Archive foroctubre, 2011


She is the cousin of Beatrice. Although she is supposed to be the protagonist of the play, she speaks very few times along the whole play. She is characterized as an innocent young girl. Shakespeare draws her as a person who doesn’t take big decisions by herself, she expects somebody else to tell her what to do, which I supose that has something to do with the fact that she was a woman, and at that time, women were not suposed to have an opinion. So, they just want her to marry the prince and be happy.

For all those reasons, I think we are in front of a simple character, because she doesn’t show much of herself, just her sweetness and her imposibility of defending herself violently. Her character, therefore doesn’t suffer a development along the play. We could say that the same Hero that starts the play is the one who finishes it, without any big change in her. In the same line, it is the fact that she doesn’t show really her personality, we see her mind kind of opaque. We don’t see her beliefs, what she is thinking, it remains hidden.

All these contributes to make a very dificult task the fact of analyzing her from Freud’s perspective. There is no specific action that can be seen as something instinctive, o something that could follow the moral principle. Her action along the play doesn’t develop in these terms, so I found it impossible to take out a relevant fact that I could identify with id, ego or superego.



He is a young Count from Florence, he is friend of Benedick and he will be the boyfriend of Hero. He falls in love with her the first time he saw her, although at that encounter she doesn’t speak a word. Along the play, he demonstrates a childish atitude towards the world, not only because of his actions but also because of his behaviour towards others.

Following the three Ewen’s axes, regarding to complexity of the character, I think that this is not something of extremes. In my opinion, we are not in front of a simple character, neither a complex one. So, comparing it with Beatrice and Hero for example, he would be in the middle. Beatrice is obviously much more complex than Claudio, and Hero is much simple than Claudio. Apart from his childish behaviour, he also shows that he has an impulsive personality and reacts with furious. His passionate feelings and enthusiams he shows, make him not that simple as Hero, although his inmaturity gives him away.

So, he could say that he suffers a kind of development along the play, because he is supposed to have learn something but actually we don’t have any clue of that. It’s not very clear his development as a character. And, in respects of pennetration into inner life, I think we observe his personality well enough, there isn’t anything he is hidding or something we can’t achieve from him.

Then, seeing him from Freud’s theories, I think that many of his acts can be seen overcoat that they are done from the id. For example we can analize the moment when he is asked to see the suposed infidelity of his future wife. He reacts with the instinct when he gets angry and then when he jilts her in the wedding, and tells everybody what he have seen the day before, that she have been unfaithful to him. This is a reaction that emerges from the inside of himself, he is angry and he shows it with no resctrictions.

But then, when he apologizes to Leonato’s, the father of Hero, because she has been killed, he demonstrates once again his inmaturity. He just says, “oh sorry, but in fact, it wasn’t my fault at all” and then he accepts to marry his other daughter, without knowing her,because he will do anything just to achieve Leonato’s forgiveness. Maybe this could be identified with the superego, talking about the morality principle, what people would think that is well-done or judging what it is not. So in order to gain Leonato’s forgiveness and everyone’s respect he would do whatever necessary.



Beatrice is a very important character in the play not only because of her love story but because of the role she plays. She is Hero’s cousin. She represents the image of a experienced woman-This character could be seen as the jester in the play, but, actually we shouldn’t see her as it, overcoat in extreme situations like the scene in which she asks Benedick to commit a crime.

We could compare her with a XXI century woman, who has her own ideas and beliefs. She has not that innocent spirit, as Hero has. Obviously she is older than Hero, but that doesn’t mean that a woman of her age would act like she does at her time. She is an independent woman who laughts at herself and take life with humour, that’s why sometimes its character could be confused with the jester.

According to Ewen’s classification of characters, we could say that Beatrice is a complex character, who has more than one trait. In fact, I would say that her character is the most complex of the play because she plays different roles along the play, I mean, she is not a flat and static character. Her personality is not dominated by one important trait, but by a lot of them. We see her humour, and her way she faces life. Then, we see her in a desperate situation, and she reacts according to it. And, we also see her happiness caused by loving a man.

Very related to this, is the fact that her character suffers a development along the play, when she is not interested in anyone, and even less in Benedick, but overhearing a conversation, she realises she loves him too. As I said, I think both concepts are related because if she would be a static character, the most evident would be not to develop, and viceversa.

