Much Ado About Nothing is a popular comical play written by William Shakespeare and is estimated to have been in the late 1500s as the author neared the peak of his career. Shakespeare is relatively effective in highlighting various themes of shame and court politics while at the same retaining robust elements of humor. On the other hand, 47ronin provides a detailed account of the role assumed by a samurai in traditional Japan with consideration of elements of court politics, honor, justice, and shame. The two texts are effective in illustrating the similarities of ethical conduct in terms of issues such as honor, social grace and the occurrence of deception, which brings about shame especially for public officials and other esteemed members of the society.
In Much Ado About Nothing, the author sought to illustrate the importance of honesty and truth as it is manifested in the subsequent marriage between two couples despite initial concerns that were brought about by gossip or rumors, which is termed as “noting” in the play. Villainy, love, friendship, traditional customs, social expectations, and parent-child relationships are abounding in the play. The author provides an ambiguous, yet rich illustration of the interactions between relationships, hatred, prejudice, and catastrophe.
The author introduces the audience to a group of people and society that shares a rich history. It is immediately evident that the histories shard by this group of individuals will have a long-term effect on their lives. At the opening scene, a messenger arrives with a message to Leonato that Don Pedro from Aragon would be arriving in the city from battle. Beatrice asks if Benedick will be arriving with the aforementioned party albeit hiding her interest in Benedick’s welfare. It becomes apparent that Benedick and Beatrice have similar love interests; they share an attraction towards each other.
Beatrice’s questions are illustrative of her lack of comprehension of her emotions and more so attraction towards Benedick. They share similar ideologies when they exclaim that love is only shared by fools. Both Benedick and Beatrice are attracted to each other, yet they do not comprehend their respective emotions. The relationship is counterpoised to a relatively traditional relationship such as the one between Hero and Claudio. This is all illustrative of the importance of adherence to culture in romantic relationships in ancient Greece as illustrated by Shakespeare.
Shakespeare also focuses on the life of Claudio, who having returned from the war has a desire towards marrying Hero. He primarily concerned about her social status and more so the perceptions she accrues from the rest of the society. Claudio opts to ask Benedick for his opinion on the possibility of success of a relationship with Hero. He allows Duke to intervene for him and approach Hero and her father to ask for her hand in marriage. He is portrayed as a distant lover, given that he is primarily concerned with his social status and image, which he presumes would be tarnished upon engagement to Hero.
On the other hand, Hero is warned by her father that she should primarily obey his will when she decides to select a husband. This is understood to be the start of complications that involves the two sets of loves namely Beatrice and Benedick and Hero and Claudio. Shakespeare was relatively effective in enabling the audience or public to understand the inherent nature of human relationships and motives for actions that are influenced by love in romantic relationships. In addition, it is also evident of the struggle for identity and power that makes intimate or romantic relationships. The play mirrors the various challenges commonly faced by people in the real world in relation to the struggles experienced by arties in romantic relationships as they are influenced by societal or environmental factors in their respective cultural settings.
47Ronin: A Graphic Novel is a historical event dating back to the 18th century in which a group of leaderless samurai (ronin) sought to avenge the death of their leader. The novel was authored by Sean Michael Wilson and subsequent illustrations provided by Akiko Shimojima. It provides an account of forty seven samurai warriors in the 18th century who sought to avenge the death of their leader, in an event that was spread over an estimated two years. After successful completion of the mission, the samurai warriors committed a ritual suicide. The story is termed as a national legend in Japanese history given that it remains one of the most important accounts of the cultural imperatives of persistence honor, loyalty, and sacrifice in Japan.
This historical event has served as an inspiration to artists and writers over the years giving rise to numerous fictional adaptations and versions. The author was success in development of a historically relevant portrait that is enhanced by evocative and humorous drawings provided by Akiko Shimojima. The text is able to discuss issues and themes that can be related to Shakespeare’s Ado About Nothing. Furthermore, despite the similarities in themes, the Japanese and Elizabethan cultures vary in terms of setting and the belief and value systems adopted by the communities.
The events provided in the 47 Ronin are said to have concurred with the start of teachings by Yamaga Soko (1622-1685) who was a relatively influential theorist that developed a variety of critical works focusing on the ethic of traditional warriors and the basic tenets of becoming a samurai. His works are believed to have started with the most prolific party in the group named Ôishi Kuranosuke Yoshio who assumed an important role as the retainer to Asano Takumi no kami Naganori (1667-1701), an heir and leader of the Asano family. The primary focus was on the need to highlight the differences between these two parties in terms of ethic, morals and other important virtues such as trust, honesty, loyalty, justice, that were highly regarded in traditional Japan.
