Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme
Marriage, Shame and Freedom
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.