Notes on Much Ado about Nothing Themes

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Much Ado about Nothing Topic Tracking: Mistaken Identity

Act 1, Scenes 1-3

Mistaken Identity 1: Benedick teases Leonato about Hero's true parentage. Leonato makes a friendly joke about Hero, his daughter, saying that he knows Hero is his daughter because her mother has told him many times that it is so. Although Don Pedro and Leonato are speaking friendly and in jest, Benedick's remarks about the identity of Hero's father could cause a mistaken identity to ensue. This instance of possible mistaken identity causes no further plot movement in the play, but is a light example of the problems to come. In addition, parentage could never be truly identified at this time, so the identity of a child's father was often called in to question.

Mistaken Identity 2: Don Pedro tells Claudio that he will dress in a costume and pretend to be Claudio, so to speak. He will woo Hero for himself and then turn her over to Claudio. This confusion of identity will cause slight problems for the friends during the party.

Mistaken Identity 3: Leonato and Antonio believe to have overheard the prince's conversation with Claudio. They think that the prince is in love with Hero and plans to woo her for himself, not for Claudio. They instruct Hero to accept the proposition of the prince and do not know that Claudio is the man in love with Hero.

Act 2, Scenes 1-3

Mistaken Identity 4: Claudio temporarily assumes the role of Benedick. He is in costume, as is everyone else at the party, and therefore can pretend to be any man he chooses. Don John and Borachio tell Claudio (mistakenly represented as Benedick) that the prince woos Hero for himself. Not only is Claudio supposedly mistaken for Benedick, but he also mistakes the prince's purpose in wooing Hero. This confusion and mistaking of identity causes Claudio to become enraged and jealous.

Mistaken Identity 5: Don John tells Borachio of his plan to cause mischief. The root of his evil scheme lies in the mistaking of identities by the principle players in the plot. He intends to instruct Borachio to show affection towards one another in plain view at Hero's window and call Margaret by the name of Hero. This intended mistaking of identity is designed to provoke anger and destroy a marriage.

Act 3, Scenes 1-5

Mistaken Identity 6: A drunk Borachio proudly tells Conrade of his affair of the evening. He mistook Margaret for Hero on purpose so that the prince and Claudio would see the encounter from a window. He also explains how the two honest men believed what they saw and completely mistook Margaret for Hero.

Act 4, Scenes 1-2

Mistaken Identity 7: Friar Francis tells Leonato, Benedick, Beatrice, Antonio, and Hero his plan to ensure the honor of Hero's name. Everyone in Messina will believe Hero to be dead because of the slander she endured at her wedding; her name and her blessed life will be remembered well. Although different people are not confused in this scenario, one person's life is mistaken for death.

Act 5, Scenes 1-4

Mistaken Identity 8: When Antonio and Leonato confront Claudio and Don Pedro for the death of Hero, the two young soldiers again hold firm to their belief that they witnessed Hero with another man. The mistaken identity of Hero has not changed over time because they return to the fact that they witnessed the disloyalty with their own eyes. They believe their sight would not fail them to identify the true culprits.

Mistaken Identity 9: Leonato tells Claudio that he will be exonerated if he marries his niece, Antonio's daughter, who is supposedly a carbon copy of Hero. Claudio promises to do so in the morning. Hero's identity, once again, will be mistaken for a false identical cousin. Claudio is also mistaken in his belief that Hero is dead and that this niece is truly another person.

Mistaken Identity 10: As Claudio places the epitaph on Hero's monument, he is in mourning. He believes Hero to be dead. This mistaken identity is again, not of distinct people, but of the life and death of one person.

Mistaken Identity 11: When Hero unmasks herself at the new wedding, everyone in Messina is shocked. At first Claudio believes Hero to be Antonio's daughter, mistaking her identity by believing the rumors. However, he realizes that she is alive and that Hero's identity is true. She is innocent and very much alive. This wedding proves all mistaken identities to be transformed to truth. All confusion that led up to this point is now history and Hero and Claudio plan to marry.

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