Throughout Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the main characters often get exposed to deception. Nevertheless, the play is set up in a way to have the audience understand that the most deliberate deceptions could be either spiteful or benevolent. The key strength of the play is that it presents deceit as something that is not inherently evil, meaning that there could be good and bad ends that have to be attained as a result. For Shakespeare, it was an important task to present the play characters as humans and not some fictitious characters. When he described people fooling each other and seeking reconciliation and redemption, Much Ado About Nothing became even closer to real life. One would easily believe that the events described in the play could have occurred to anyone. The central theme of Much Ado About Nothing is that malevolent and benevolent deceptions could be hard to distinguish.
One of the most evident examples of questionable deceit in the play is the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. Even though they both are fooled into believing that they have warm feelings toward each other, Benedick and Beatrice fall in love toward the end of the play. The literary device that Shakespeare utilizes to describe Beatrice’s communique is a metaphor: “She speaks poniards [daggers], and every word stabs.”
Another time when deceit has a direct effect on the main characters but cannot be described as either benevolent or malicious is the relationship between Claudio, Hero, and Don Pedro. The initiation of Don John causes Claudio to suspect Don Pedro, even though there were no particular reasons for it except for the desire to woo Hero. Another metaphor is used by Shakespeare to show Don Pedro’s involvement in Claudio and Hero’s relationship, as he intends “to bring Signior Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the one with the other.”
The last example of deceit being a means to an end in Much Ado About Nothing is Claudio being lied to about Hero’s death. Claudio then comes back and experiences the feeling of guilt, having to wed blindly. Prior to that, Shakespeare utilizes repetition to strengthen the effect of Beatrices’s commentary on the failed wedding: “Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but / foul breath, and foul breath is noisome.”