In regards of the third axe of Ewen, penetration into inner life, I would say that Beatrice is a character that has nothing to hide. She shows herself the way she is, without any intrigues and later surprises. We could qualify her as a sincere and coherent person, and Shakespeare makes of her a character without any secrets or ambiguous things.

Then, taking into account what Freud says about the conscious and unconscious, I would try to identify some afirmative statements with the personality that Shakespeare has created for this character. I think, that Freud’s theory has not to be seen as a character in concrete, I mean that each point of the clasificantion could be identified with diferent actions of a character at some point. For example, in this case, Beatrice acts with what Freud would call the id, in the scene which asks Benedick to kill Claudio. It wouldn’t be, as Freud says, related to the pleasure principle as something sexual, but it has to do with our insctinct. She reacts in that way as a response to the attack that has suffered her cousin. So it is an instinctive reaction of defense.

Also, making a comparison with what Freud points out: “in popular language, we may say that the ego stands for reason and circumspection, while the id stands for the untamed passions.”, we could affirm that her id says that she loves Benedick which is something from her unconscious, while her ego says the contrary, at the beggining of the play, when she rejects him.



He is a young lord of Padua, and good friend of the Count Claudio. He has a weird personality, sometimes he does the role of being hateful and then, although he is always hiding it and speaking things against marriage, he is the eternal lover of Beatrice. He seems to be a bit dominant, or maybe egocentric, when he thinks that everything has to o with him. Sometimes he plays the role of the funny man, with which audience would have a good time. He is clever but he don’t look like that.

According to the three axes we could say that he is a complex character because he has a lot of traits that can define him. As the representation of a real person, he has his romantic aspect, his funny side, and so on. In the play we see an evolution on him, so he is a character who suffers a development, he develops as a person. He is not the same when the play starts that when it finishes. Along the play we see who he changes his mind in respects to marriage and love, when he shows his love to Beatrice. If we analize that moment, we can realize that he does not act like that just because he wants to seduce her, but because what of he has heard from the conversation of the men. He wants to prove that he is not scornful and proud. But then at the end, we see that his feelings are real, he loves her.

This character shows to the spectator the way he is. His mind doesn’t remind opaque as Ewen says. So, it’s personality is clear from the first moment.

Here, in this character we have many examples about what Freud would distinguish between id, ego and superego. For example, when Beatrice ask him to challenge Claudio, at the beggining he doubts, and that would be the part of the mind that Freud would call superego, because, as he says, it is the morality principle, and what she is asking for isn’t something very ethic. But then, in a moment, and for the love he feels for her, that he would do whatever in order to please her, he says he’ll do, so here, he acts with the id. He is reacting instinctively. He might think that once he is in love for Beatrice, his herarchy of loyalty has changed, and now the most important thing is she.


Freud’s theories

The foundation of Freud’s contribution to modern psychology is his emphasis on the unconscious aspects of the human psyche. A brilliant creative genius, Freud provided convincing evidence, through his many carefully recorded case studies, that most of our actions are motivated by psychological forces over which we have very limited control. He demonstrated that, like the iceberg, the human mind is structured so that its great weight and density lie beneath the surface (below the level of consciusness). In “The Anatomy of the Mental Personality, Lecture XXI,” in New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (New York: Nrothon, 1964), Freud discriminates between the levels of concious and unconcious mental activity:


The oldest and best meaning of the word “unconscious” is the descriptive one; we call “unconscious” any mental process the existence of which we are obligated to assume–because, for instance, we infer it in some way from its effects–but of which we are not directly aware… If we want to be more accurate, we should modify the statement by saying that we call a process “unconscious” when we have to assume that it was active at a certain time, although at that time we knew nothing about it. (99-100)

Freud further emphasizes the importance of the unconscious by pointing out that even the “most conscious processes are conscious for only a short period; quite soon they become latent, though they can easily become conscious again” (100). In view of this, Freud defines two kinds of unconscious:


one which is transformed into conscious material easily and under conditions which frequently arise, and another in the case of which such a transformation is difficult, can only come about with a considerable expenditure of energy, or may never occur at all… We call the unconscious which is only latent, and so can easily become conscious, the “preconscious,” and keep the name “unconscious” for the other. (101)
That most of the individual’s mental processes are unconscious is thus Freud’s first major premise. The second (which has been rejected by a great many professional psychologists, including some of Freud’s own disciplines–for example, Carl Gustav Jung and Alfred Adler) is that all human behaviour is motivated ultimately by what we would call sexuality. Freud designates the prime psychic force as libido, or sexual energy. His third major premise is that because of the powerful social taboos attached to certain sexual impulses, many of our desires and memories are repressed (that is, actively excluded from conscious awareness).


