Claudio and Leonato's gulling of Benedick. The men have ordered the music for their own pleasure; this idea of music as a form of light entertainment which should be available at a moment's notice crops up a lot in the comedies. In Much Ado About Nothing, Balthazar is the resident singer subject to his masters' whims; in As You Like It it is Amiens and in Twelfth Night it is Feste. These singers occupy complex social positions. Like fools, they have some degree of social mobility outside their servile status; Shakespeare makes this most clear in Twelfth Night by characterising Feste as both fool and singer. Amiens is one of the merry band of exiles in the forest and so is part of a social group in which he might not normally be found: this mobility is part of the conventions of festive comedy. However, in Much Ado About Nothing, Balthazar is kept in his place: he participates in the dance in act 2 scene 1, but only by dancing with Margaret who shares his social status and in act 2 scene 3 he adopts a self-deprecating manner which sounds contrived and therefore can be interpreted as a social convention or reflex. Benedick is characteristically cynical about music in general ("Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?" 2.3.57- 59) and insults Balthazar's singing in particular:

"An he had been a dog that should have howled thus, they would have hanged him; and I pray God his bad voice bode no mischief. I had as lief had heard the night-raven, come what plague could have come after it." (2.3.81-85)

As we have just seen above, Dogberry and Verges are dismissed in much the same way. Shakespeare is using Balthazar to reassert the importance of the hierarchies at work in the play: he shows us how the men behave in relation to their inferiors on an everyday level and then exposes their abuse of power on a much more serious level. The men also order the music to create a romantic mood which they hope will influence Benedick. Before the song there is an unsubtle repetition of "wooing" and its associated forms: Don Pedro begs Balthazar to start his song and not make him "woo" any longer, to which Balthazar replies,

"Because you talk of wooing, I will sing,
Since many a wooer doth commence his suit
To her he thinks not worthy, yet he woos,
Yet will swear he loves." (2.3.48-51)

By making Balthazar comment on the emptiness of many promises made in courtship, Shakespeare shows us that he has seen through Don Pedro's attempt to create a romantic atmosphere. This aligns him with Benedick, who by his literal description of music has also undermined Don Pedro's intention, and with a truth-telling fool such as Feste or the fool in King Lear. The actual song is similarly flippant: men are not to be trusted. The irony of this is clear to the audience - the men on stage are about to gull their friend - but not to the men themselves. Don Pedro commends the song, Balthazar is dismissed and the gulling begins.

The other song is in act 5 scene 3 and is a dirge for Hero's supposed death. The dramatic irony surrounding the song casts its pathos in a wry light: the audience knows that Hero is not really dead and that the mourning rituals of the black clothes, the tapers, the scroll and the song are part of the plot to trick the men into believing that she is and so into repentance for their slanders. We are meant to assume that Claudio has followed Leonato's instructions and written both the poem and the song which precedes it himself:

"... if your love
Can labour aught in sad invention,
Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb
And sing it to her bones, sing it tonight." (5.1.274-77)

The song is therefore a penance for Claudio, almost like a Hail Mary after confession. He has already been absolved by Leonato and will ultimately be rewarded; the question is, as ever, whether he deserves this reward. It is not clear whether he sings the song himself or whether it is sung by a chorus or by Balthazar: Claudio asks the "music" to "sing its solemn hymn", though whether he accompanies it or not is ambiguous.

The song is addressed to the goddess of the night. This probably refers to Diana, who, being a moon goddess, is associated with the night and of course with chastity, which would explain her appearance

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