Some will discredit the importance of a valuable, thought out, and auguring title. However, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” provides all evidence needed to disprove these claims with its alluring use of symbolism in its name, which intertwines with the book in more ways than one.
In William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” miscommunication, confusion, trickery, and voyeurism run rampant as consistent motifs in the plot. This is not unintentional, however, as is illustrated in the play’s title. The word “nothing,” pronounced “noting” in Shakespeare’s time, is speculated to exemplify the themes of the play of facades and double-facedness. “Noting,” in Shakespearean language, meant to deceitfully engage in eavesdropping, voyeurism, and other matters of the sort. This is displayed throughout the play with its importance in literal dialogue, with Don Pedro and Hero’s hornswoggling foolery, and with its metaphorical importance in the story.
The first use of “noting” in “Much Ado About Nothing” is its appearance in literal dialogue.
The curious application of this throughout the play shows the many complexities ingrained in Shakespeare’s creative work. The first use of the term in the text is quite literal. Claudio inquires if Benedick has observed Hero, to which Benedick responds “I noted her not; but I looked on her.” This shows an unvarnished execution of the term, not as an action or verb, but as a lexical exclamation on the behalf of Benedick seeing, not spying, the daughter of Signior Leonato. After this, it is seen used by Don Pedro and Balthasar in an almost satirical manner.
Don Pedro requests Balthasar’s sincere transparency when singing of love. In response, Balthasar exclaims “Note this before my notes; There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting,” comically stating his lack of will to woo through music. As is illustrated here, the use of “noting” in literal dialogue in “Much Ado About Nothing” is littered throughout the story. From Claudio and Benedicks first embellished observance of Hero, to Don Pedro and Balthasar’s contentment.
Coincidentally, the second use of “noting” in the play includes Don Pedro as well. This use is, of course, in Don Pedro and Hero’s hornswoggling foolery. Don Pedro, impatient in all matters, hatches a scheme to have Beatrice and Benedick discover their clandestine love for each other. In doing such, Hero has Beatrice overhear, or note, Benedick confess his secret, but strong, love for her. Likewise, Don Pedro has Benedick eavesdrop on a conversation with Beatrice in which she states her undying love for him. This display of “noting” in the play is literal; the act of snooping, eavesdropping or surveying from afar. To act as a silent sleuth, an uninvited gumshoe, or an invisible investigator.
The third, and final, use of “noting” in the play is as a metaphorical object; a theme in the fable. The entire story revolves around characters knowing things that they should not and deceptively learning information from an outsiders view. Almost every deed taken by Don Pedro and Hero, while not literally an act of eavesdropping or tomfoolery, is reminiscent of “noting,” and portrays its values on a grander scale. While true information is gained by the characters doing this, some also cause much to do over a misunderstanding. Claudio and Don John wrongfully observe and prematurely note Hero’s faithfulness, or lack thereof, illustrating that misinformation is spread by misnoting as well.
Some will dismiss the importance of this concept in “Much Ado About Nothing,” saying that it is an unintentional addition, merely a coincidence, or that it is simply a side effect of Shakespeare’s work, stemming from his unique and original print as a product of his individualistic writing style. The first of these claims, that it is merely a coincidence, does not hold well when you consider the sheer amount of accidental conformity that would be required to deem this true. Throughout the entirety of the book, “noting” is used in statements, actions, and story arcs; far too many times for it to simply be a coincidence.
The second opposing statement presented here, suggesting that the use of the term “noting” is present only because of Shakespeare’s penned tongue, cannot be proven true either due to the fact that Shakespeare never used the term in any other of his works prior to, or following, “Much Ado About Nothing”. This shows that the dialogue was chosen specifically for the play’s text to illustrate the complexities of the characters and story arcs in a more tangible way.
In conclusion, “noting” in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is displayed throughout the play with literal dialogue, Don Pedro and Hero’s hornswoggling foolery, and it’s metaphorical importance in the story. This proves important because it is a crucial part of the story that elevates the themes, character relations, and comedy to a new level.