These are words which have been misused for comic effect. Often uneducated characters are shown misusing words, usually if they have two or more syllables, especially when they are trying to impress others. For example, in Much Ado About Nothing the uneducated constable Dogberry, who likes to act like an important person. He is full of malaprops.
Examples of his malaprops: The words in brackets are the right words (the word before them the malaprop)
1. “You are thought here to be the most senseless [sensible] and fit man for the constable of the watch” (3. 3. 11).
2. “True, and they are to meddle [mingle] with none but the prince’s subjects. You shall also make no noise in the streets; for, for the ....watch to babble and to talk is most tolerable [intolerable] and not to be endured” (3. 3. 15). Note: The use of for, for after streets is as Shakespeare wrote the words. The first for is a conjunction and the second, a preposition.
3. “Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much more [less] a man who hath any honesty in him” (3. 3. 25).
4. “Adieu: be vigitant, [vigilant] I beseech you” (3. 3. 36).
5. “Goodman Verges, sir, speaks a little off the matter: an old man, sir, and his wits are not so blunt [keen], as, God help, I would desire ....they were; but, in faith, honest as the skin between his brows” (3. 5. 9).
6. “Comparisons are odorous” [odious] (3. 5. 11).
7. “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended [apprehended] two a[u]spicious [suspicious] persons" (3. 5. 23).
8. “Is our whole dissembly [assembly] appeared?” (4. 2. 3).
9. “O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption [perdition] for this” (4. 2. 32).
Cuckoldry: A man whose wife was unfaithful was called a “cuckold.” This fear of betrayal was an obsession for Shakespeare’s male characters. The cuckold was associated with the cuckoo bird, which supposedly laid its eggs in other birds’ nests. According to folklore a cuckold grew horns out of his forehead, invisible to him but plainly seen by everyone else as a badge of his public humiliation. For example, when Benedick’s friends in Act I, scene 1, line 252 of Much Ado About Nothing, kid him about eventually bearing the yoke of marriage, he responds, “The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set/ them in my forehead.”
Analysis: Much ado about nothing
The title: Much ado about nothing
If you interpret it the way it is written on the cover, it really is much fuss about nothing. This is applicable to the play where there’s much fuss about little understandings. For example when Claudio sees Borachio making love to Margaret at Hero’s window, he directly concludes that Hero is cheating and decides to ruin her in front of everyone at the wedding. He could have just talked to her about it, then he would have known that there’s something not right. He then could have postponed the wedding so that he can figure out what happened. He actually sees a problem that is not there. Theirs is much ado about a problem that is not there.
Another explanation: In Shakespeare’s day nothing was pronounced like ‘noting’. If we apply this to the title we would have ´much ado about noting’. This would indicate an obsession around noting. Noting could mean ‘to take notice of something’, which would mean to eavesdrop, to observe. But the main point is that some characters in the play fail to note some things, like Claudio, deceived by Don John, failed to note that Hero was loyal woman. If you note something wrongly that would mean: misunderstand the meaning, mishear, misreport. Also one could deceive another to note something: Don John tricked Claudio into believing Hero was cheating on him, Claudio and his friends (Don Pedro, Hero) trick Benedick and Beatrice into believing that they love each other.
The most characters in the play participate in observing, listening, eavesdropping, deceiving or noting.
Also there’s a triple play on words in which noting signifies noticing, musical notes and nothing occurs at (2.3.47–52):
Don Pedro: Nay pray thee, come;
Or if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Do it in notes.
Balthasar: Note this before my notes:
There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.
Don Pedro: Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks –
Note notes, forsooth, and nothing!
The last line can be understood as: Pay attention to your music and nothing else.
There are big deceptions that influence a great deal of the play. The most important one is the deception of Claudio by Don John; he tricks him into believing that Hero is cheating on him. Another one is that Claudio and his friends (and Hero and his friends) tricked Benedick and Beatrice into believing that they love each other. Also at the dance Claudio thinks Don Pedro is helping him get to Hero. But Don John deceives Claudio into mistrusting Don Pedro and doubting Don Pedro’s intentions. Also Leonato and his gang tricked the rest of the world into believing that Hero has died out of shock. They did that to punish Claudio for shaming her at the wedding.
