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Much Ado About Nothing - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz will challenge you on themes in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Any work of literature will contain multiple themes; these will range from the obvious to the subtle. Individual themes also interact with one another so that it is often misleading to talk of a single theme in isolation. Setting, character, plot and dialogue provide vehicles for the development of a text’s various themes. Pay close attention to any concepts and ideas which you notice arising in different parts of the text; these are its dominant themes.

One method of analysis is to trace the development of a theme over the course of a text, paying attention to related ideas and the different ways in which these are expressed.

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Before writing about a particular theme, check whether your view at the beginning of the text matches the view you hold at the end. Have your ideas changed? Can you identify the point in the text where your views on that theme began to change?

The themes of a text are the conduits through which authors communicate meaning to the audience. Ideally, a reader will reconsider prior beliefs and ways of looking at the world, even if these are merely reconfirmed (although there is also the possibility of change). Whenever a text challenges you, the author has successfully encouraged you to engage with one or more of its themes. Remember that you might not necessarily share the same views as other readers; you might even find that you disagree strongly with others, including your teacher. Your response to a text will be deeply personal, which is inevitable when you bring your own thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration as you read.

Much Ado About Nothing deals with themes of love, marriage, familial relationships, deceit and disguise, gender and power, illegitimacy, and the weight of societal expectation. As in any text, these themes are interrelated, rather than acting in isolation.

Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of Much Ado About Nothing.

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  1. "It were possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you, but believe me not, and yet I lie not. I confess nothing nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin." Which of the following is a key word in these lines spoken by Beatrice?
    Beatrice is still playing with words, although she wishes to deflect attention away from her towards the injustice her cousin has suffered. Everything she confirms to Benedick is expressed through negation, she loves "nothing" more than him, will confirm "nothing" and deny "nothing". This very conversation is "nothing" compared to the shaming of her cousin
  2. Beatrice compares courtship and love to a dance which begins quickly and in a lively manner and ends in a slow, staid style. At the end of the play Benedick asks for a dance. What is significant about his request?
    Benedick implies that this last dance before the wedding might be their last chance for merriment
  3. What does Leonato say would be better than his daughter's dishonour?
    Leonato and Hero inhabit a culture based on the idea of honour. Hero's supposed loss of virginity before marriage is a dishonour to herself and to her father, who believes her death preferable to his dishonour
  4. Which of the following events is NOT brought about through deception?
    The friends and family of Beatrice and Benedick deceive them about one another; Claudio believes the lies about Hero staged and spread by Don John; Hero's "death" is a deception which prompts Claudio's agreement to marry her non-existent cousin. Despite his foolishness, Dogberry is able to perceive the truth beyond the plot against Hero
  5. Which of the following lines spoken by Leonato best expresses the relationship of father to daughter in this play?
    For Leonato, his daughter is a prize possession, who loses her value when she is tainted by slander. His pride and love for her are inseparable from the notion that she belongs to him and can be bestowed by him onto another man
  6. Leonato says of Beatrice and Benedick, "There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them." How is the "merry war" resolved?
    Much of the language applied to the relationship between men and women is drawn from the battlefield ("skirmish", for example). Was either party victorious in the "merry war"?
  7. The uneasy relationship between men and women is a prominent theme of Much Ado About Nothing. Which of the following aspects of the play does NOT relate to this theme?
    The placid social exterior masks deep anxieties about the relationship between the sexes. Beatrice and Benedick stand out by their open acknowledgement of the tensions
  8. Which of the following is correct?
    Society finds Bendick's and Beatrice's unconventional singlehood threatening
  9. What do Don Pedro's wooing of Hero and Borachio's scene in the bedroom window with Margaret share in common?
    Both the wooing of Hero and the false accusation against her are achieved through disguise. Interestingly, when Beatrice talks to the disguised Benedick, she uses the opportunity to abuse his character, implying that she is well aware of his identity beneath the disguise
  10. DON PEDRO: I think this is your daughter.
    LEONATO: Her mother hath many times told me so.
    Leonato's joke relates to which of the play's themes?
    Illegitimacy, and the belief that most women cheat on their husbands, is one of the themes of the text. Interestingly, the only character known to be illegitimate, Don John, is the result of his father's affair outside marriage, not his mother's. Leonato jokes here, but later insists that Hero cannot be his own child

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