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Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare
Summary Act I, scenes ii–iii
Summary Act I, scenes ii–iii

In Much Ado About Nothing, Don John is in the difficult position of having to behave well and court favor with his more powerful brother, Don Pedro, while at the same time being excluded from the privileges Don Pedro enjoys because of his illegitimacy. Don John is bitter about the restrictions imposed upon him: “I am trusted with a muzzle, and enfranchised with a clog. Therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage” (I.iii.25–27). He complains, in essence, that he is not trusted at all and not given any freedom; he rails against the constraints of his role, refusing to “sing” in his “cage,” or make the best of things. Instead, he seems to want to take out his frustrations by manipulating and hurting other people for his own amusement. Don John’s claim that he hates Claudio because he is jealous of Claudio’s friendship with his brother seems questionable; it seems more likely that Don John simply hates anyone happy and well liked and thus wants to exact a more general revenge upon the world.