The aborted wedding ceremony, in which Claudio rejects Hero, accusing her of infidelity and violated chastity and publicly shaming her in front of her father, is the climax of the play. In Shakespeare’s time, a woman’s honor was based upon her virginity and chaste behavior. For a woman to lose her honor by having sexual relations before marriage meant that she would lose all social standing, a disaster from which she could never recover. Moreover, this loss of honor would poison the woman’s whole family. Thus, when Leonato rashly believes Claudio’s shaming of Hero at the wedding ceremony, he tries to obliterate her entirely: “Hence from her, let her die” (IV.i.153). Furthermore, he speaks of her loss of honor as an indelible stain from which he cannot distance himself, no matter how hard he tries: “O she is fallen / Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea / Hath drops too few to wash her clean again” (IV.i.138–140). For women in that era, the loss of honor was a form of annihilation.
For men, on the other hand, honor depended on male friendship alliances and was more military in nature. Unlike a woman, a man could defend his honor, and that of his family, by fighting in a battle or a duel. Beatrice urges Benedick to avenge Hero’s honor by dueling to the death with Claudio. As a woman, Hero cannot seize back her honor, but Benedick can do it for her via physical combat.
Don John plays upon Claudio’s pride and fear of cuckoldry, which leads to the disastrous first wedding scene. Because of their mistrust of female sexuality, many of the males easily believe that Hero is impure and even her father readily condemns her with very little proof. This motif runs through the play, often in references to horns, a symbol of cuckoldry. Zie. Cuckoldry bij literary devices.
The characters in the play constantly struggle to maintain their social positions. Benedick and Claudio must constantly strive to remain in Don Pedro’s favor. When Claudio silently agrees to let Don Pedro take his place to woo Hero, it is quite possible that he does so not because he is too shy to woo the woman himself, but because he must accede to Don Pedro’s authority in order to stay in Don Pedro’s good favor. When Claudio believes that Don Pedro has deceived him and wooed Hero not for Claudio but for himself, he cannot drop his polite civility, even though he is full of despair. Claudio remains polite and nearly silent even though he is upset, telling Benedick of Don Pedro and Hero: “I wish him joy of her” (II.i.170). Clearly, Claudio chooses his obedience to Don Pedro over his love for Hero. His strict connection with social standings eventually leads him into a trap. He abandons Hero at the wedding because Don John leads him to believe that she is cheating on him (unchaste: onzuiver-> geen maagd meer) (marriage to an unchaste woman would be socially unacceptable).
Beatrice: the niece of Leonato. She is smart, good looking, funny, feisty, cynical, witty and sharp. She keeps up a ‘merry war’ of wits with Benedick. She is also very independent hated the idea of marriage at first but later because of Claudio’s (and his friends) deception she thinks she loves Benedick and then the idea of marriage isn’t that strange anymore. Also this deception opens up her sensitive side (to the audience). The play suggests a long time ago she fell in love with Benedick and he led her on and so their relationship ended. <-“I know you of old,” she told Benedick. She has a love-hate relationship with Benedick.
Benedick: A warrior loyal to Don Pedro and the male equivalent of Beatrice. He is also very witty and against marriage (this also changes with him due to the deception). By the time Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio and he agrees, you know that he is committed to her. He then switched his allegiances from Don Pedro and his best friend Claudio over to Beatrice.
Don Pedro: Prince of Aragon. He is the most powerful character in the play. He uses his power to toward positive ends. He takes it upon himself to put Beatrice and Benedick together and arranges the marriage for Hero and Claudio. Interestingly, Don Pedro makes half-advances on both Hero and Beatrice (asking her to marry him in the masked dance) in the play – perhaps this explains his sadness in the final scene when he is the only nobleman without a wife. This could be his inner sadness. This makes his motives rather unclear. He insisted on wooing Hero for Claudio at the dance, only to inform her of his love for her. He could have just told Leonato. This makes me think that he as a ulterior motive but that the goodness of his heart wins it from the sadness and therefore he is a good person makes the right decisions (although the sadness sometimes makes him act differently).
