So what exactly is meant by the term 'noting?' Noting refers to the act of mindfully noticing what is going on by observing and listening. You have probably heard this when you are told to ''take note'' when something important is about to happen, or when you should be paying close attention. The term can be used to mock or it can be used to genuinely inform.
Specifically in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the act of noting is used by characters to manipulate others in the play, as well as to reveal the truth of deceptions made. Characters are set up to observe or hear something that is simply not what it appears.
We will go over some specific examples of noting in the play, as well as look at some quotes that show how this act of listening and observing was used. Let's get started.
Noting in Much Ado About Nothing
In the play, many schemes and manipulations take place because a character has noted the actions and conversations of others. Some of these manipulations intend to bring about happiness, while other schemes are set up to cause trouble. Additionally, some noting done by characters is quite unintentional. In this way, Shakespeare uses noting to reveal truths to the audience or other characters in the play.
Let's take a closer look.
Manipulated Noting With Good Intentions
Beatrice and Benedick, two main characters in the play, bicker like crazy, but seem to be in love with one another. Choosing to play Cupid, their friends set up scenarios where Beatrice and Benedick will note how each supposedly feels about the other.
First, Benedick's friends (Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio) arrange to purposely hold a conversation about Beatrice's feelings for Benedick loud enough that he hears it. It begins with Don Pedro asking Leonato, 'What was it you told me to-day, that your niece Beatrice was in love with Signoir Benedick?' To which Claudio comes in to reply, 'O, ay: (Aside to Don Pedro) Stalk on, stalk on, the fowl sits. I did never think that lady would have loved any man.' This conversation is aimed at having Benedick note their words, then acknowledge and admit his true feelings for Beatrice.
Beatrice is next on the list, as her cousin Hero and friend Ursula conduct the very same scheme on her. Hero plots, ' When Beatrice doth come… My talk to thee must be how Benedick is sick in love with Beatrice. Of this matter is little Cupid's crafty arrow made, that only wounds by hearsay.' Hero carries this out by purposefully discussing how Benedick is head over heels in love with Beatrice, even though they have no actual proof of this, while her cousin listens on.
Both of these examples of noting have the desired affect, as both characters end up admitting to their feelings for one another after hearing these conversations.
Manipulated Noting With Bad Intentions
In another sub-plot, a character is set up to note others, though this time, the scheme is not planned so kindheartedly. Don John (Don Pedro's bastard brother) decides to create trouble by ruining the upcoming nuptials of Claudio and Hero. Claudio believes he has loved Hero since he first seen her, even though he ' noted her not' before going to war. He was not ready before, but now he is ready to soften his thoughts and think only of her. Don John has other ideas.
Don John plots to destroy the relationship between Claudio and Hero by arranging for his follower, Borachio, to have an intimate meeting with his lover in Hero's chambers. He will be sure Claudio and Don Pedro make note of this meeting so it appears that Hero is having an affair 'the night before her wedding day.' Claudio, being a naïve fool, believes him (as does Don Pedro) and notes this without question.
This situation is an example of noting that was manipulated in order to create trouble for Claudio and Hero. Even though the scheme was eventually found to be untruthful, Claudio was still quick to believe it without investigating the truth.
Accidental Noting to Reveal the Truth
The final example of noting took place without manipulation or planning on the part of the characters involved. This noting occurred by The Watch, the goofy men who look out for the city, but who can barely string together a coherent sentence.
Borachio and Conrad
After Borachio completes his little scheme to make Claudio believe Hero had been having an affair, he tells his friend and Don Johns' other follower, Conrad, all about it: 'I have to-night wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero's gentlewoman, by the name of Hero… I should first tell thee how the Prince, Claudio and my master… saw afar off in the orchard. ' Conrad responds by asking, '...and they thought Margaret was Hero?' To which, Borachio replies, 'Two of them did, the prince and Claudio; but the devil my master knew she was Margaret.' Unfortunately for these two men, The Watch has been listening the whole time.
Once The Watch notes this conversation and hears enough information, the men are arrested and eventually charged with treachery and lying.
Noting, the act of observing and listening, plays a very big role in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The characters rely on the noting of others for manipulations to be carried out.
Positive manipulations, like Beatrice and Benedick being brought together, have characters listen in on conversations. The ill-plotted manipulation planned by Don John focuses on observing in order to ruin the relationship of Claudio and Hero. Unintentional noting, by way of The Watch, takes place when the men listen to Borachio describe how he and Don John carried out a horrendous plot.
It seems every juicy event that took place was based off of schemes, planned scenarios, or accidental eavesdropping. Without all of this listening and observing, the play would not have had such a dynamic and dramatic plot.