Starting from these three premises, we may examine several corollaries of Freudian theory. Principal among these is Freud’s assigment of the mental processes to three psychic zones: the id, the ego and the superego. An explanation of these zones may be illustrated with Freud’s own diagram:



The diagram reveals immediately the vast portion of the mental apparatus that is not conscious. Furthermore, it helps to clarify the relationship between ego, id and superego, as well as their collective realtionship to the conscious and the unconscious. We should note that the id is entirely unconscious and that only a small portion of the ego and the superego is conscious. With this diagram as a guide, we may define the nature and functions of the three psychic zones.

1. The id is the reservoir of libido, the primacy source of all psychic energy. It functions to fulfillthe primordial life principle, which Freud considers to be the pleasure principle. Without consciousness or semblance of rational order, the id is characterized by a tremendous and amorphous vitality. Speaking metaphorically, Freud explains this “obscure inaccessible part of our personality” as ” a chaos, a cauldron of seething excitement [with] no organization and no unified will, only an impulsion to obtain satisfaction for the instinctual needs, in accrodance with the pleasure principle” (103-4). He further stresses that the “laws of logic– above all, the law of contradiction — do not hold for the processes of the id. Contradictory impulses exist side by side without neutralizing each other or drawing apart. Naturally, the id knows no values, no good and evil, no morality” (104-5).

The id is, in short, the source of all our aggressions and desires. It is lawless, asocial, and amoral. Its function is to gratify our instincts for pleasure without regard for social conventions, legal ethics, or moral restraint. Unchecked, it would lead us to any lengths- to destruction and even self-destruction– to satisfy its impulses for pleasure. Safety for the self and for others does not lie within the province os the id; its concern is purely for instinctual gratification, heedless of consequence. For centuries before Freud, this force was recognised in human nature but often attributed to supernatural and external rather than to natural and internal forces: the id as defined by Freud is identical in many respects to the Devil as defined by theologians. Thus there is a certain psychological validity in the old saying that a rambunctious child (whose id has not yet been brought under control by ego and superego) is “full of the devil.” We may also see in young children (and neurotic adults) certain uncontrolled impulses toward pleasure that often lead to excessive self-indulgence and even to self-injury.

2. In view of the id’s dangerous potentialities, it is necessary that other psychic agencies protect the individual and society. The first of these regulating agencies, that which protects the individual, is the ego. This is the rational governing agent of the psyche. Though the ego lacks the strong vitality of the id, it regulates the instinctual drives of the id so that they may be released in nondestructive behavioral patterns. And though a large portion of the ego in unconscious, the ego nevertheless comprises what we ordinary think of as the conscious mind. As Freud points out, “In popular language, we may say that the ego stands for reason and circumspection, while the id stands for the untamed passions.” Whereas the id is governed solely by the pleasure principle, the ego is governed by the reality principle. Consequently, the ego serves as intermediary between the world within and the world without.

3. The other regulating agent, that which primarily functions to protect society, is the superego. Largely unconscious, the superego is the moral censoring agency, the repository of conscience and pride. It is, as Freud says in “The Anatomy of the Mental Personality,” the “representative of all moral restrictions, the advocate of the impulse toward erfection, in short it is as much as we have been able to apprehend psychologically of what people call the ‘higher’ things in human life” (95). Acting either directly or through the ego, the superego serves to repress or inhibit the drives of the id, to block off and thrust back into the unconscious those impulses toward pleasure that society regards as unacceptable, such as overt aggression, sexual passions, and the Oedipal instinct. Freud attributes the development of the superego to the parental influence that manifests itself in terms of punishment for what society considers to be bad behaviour and reward for what society considers good behaviour. An overactive superego creates an unconscious sense of guilt (hence the familiar term guilt complex and the popular misconcetion that Freud advocate the relaxing of all moral inhibitions and social restraints). Whereas the id is dominated by the pleasure principle and the ego by the reality principle, the superego is dominated by the morality principle. We might say that the id would make us devils, that the superego would have us behave as angels (or, worse, as creatures of absolute social conformity), and that it remains for the ego to keep us healthy human beings by maintaining a balance that Freud advocated– not a complete removal og inhibiting factors.