But then again this uncertainty about his motives and personality makes him one of the most interesting characters in the play.
Don John: The illegitimate half-brother of Don Pedro. The villain of the play. He almost needs no motivation at all to create an evil scheme to ruin the happiness of Hero and Claudio. As he says himself: “I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain.” Before the play begins, Don John had been leading a rebellion against his brother – which is the battle Don Pedro and his men return triumphant from in the opening scene of the play. Although he claims to be “reconciled” to his brother, he secretly wants revenge for his defeat. It is probable that his rebellion was caused by his jealousy of his brother. Pedro had everything (but love) and he was just ‘the bastard’ who had no right on that everything at all.
Claudio: Young soldier loyal to Don Pedro. Claudio falls in love with Hero upon his return to Messina. His unfortunately suspicious nature makes him quick to believe evil rumors (of Don John) and hasty to despair and take revenge (on Hero). This makes him rather hard to sympathize with. He falls in love with Hero and then quickly after believing one rumor he wants to take revenge. He acts out of his sense of honor and is too impulsive. When he is shamed by Hero he vows to take revenge as his honor was damaged.
Hero: The lovely gentle and kind daughter of Leonato. In the beginning of the play she falls in love with Claudio. Their love resembles a typical relationship between a man and a woman (compared to the strange relationship Beatrice and Benedick have). She is probably the most good-hearted character in the play. She is pure goodness and has no flaws. She is also quick to forgive Claudio who shamed her in front of everyone. She was just shocked not angry nor did she want to take revenge. This builds on her good personality and public can easily sympathize with her. Also her sweet gentle nature contrasts with that of Beatrice. They are each other’s opposite.
Leonato: Governor of Messina, father of Hero, uncle of Beatrice. He is also quick to believe that his daughter cheated on Claudio, he directly wants to kill her. He is probably the only character in the play with enough authority to give Don Pedro a piece of his mind. The honor of his family is very important to him, and he suffers greatly when Don John’s plan destroys this. But generally he is wise, friendly and well-respected.
Antonio: loyal to his younger brother Leonato. He is also the father figure of Beatrice. He is furious when Claudio shames Hero and challenges the younger man to a duel. He later pretends to be Hero's father at the final wedding at the end.
Margaret: Hero’s serving woman, who unwittingly helps Borachio and Don John deceive Claudio into thinking that Hero is unfaithful. Unlike Ursula, Hero’s other lady-in-waiting, Margaret is lower class. Also unlike Ursula, Margaret loves to break decorum, especially with bawdy jokes and teases.
Borachio: An associate of Don John. Borachio is the lover of Margaret, Hero’s serving woman. He conspires with Don John to trick Claudio and Don Pedro into thinking that Hero is unfaithful to Claudio. His name means “drunkard” in Italian, which is applicable as while he is drunk tells the watch men of Don John’s evil scheme and what he has done.
Conrade: One of Don John’s more intimate associates entirely devoted to Don John.
Balthasar: A waiting man in Leonato’s household and a musician. Balthasar flirts with Margaret at the masked party and helps Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro trick Benedick into falling in love with Beatrice. Balthasar sings the song, “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more” about accepting men’s infidelity as natural.
Dogberry: The constable in charge of the Watch, or chief policeman, of Messina. Dogberry is very sincere and takes his job seriously, but he has a habit of using exactly the wrong word to convey his meaning. Dogberry is one of the middle-class characters, in the play, though his desire to speak formally and elaborately like the noblemen becomes an occasion for parody. His sentences are full of malaprops.
Friar Francis: A smart man who was meant to marry Hero and Claudio. He comes up with an ingenious plan. He tells Leonato to let everyone believe that Hero is dead so her reputation can be salvaged after Claudio accuses her of infidelity.