Act II – Much Ado About Nothing
Respond to one of the following prompts in a cohesive 2-3 page essay. You do not have to answer all of the
questions in the prompt (these are offered to get you thinking); rather you should craft an essay that takes
up the general issue presented in the prompt and responds to it in a clear, coherent piece. Essays should
include an introduction with clear thesis; a clear line of argumentation; corroborating evidence in the form of
citations from the text or from scholarly writings and/or detailed and specific examples from the play and
the viewing; a strong conclusion; and a Works Cited page. The essay must meet format requirements listed
in the syllabus, including following the MLA style guide.
Choose a scene from Shakespeare’s play and analyze how it is staged in the version that you watched
(make sure to indicate which version you watched by including both the year and the director when you
introduce that version in your essay). Consider how different choices (set, costume, lighting, sound,
choreography, style, mise-en-scene, composition (or what happens in the film frame or on the stage), etc.)
interprets and brings to life what is described on the page by Shakespeare. Focus on how two
design/production elements are used to convey particular meanings and emotions to the viewer. If your
selection is one of the film versions, be sure to consider film’s ability to replace dialogue with visual images.
In Much Ado About Nothing, we again see Shakespeare deal with the notion of how the appearance of
something is at odds with reality, but this time it revolves around counterfeiting or concealing one’s true
feelings about another, whether for good or for evil purposes (or by good or bad people). Indeed, the motif
of masking permeates the play, which features a masked ball and masked brides in the final scenes. In a
similar vein, everyone’s conversations are constantly being overheard and dissected, sometimes being
misunderstood and sometimes providing insight into the truth. How does trickery or deceit function in the
play, and what does it say about the characters, about love, about theatre and performance, or about the
world? Are the tensions the play raises about trickery resolved with the weddings, or does it remain?
Consider how language and gender intersect in the play. Throughout, language is metaphorically
weaponized. It can be used by women to assert agency, as when Beatrice spars with Benedick. Literally
calling her words armaments of war, Benedick says, “She speaks poinards, and every word stabs.” Words
can also cause ruin, as when Don John convinces Claudio that Hero has been untrue. What does it mean
that language does so much? For this question, you can concentrate on how language operates in the play,
or you can concentrate on how women use language to assert agency, or how language is used by others
to control, contain, and defame women.