Keelea Much Ado Retelling

Though Don John ostensibly influences all of the action of the play, he has very few speaking lines for a main character. Don John operates as a plot-device more than a fully fleshed out character. He does give us a little speech about how he’s a bad guy – and likes being a bad guy – but there’s not much that we say about him because we never really know his motivations, or even his reaction to all of the chaos he’s caused. In the end, he has run off before  he can even be punished or have a warm, fuzzy change of heart scene. Don John particularly stands out as a villain, both in his behavior and in his position as an illegitimate son .Don John the redeeming quality of his honesty and ensures that he receives ample sympathy from the audience through Don John’s description of himself and through announcing Don John’s ultimate punishment by a hypocritical society which rejects him from the very moment of his birth.

Due to his positions as a bastard, characters immediately reject Don John and regard him with suspicion. When Don John returns to Messina with his brother, the governor Leonato addresses him with immense hesitation: “If you swear, my Lord, you shall not be forsworn” (I.1.124). Essentially, Leonato questions Don John’s declaration of loyalty to Don Pedro, and although Leonato covers his harsh greeting with a welcoming of Don John, his doubts remain dormant under the surface of his kind words. Don John notices the undercurrent of distrust directed towards him and responds, “I am not of many words, but I thank you” (I.1.127). Through his simple statement, Don John acknowledges society’s perpetual distrust of him and provides the audience with key insight into his character.However, Don John, in a rather wordy explanation counter to his reserved personality, expresses a keen self-awareness to his “almost” friend, Conrad. He declares, “I cannot hide what I am. I must be sad / when I have cause, and smile at no man’s jests; eat when I have / stomach, and wait for no man’s leisure; sleep when I am / drowsy, and tend on no man’s business […]” (I.3.10-13). The audience relates to such an honest character, a person who so clearly admits that he can be no one but himself. Don John seems to accept himself, even if his position as an outsider does cause him pain. Conrad voices his acknowledgement of Don John’s true nature; however, out of concern, he warns him not to take actions which will disturb his recent acceptance by Don Pedro. In response, Don John honestly replies that he “had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace” and that any ill behavior stems from the fact that “it better fits my blood to be disdained of all” (I.3.21-22). Thus, Don John believes that his “blood,” his origins as a bastard, forces him outside of society and renders him “evil.” He feels that in acting the part of a villain, he fulfills a role delegated to him by his own blood.

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