Much Ado About Nothing - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. A fictional work’s setting includes the location and the time in which events take place. In a play, events which occur offstage will have an effect on characters, even though the audience only hears of these second-hand. Such offstage events constitute a key component of a play’s setting, and are known as context (although you should bear in mind the difference between the fictional context of a play’s setting and the author’s real-life context). Atmosphere is another key element of setting and in a play, it is usually a product of staging. Some playwrights explicitly describe the atmosphere they wish to be created onstage. In Much Ado About Nothing the atmosphere is created primarily through dialogue, the interaction between characters and the use of deceit and spying to gain information. Violence simmers beneath the light and sparkling dialogue.

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Pay close attention to the setting of the text you are studying. This is an important step in your analysis. In what way does the world the characters inhabit affect the decisions made over the course of the plot? Much Ado About Nothing presents a gracious, restful environment, an idyllic setting in which Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedick may take a break from the business of war. Their arrival brings its own strains and stresses to this environment.

Geographical setting includes the country, region or city; the environment, whether this is urban or rural; any buildings or other places where events occur; and also the weather, season or time of day. Do events occur in the same place or in different locations? Is the play set in a specific time, or are such details left vague? Do any characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? Are different settings contrasted with one another?

It can be useful sometimes to consider why texts are set in places other than where they were written. Many of Shakespeare’s plays, for example, are set in Catholic countries elsewhere in Europe, rather than in Protestant England. Can you think of any reasons why an author might choose to set a text in the same time, but in an exotic place? Does this change our understanding of the play?

Answer the questions below on setting in Much Ado About Nothing.

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  1. Benedick asks to be sent to the furthest ends of the earth rather than spend time speaking with Beatrice. Which one of the following is a place he mentions?
    Through reference to many legendary or semi-legendary people, he volunteers to go to Asia, to Mongolia, and to Ethiopia as well. The "Antipodes" literally means whatever place on Earth would be directly opposite to Benedick's location
  2. The play contains several scenes in which someone is spying on another. Where is Beatrice when she overhears Ursula and Hero discussing Benedick's love for her?
    Beatrice hides in an arbour covered in honeysuckle; the beautiful leisure garden is a stereotypical setting in which to discuss matters of love
  3. Which of the following serves as a stage for the characters?
    Borachio and Margaret enact their performance in the window, while an audience watches. The orchard also serves as a stage, where the conspirators perform for their unsuspecting audiences. The audience of the play never sees the scenes which take place in Hero's window, but only hears them reported by others
  4. From where do Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedick arrive?
    Sicily was under the Crown of Aragon, Aragon being the part of Spain where Don Pedro is from. He and the other men have been fighting in a war, whose location is vague
  5. Where does the masked ball take place?
    Don John's companion, Borachio, is employed to perfume the room in Leonato's house where the masked ball will take place. This is where he overhears Don Pedro's plan
  6. Which of the following scenes takes place at night?
    Dogberry sends the watchman out with a lantern as well as strict instructions regarding his duties. The secret conspiracies of Don John cannot bypass the watchful eyes of Messina, even when these belong to fools
  7. When is the play set?
    Being part of the Kingdom of Aragon places the play at least in the late-medieval period, but the details are vague. Messina seems rather set apart from the rest of the world
  8. On which island is Much Ado About Nothing set?
    The play takes place in Messina, a city in Sicily
  9. Where does Hero "die"?
    Hero "dies" when publicly shamed by Claudio and is "reborn" when brought to Claudio as her uncle Antonio's niece. The "rebirth" is followed by a return to the church
  10. Where is Benedick when he overhears Claudio and Don Pedro discussing Beatrice's love for him?
    Benedick hides himself in an arbour, not realising that Claudio and Don Pedro are fully aware of his presence

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