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    William Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing, Act III, Scene II

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    Venomously Don John spreads this fraudulent information: “The lady is disloyal. The word is too good to paint out her wickedness, I could say she were worse, think you of a worse title, and I will fit her to it: go but with me tonight, you shall see her chamber window entered, even the night before her wedding day: if you love her, then tomorrow wed her: but it would better fit your honour to change your mind”. Interestingly Claudio, without a word to the woman he supposedly has lost his heart to, accepts the word of the bastard Don John and falsely believes that what he is seeing is the truth.

    Without hesitation he makes the decision to denunciate and publicly humiliate his intended bride Hero at the altar on their wedding day just hours later. Ironically it is also gossip that resolves this tragedy and restores Messina back to its frivolous, lively and superficial lifestyle. Borachio and his accomplice are caught gossiping about their role in the deception of Claudio by the two incompetent watchmen, Verges and Dogberry, which leads to the arrest of the criminals and sees Hero’s innocence restored.

    Thus we can conclude that gossip in ““Much Ado About Nothing”” has multiple consequences ranging from the happy to the catastrophic. Gossip not only has the power to create conflict but also the power to resolve it. So how does this answer the question as to whether gossip is good or bad? Gossip depends on who is gossiping and for what reason. It has the power to heal and the power to destroy. As Timothy Hallet once said “A lot of it depends on perspective.

    If you are on the receiving end, gossip can feel malicious and exclusionary but idle talk can also be a valuable weapon” These prophetic words are epitomised by the disgrace and shame Hero felt when she was wrongly accused on her wedding day and the enormous pleasure it gave Don John to watch his clever manipulation of gossip strip Claudio of his honour, which proves that gossip can only be judged when we analyse its effect. Let us assume for a moment that Hero actually had acted unfaithfully.

    Now it would be fair to say that gossip would be a very valuable tool in this situation, because Hero would not be able to hide her actions as people would know that she was not chaste and Claudio would be saved from the humiliation of marrying a ‘stale, a wanton’. There is no denying that gossip is a powerful weapon which moves in silent ways and can define for people the accepted limits that society imposes on personal behaviour, without any direct confrontation.

    Thus gossip can be interpreted as a positive thing because it has the power to change and alter human behaviour. This example also illustrates the subjective nature of gossip and proves that gossip generally has both a positive and a negative effect on its participants. Usually the gossiper is enjoying the experience and the gossiped about is squirming, feeling humiliated and belittled. In ““Much Ado About Nothing”” characters use gossip as a mask for the truth, a disguise for reality and a camouflage to protect their insecurities.

    Gossip is their way of avoiding a confrontation over the serious question of love and gossip helps maintain the merry atmosphere ever present on Messina’s surface, whilst the mistrust underneath its surface threatens to destroy it. Gossiping provides an alternate pathway for expressing opinions that could be seen as unacceptable. In ““Much Ado About Nothing”” the people of Messina use gossip as a way to force Beatrice and Benedick to admit they love each other. The fact is that these two individuals are in an ongoing, contentious battle and bluntly refuse to acknowledge any inklings of feelings for each other.

    If one were to confront them directly this would begin a new battle in their merry war of wit. Gossip is the tool which releases the love they have for each other and protects them from the potential shame, scorn and, refute that a truthful encounter would bring. Gossip is both a weapon and a shield. Gossip is the catalyst for society to say what they believe is true. Yet gossip ignores any really serious discussion of the underlying issues that need to be addressed, leaving the mood of society relatively unchanged.

    It is a powerful tool dependent upon how we use it and may be malicious with intent or constructive for the good of the community. Shakespeare shows us how gossip has the potential to create and destroy love, the strongest of all our emotions and how dependent on whose perspective we look at it from. Gossip has drastically different connotations, but used carefully and wisely, it is a positive force, enabling communities to come together and bond. However when used destructively gossip has the power to destroy all within its icy clutches.

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    William Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing, Act III, Scene II. (2018, Jan 09). Retrieved from

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