Much Ado About Nothing Continues – Is Margaret Innocent?

I have continued reading through Much Ado About Nothing which you can watch below. Here we are at act 3 scene 2 to act 3 scene 5. This is where Don John and Borachio put there plan into action and we are first introduced to the Prince’s Watch.

Having read through this and talked about my ideas as I went there are a few other thoughts I’ve had since:

Don John and Benedick

Did Don John intentionally wait for Benedick to leave before slandering Hero to Don Pedro and Claudio? We see later in the Play that Benedick really distrusts Don John and is happy to place all the blame on him without any actual evidence, so perhaps Don John avoided him on purpose. Don John is seemingly unaware of the trick Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato have played on Benedick so would have no reason to think Benedick would be sympathetic to Hero and yet he doesn’t include Benedick in the plan. Alternatively maybe Don John thinks better of Benedick’s sense or fairness than many others seem to. Whatever his reasons Don John had provided further separation between Benedick and Don Pedro and Claudio.

The Power of the Watch

We are introduced to the watch in such a way that we see their ideas, beliefs and approach to their duties so that we can be left in no doubt about their general idiocy. Their leader Dogberry has no intention of them actually catching any criminals but enjoys knowing that they have the power to do so. I think the utter ridiculousness of these men having power highlights how little the women have and how arrogant and elitist the leaders are. They are able to capture villains of the play and unravel their plots without having a clue what is going on. We see later that the women, despite their testimonies and evidence are unable to fight their corner.

We also see that the watch had the power to completely collapse Don John’s scheme when they visited Leonato. As the plan they had overheard involved Hero it would have been the most obvious thing in the world to simply alert Leonato to it without it going public, however it is Dogberry and Verges that visit that visit Leonato, not the watchmen who captured Borachio. This is another case of the male leaders’ arrogance and dismissiveness of those below them resulting in lesser results.

Is Margaret Innocent?

The more I read Much Ado About Nothing, the more interesting I find Margaret as a character. For a waiting lady her presence in a scene is often more notable than Hero’s. She is considered quick witted and beautiful by Beatrice and Benedick respectively and her observations and comments are often very confident and shrewd, In many ways she is presented be very similar to Beatrice but without her position in society. She is part of the plan to trick Beatrice into loving Benedick, and also (supposedly unwittingly) part of the plan to fool Don Pedro and Claudio into shaming Hero. She is seemingly all knowing and always nearby whenevr anything interesting happens.

With all this in mind, this is something that has bugged for a long time. Borachio’s plan involved Margaret, in the middle of the night, leaning out of Hero’s window, wearing Hero’s clothes, hearing herself be called Hero and behaving inappropriately towards Borachio (including talking loudly enough that Don Pedro and Claudio hidden in the orchard could hear them) all while Hero was away. Somehow we are meant to believe that Margaret would do all this naturally as a personal choice without knowing there is some sort of plan afoot. To me it sounds unlikely. The following day we see Margaret acting perfectly naturally around Hero as if nothing has happened. Admittedly the serving classes were held to a different standard of behaviour than the higher classes, but still it doesn’t sit well. It’s possible that the relationship between Borachio and Margaret was such that Margaret would go along with a suggestion of his without requiring and explanation, but to me it’s more plausible that Margaret had some knowledge of the scheme, if not all of it. We know she is a good judge of character and situations so I just can’t make myself beleive that she wouldn’t notice something was up here.

I think there’s further evidence to support this argument in later scenes but I’ll mention that in a future post.

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