The narrative starts with the selection of Lord Asano by the shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, to assume leadership as one of the many daimyo who were tasked with entertainment of envoys of the Imperial Family. Bakufu’s highest-level official, Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka, was tasked with assisting him with this new duty and instructing him in the relevant etiquette expected during the visit by the imperial family. Kira anticipated that he would be compensated by Asano monetarily for the activity, which Asano believed was Kira’s duty. This is termed as the origin of the conflict between the two, and is claimed to have escalated significantly in subsequent years.
The two parties had a dislike for each other with Kira making efforts to make sure that he embarrassed Lord Asano. In one of the confrontations, Lord Asano drew his sword and hurt Kira when the latter insulted him. Lord Asano was later placed under confinement due to the altercation. Striking another person in a moment of rage was considered an assault on the other individual and against the law. Furthermore, the attack was carried out in the courtyard of the shogun, which was unthinkable to a majority of the people.
Asano during questioning noted that he did not intend to be disrespectful towards the shogun; rather he regretted his failure to kill Kira. A sentence of death was passed to Asano after deliberation by various officials who held that Asano had contravened the laws of the land. In addition, it was also ordered that “50,000-koku fief” was to be confiscated and Asano’s brother Daigaku placed under house arrest. There wads conflict amongst the retainers of Asano over the next step of action with some arguing to fight against the government whereas others opted to remain quiet and accept the judgment passed on by the government.
A significant number of Asano retainers opted to become ronin and explored the option of avenging the judgment passed on by the government. Kira was anticipating the revenge by Asano’s retainers and enhanced security measures in his courtyard. Oishi and the band of ronin came up with a scheme that would result in relaxed defenses by Kira in the event that he realized there was no imminent danger to his life and household. Some of the ronin opted to take up menial jobs whereas others such as Oishi opted to indulge themselves in ill reputed activities such as drunkenness and interactions with prostitutes. This approach was driven by the need to fool Kira to relax the security measures he had taken up because of fear of reprisals from the ronin.
It was after a year that the 47 ronin struck and managed to execute Kira in his Edo mansion. They subsequently presented themselves to the government, which was placed in a precarious position after this event. The 46 remaining ronin had fulfilled their respective mandate of loyalty to Asano. The Ronin were ordered to commit suicide given that the Bakufu held it is imperative to sustain order in the kingdom. The 47 ronin have been criticized for taking action after such a lengthy period, whereas others note that they illustrated the true spirit of a samurai in Japanese culture.
On the other hand, the ronin have been criticized for taking action given that it is presumed the shogun’s decision was fair and should have resolved the confrontation that arose between Kira and Asano. Furthermore, Kira has been termed as a coward by using insults as a means of addressing his differences with Asano as opposed to engaging in dialogue with Asano to resolve the misunderstanding. This should also have included the presence of a mediator to ensure that the concerns of both Kira and Asano were addressed adequately.
The two narratives provide an in-depth view of the cultural values that were adopted in both Japanese and Elizabethan societies in 47 Ronin and Much Ado about Nothing respectively. Both texts can be termed as tragedy narratives because of the presence of complications, which have the potential of becoming disastrous. In 47 Ronin, the samurais are subjected to humiliation. They subsequently lose their lives due to the nature of their respective circumstances. However, they were able to focus primarily on avenging the presumably wrongful death of Asano and the humiliation he suffered.
In understanding both texts, it becomes evident of the presence of social constructed and gendered roles (McCallum, & Shakespeare, 2000). It is assumed that men in the Japanese society are tasked primarily with providing protection by assuming positions of leadership and as warriors. On the other hand, women are relegated into taking care of their homes and other domestic activities. It is noted in 47 ronin that Oishi resorted to engaging with prostitutes and drunkenness and other low-level activities that were not relative to his social standing. This affirms the understanding of the presence of significant social stratification with individuals classified in terms of their social, economic, and political standing.
This provides a relatively accurate idea of the importance of social, economic, and political status for individuals in the Japanese society due to the distinctive nature of each class. Kira was tasked with providing Asano with the basic training of etiquette in terms of the expected behavior in his interactions with the imperial family during their visit in Ako. Social status was to be maintained and affirmed primarily through conduct and behavior of individuals in the Japanese society. This provides an understanding as to why Oishi received harsh treatment from other members of the society and retainers when he failed to adhere to the code of conduct and behavior expected from samurais by engaging in drunkenness, engaging in brawls, and frequenting brothels in Edo.
Critics have argued that the shogun was biased resulting in the betrayal of Asano given that he primarily focused on his acts rather than taking also into consideration Kira’s behavior. It was necessary that Kira be punished to ensure that there was equal administration of justice to the aforementioned parties. On the other hand, when compared with Much Ado About Nothing, there are also themes of betrayal manifested in the romantic relationships between the main characters in the setting of the play. This is attributed to the presence of leaders who are unable to separate the truth from rumors and falsehoods peddled in the community.
