This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. A fictional work’s setting includes the location and the time in which events take place. In a play, events which occur offstage will have an effect on characters, even though the audience only hears of these second-hand. Such offstage events constitute a key component of a play’s setting, and are known as context (although you should bear in mind the difference between the fictional context of a play’s setting and the author’s real-life context). Atmosphere is another key element of setting and in a play, it is usually a product of staging. Some playwrights explicitly describe the atmosphere they wish to be created onstage. In Much Ado About Nothing the atmosphere is created primarily through dialogue, the interaction between characters and the use of deceit and spying to gain information. Violence simmers beneath the light and sparkling dialogue.
Pay close attention to the setting of the text you are studying. This is an important step in your analysis. In what way does the world the characters inhabit affect the decisions made over the course of the plot? Much Ado About Nothing presents a gracious, restful environment, an idyllic setting in which Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedick may take a break from the business of war. Their arrival brings its own strains and stresses to this environment.
Geographical setting includes the country, region or city; the environment, whether this is urban or rural; any buildings or other places where events occur; and also the weather, season or time of day. Do events occur in the same place or in different locations? Is the play set in a specific time, or are such details left vague? Do any characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? Are different settings contrasted with one another?
It can be useful sometimes to consider why texts are set in places other than where they were written. Many of Shakespeare’s plays, for example, are set in Catholic countries elsewhere in Europe, rather than in Protestant England. Can you think of any reasons why an author might choose to set a text in the same time, but in an exotic place? Does this change our understanding of the play?
Answer the questions below on setting in Much Ado About Nothing.