Theater Entry – Much Ado About Nothing

Because the play takes place outside of London, the possibilities within the play open up. To most of the audience, Messina is in a sense unreal, because of that, the play can have more leeway with its plot devices. From what I understand, the play probably came from an Italian story, so placing the play in Messina probably gave Shakespeare’s audience a context from which to understand the plot. Perhaps Italy is seen as a place of romance. It’s probably easier to believe such unlikely endings take place in a foreign land, and not your hometown. It’s easier to romanticize and idealize a place you’ve only heard stories about.

To the modern audience, such marriages are entirely unreal, however, the setting in both place and time allow a suspension of disbelief for the action of the plot. We can accept Hero being treated as an object, men dueling, and the attitude of the upper class because we know them to belong to a different time and place. The setting allows a modern audience to not be completely repelled by the treatment of women and the portrayed idiocy of the lower classes. Just as we can listen to stories of a land somewhere over the rainbow, we can listen to a story of a land far away in a time long ago, and accept a social reality that would repel us if it still existed. For Shakespeare, placing the story in another land is a much safer way to offer commentary on his own people. If he is saying something about social class in London, its probably much safer for him to code it within a space that doesn’t exist or tie directly to his own space.