Significance of Italy in Much Ado about Nothing

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Italy as Setting

      There is no real significance to having this play set in Italy. There are wars in England as well as Italy in the play Much Ado about Nothing. Likewise, the villainy of Don John could easily be found in Shakespeare's country. So why is this play set in Italy? One reason might be to give the audience a distance from their English reality. It is so much easier to laugh at people of another culture. So in placing this play and all the deception, misunderstanding, and social behaviors in a foreign country, the English audience members of Shakespeare's time could enjoy a good laugh without feeling self-conscious or defensive. These are someone else's problems, they could say. These are someone else's foibles. No self-examination is necessary because the playwright is depicting someone else.

Messina, Italy

      Located at the northeast corner of Sicily, Messina, Italy, with its population of almost one-half million is the third-largest city in Sicily. Sicily sits at the so-called toe of the boot that is the mainland of Italy. Greeks, Romans, Goths, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, and the English have all, at one time or another, claimed Messina as their own. In the seventeenth century, Messina was considered one of the greatest of European cities. The city has a great port, used for merchant ships as well as for the military. In 1908, the city was hit with a double catastrophe, a large earthquake and a devastating tsunami, which destroyed most of the city's structures and took 60,000 lives.

The Italian Wars

      A series of wars were fought on Italian soil between 1494 and 1559 and were referred to as the Italian Wars in Much Ado about Nothing. It is unclear what year Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing is set in, but it is possible that the prince and his soldiers were coming home from fighting in one of the latter battles of these wars. The wars were over the control of land and an extended power among the monarchs of several countries including Spain, France, England, and Austria. Where city-states such as Florence and Rome were once home to mighty navies as well as to the leaders in the renewed interest in history and art known as the Renaissance, at the end of the wars, all the power in what is now Italy was at best second-rate in comparison to Countries such as Spain.

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