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Sensory Confusion and the Generation Gap in Much Ado About Nothing

Paul Innes

In Much Ado About Nothing, characters repeatedly stage moments designed to confuse other figures, a good example being the machinations aimed at Beatrice and Benedick. However, the play contains many more instances in which misrepresentation plays with truth. The supposed offstage seduction of Hero signals the audience that what this unseen (to them) event means will be crucial, making them focus upon the meanings given to the event by the characters. Critics have often noted that the young noblemen get it wrong, and that the play then ironically counterpoints this by making the useless constabulary get it right by apprehending the culprit; they also usually marginalise the older characters, especially the Friar, who is relegated to a plot-function. However, given the play's insistence on perception and misunderstanding, this article revisits their importance in performance as a group that avoids the mistakes made by the younger generation.

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