In addition, there is also manifestation of the inadequacy of human rationality or reason to cope with passion, endearment and love towards another party. Thus, the loyalty manifested in the relationship between Asano and his retainers and more so towards Oishi impedes his ability to reason in a clear manner. Critics note that his inability to reason in imminent danger is attributed to the relationship he shared with his master, Asano. Furthermore, the prevailing themes of truth and reality as opposed to appearance are manifested in both texts. The Shogun is forced to sentence to death Asano with minimal knowledge of the presence of underlying differences which were brought forth by Kira.
Kira veils his intentions towards Asano in the company of the shogun, given that he is primarily focused on gaining monetary compensation from Asano. Kira reeks of poor leadership as he fails to focus on his duty and resorts to extorting Asano for the presumed support provided towards enabling him gain new skills and knowledge on the preferable etiquette and conduct in the midst of imperial officials. In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the author is effective in the exploration of various effects of deception, both negative and positive.
Deception is a major theme in both texts. Don Pedro with the aid of Claudio, Hero, and Leonato are able to deceive Benedick and Beatrice towards resuming their romantic relationship. The aim is primarily to ensure that the two are together, even at the expense of revealing the truth to them (Hamilton, Olster, & Shakespeare, 1998). Don Pedro holds the belief that the conflict between the two is because of what he describes as, “Thou protest too much” (McCallum & Shakespeare, 2000).This means that the two are inherently proud which impedes their ability achieve fulfillment in a romantic relationship. On the other hand, Shakespeare is able to illustrate the destructive nature of deception that may destroy reputation and happiness.
The play has a significant number of unknowns; or rather, deception is used to veil reality and identity of individuals. This is also similar to Kira’s character, whereby he veils his intentions of corrupting Asano, and resorts to insults when he fails to achieve his goals. In addition, there are significant incidences of duplicity amongst the characters in Shakespeare’s play. The duplicity manifested by the characters can be termed as necessary given that they primarily focus on the presumed benefits of their deception.
The ideal of social grace is critical in both Japanese and Elizabethan society as manifested by the conduct of the primary characters in the two narratives. In Much Ado about nothing, the characters engage in colorful and in-depth conversations, which affirm the ideals held by Renaissance courtiers in their respective social interactions. In 47 Ronin, the parties utilize varied styles of interactions base don the occasion and social status of an individual. For instance, Asano has to be trained by Kira for him to become worthy to interact with the Imperial family. This reiterates the fact of the presence of a fragmented society that is stratified base don political, economic and social status of an individual.
Honesty against deception is prevalent themes that emerge in all interactions amongst parties in both texts. The two texts are effective in illustrating the similarities of ethical conduct in terms of issues such as honor, social grace and the occurrence of deception, which brings about shame especially for public officials and other esteemed members of the society. In Much Ado About Nothing, the author is successful and effective in illustration of the critical nature of honesty, truth, trust, and loyalty in development of healthy social and romantic relationships (Appignanesi, Vieceli, & Shakespeare, 2009). The author illustrates of the emergence of deception and the power struggles, which mark romantic relationships.
On the other hand, in relation to the incidence of power struggles, 47 Ronin depicts a rogue individual, who is primarily influenced by riches and the need to acquire more power when he seeks to discredit Asano by provoking his character through insults. Issues of villainy, love, friendship, traditional customs, social expectations, and parent-child relationships are abound in both the play and narrative. The authors of the two texts are able with relative accuracy and effectiveness to provide the audience with depictions of the true nature and identity of the characters in both texts.
In conclusion, love, deception, trust, loyalty, and truth are themes that resonate in the two texts in terms of the conduct of the characters within the narratives (Wilson, & Shimojima, 2013). Deception becomes a major them, that is favored and used as a means of achieving a particular end, both positive and negative. The use of deception is primarily informed by the benefits accruable to the individuals using dishonest means to achieve specific goals.
Appignanesi, R., Vieceli, E., & Shakespeare, W. (2009). Much ado about nothing. New York: Amulet Books.
Allyn, J. (1970). The forty-seven ronin story. Rutland, Vt: C.E. Tuttle Co.
Hamilton, R., Olster, F., & Shakespeare, W. (1998). Much ado about nothing: A workbook for students and teachers. Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus.
McCallum, A., & Shakespeare, W. (2000). Much ado about nothing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Oldfield, J., Curmi, S., & Shakespeare, W. (2011). Much ado about nothing. London: A. & C. Black.
Richardson, M., & Sakai, S. (2014). 47 Ronin. Milwaukie: Oregon Dark Horse Books.
Till, B. (2005). The 47 ronin: A story of samurai loyalty and courage. San Francisco: Pomegranate.
Wilson, S. M., & Shimojima, A. (2013). The 47 Ronin: A graphic novel. Boston: Shambhala.
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