Archetypes on Much Ado About Nothing

Archetypes are defined as universally understood symbols, terms, or behaviors. They are often used in stories to define characters and influence the reader. In David Lindenfeld’s article, “Jungian Archetypes and the Discourse of History,” Carl Jung is accredited with saying that archetypes are like plastic sets of dispositions whose specific manifestations are shaped by culture and situation (217). In Much Ado about Nothing, three types of archetypes can be clearly seen. These are symbolic, characteristic, and situational. Situational archetypes are archetypes that portray irony in certain situations.

In Much Ado about Nothing, two examples of situational archetypes are clearly seen. These are the task and the ritual. The task is a goal that the characters are attempting to pursue at some point in the story. In act 2, scene 1, lines 375-380, Don Pedro generates the ultimate task of making Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other. Another task is presented by Claudio and Don Pedro, who are determined to make Hero fall in love with Claudio by allowing Don Pedro disguise as Claudio and win Hero’s love (1. 1. 311-318).

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The last major is task is imposed by Don John, which is to break up the marriage of Claudio and Hero (2. 2. 4-8). The ritual is the actual ceremony that the initiate experiences that will mark his rite of passage into another state. In Much Ado about Nothing, four examples most clearly exemplify this archetype. One can be seen when Don Pedro and his friends arrive at Messina, a party is thrown in order to celebrate their arrival (1. 1. 93). It can also be perceived when Claudio and Hero are marrying, so they attend a church in order to make the union official (4. 1. 64-66).

Another instance of a ritual is when Hero passes away she is given a funeral; in order to pay their respects (5. 3. 94-95). The last main instance where a ritual can be perceived is at the trial of Conrade and Borachio. After being captured, the people of Messina hold a trial for Conrade and Borachio in order discover their purposes in breaking up Claudio and Hero’s marriage. The ritual is the trial at the court (5. 1. 200-335). The next type of archetype is called a symbolic archetype. Symbolic archetypes portray the mood, feeling, and/or emotion of a certain scene.

These are very important when doing analysis, because they can change the perspective of the reader. As Much Ado about Nothing was analyzed, two main types of symbolic archetypes; them being light vs. dark, and fire vs. ice were found. Light vs. dark is a contrasting archetype. Light portrays hope, renewal, or intellectual illumination; while darkness suggests ignorance, despair, or the unknown. In Much Ado about Nothing, light vs. darkness presents itself several times, but for the sake of the length of this paper, only three will be analyzed that were perceived as being the most important ones.

The first and the biggest case of light is seen when Friar Francis comes up with the fantastic idea of allowing everyone believe that Hero had passed away in order to make Claudio feel shame (4. 1. 209-242). Another instance of light is seen when Hero turns out to be alive after all, and she marries Claudio after the conflict is resolved (5. 4. 60-64). The instance of ignorance that impacts a reader the most was when Dogberry attempted to explain to Leonato what the problem was regarding the engagement, but Dogberry just could not express his words. (3. 5. 1-51). Fire vs.

Ice is also another contrasting archetype, but this one contrasts knowledge, light, life, and rebirth to sterility, death, darkness, and ignorance. An example of fire throughout the play was when Hero turned out to be alive (5. 4. 60-64), and an example of darkness is portrayed by John who shows this through his impetuous, yet conservative attitude (2. 2. 1-56). The third and final type of archetype is characteristic, which applies to instances where a character resembles a pre-determined behavior. In George B. Hogenson’s “Archetypes as Action Patterns”, Hogenson proposes that archetypes may be viewed as elementary action patterns (325).

As Much Ado about Nothing was read, 4 major examples of characteristic archetypes were found; them being the typical Mentor-Pupil relationship, the villain, the outcasts, and the damsel in distress. Mentor-Pupil relationships come to light when a character offers to teach another character through example. In Much Ado about Nothing, this is portrayed by Don Pedro, who demonstrates Claudio how to gain Hero’s love (2. 1. 85-98). The villains, or evil characters in a story, are portrayed by Don John, Borachio, and Conrade.

Don John is a villain due to his comment stating that “Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be medicinable to me” (2. 2. 4-5), Borachio is malevolent due to his evil plan to destroy the engagement between Claudio and Hero (2. 2. 3); and Conrade is seen as evil due to his deep appreciation for the malicious acts of the Don John (3. 3. 110-111). The outcasts, or the figures banished from a social group due to a crime to a fellow man, are portrayed by Don John and by Hero. Don John is seen as an outcast because of his involvement in the plot against Claudio (5. 4. 124-end).

Hero is seen as an outcast due to the fact that she is indicted by Claudio of adultery, and is forced to meander from place to place searching for help (4. 1. 28-41). And last but not least, the damsel in the distress, or otherwise described as the vulnerable woman who must be rescued, is portrayed by Hero. She evolves into a damsel in distress when she cannot defend herself from Claudio’s accusations, and is therefore not able to do anything for herself. So archetypes, being a very important part of the story, can influence the reader and affect the way that we perceive the characters, situations, and symbols.

Works Cited
Archetype packet. English II Honors. Kara Widener.
Spring 2012
Hogenson, George B. “Archetypes As Action Patterns.” Journal Of Analytical Psychology 54.3 (2009): 325. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.
Lindenfeld, David. “Jungian Archetypes And The Discourse Of History.” Rethinking History 13.2 (2009): 217. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado about Nothing.
New York: Signet, 1998. Print.

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