Much Ado About Nothing

Don John as a Threat to Comedy in Much Ado About Nothing

The world presented in Much Ado About Nothing is populated mostly by noble characters: The Prince of Aragon, Lord Claudio, Lord Benedick, The Governor of Messina and his daughter and niece. These characters embody the courtly ideas of social grace and wit, qualities that drive the comedic nature of the play. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, by Russ MacDonald, notes other qualities driving the comedy, stating, "The characters act on their intuition that the world is good, that life is worth living, that conflict will ultimately find a positive resolution. (153) Don John, lacking grace and wit, is the antithesis of these ideas, seeing the world as awful, life as depressing, and hopeful that he can create conflicts to ensure a negative resolution. Although he is the catalyst that creates the necessary chaos from which harmony ultimately arises, his nature is so malicious that it threatens to transcend this role of catalyst and completely destroy the play's comedy.

Don John makes his first appearance as his group of men, recently victorious in war, has just made its celebratory arrival at Leonato's residence. He wastes no time in darkening the bright and jovial atmosphere of the play. After the exchange of humorous...

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