Critical Approaches

When you analyze a play or a novel, you can follow different types of critical approaches. Among others, we find mainly the following:

  • The Formalistic Approach.
  • The Psychological Approach. (Freud)
  • Mythological and Archetypal Approaches.
  • Structuralist theories.
  • Poststructuralists theories
  • Marxist theories
  • Cultural Criticsm
  • Feminist theories





At the beggining of the paper, I was convinced about the fact that Freud’s theories would be very useful in order to analize the characters of Much Ado About Nothing. However, while doing the paper, I realized that this approach would be perfect in a Shakespearean tragedy like for example Hamlet, because this character has a lot of contradictions in his personality, I mean that in the tragedies there is much more changes in the mind of the characters, while in a comedy, characters are much more flat compared with a tragedy. Although that fact, paying attention to the details, and reformulating some actions from this perspective, I found many comparisons that could be made.
Moreover,Rimmon-Kenan’s article helped me a lot in order to introduce the characters into the analysis, and apart from that I think it is important to give these three axes he talks about.
Having done the anaylsis of the four characters, I think that the most representative or the most important character of the play was Beatrice, and at the same time, it is the character which I found easier to analyze because Beatrice is a clear character and her actions are very defined. She is not ambiguous, so you can tell in every moment what her actions represent according to Freud. 

It doesn’t happen the same with Hero, which is completely the opposite. She doesn’t show her as she is, and it seems imposible to the spectator to know her. With their respective partners, it happens the same more or less, while Benedick is much more visible to the audience, Claudio is not that much, and I think is poorer talking about personality.

To sum up, it would be a great job to see those aspects in a character of a tradegy, although, it has been a very interesting task to analize the chracters of a comedy because I realised that, it wasn’t all as I though. There are also interesting changes and attitudes in comedy characters.


Critical analysis of the characters

For the analysis of the characters, apart from the Freudian theory, I would follow the three axes according to Ewen. “In order to avoid reductiveness, Ewen suggests a classification of characters as points along a continuum rather than according to exhaustive categories. And in order to keep the principle of classification clear, he advocates a distinction among three continua or axes: complexity, development, penetration into ‘inner life’.” (Rimmon-Kenan, 1983: 41).

Analysing a character taking into account its complexity means to determine if the character can be considered simple or complex. It would be considered simple when it has just one trait during the whole play, or, when it has a dominant one and others, but not relevant, so the character is static. On the other hand, it can be considered as complex when it is the opposite, so “between the two poles one can distinguish infinite degrees of complexity.” (1983: 41).

Refering to the development of a character, we can make a clear distinction between undeveloped characters, who don’t develop along the play, or the ones who develop.

And the penetration into ‘inner life’ has to do with the fact that a character can be seen from the outside, “their minds remain opaque” (1983: 42) or from within the mind of the character.





In this paper I want to analyse the characters of Much Ado About Nothing from a psychological perspective taking into account the Freudian approach. I though it would an interesting point of view that hasn’t been almost explored. This critical approach has a lot of complexity and has been abused and misunderstood along the twentieth century by many critics. We have to, first of all, explore and know what is about the Freudian theory, what consists of, and which are the main points of it. Having this in mind, then we can try to compare and look for some similarities with Shakespearean characters.

However, one could not say that the play has to be read before in order to carry out the project. So, making a kind of summary of the play, we can say that it is a typical Shakespearean comedy in which we find two love stories. As the format of the comedy implies, it all beggins with caos, and ends up with everything properly tied up, a happy ending. Moreover, in this play, Shakespeare surprises us with two happy endings. We have the love story of Claudio and Hero, the sweet young couple, and Benedick and Beatrice, who at first hate each other, and at the end both recognise the love they feel.