Essay: The Quality of Trust: What Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing Says about Trust

It is crucial to acknowledge the fact that one of the central things to human existence is trust. The propinquity of trust and the mode of being one has in the world is not to be understated. Humans need to trust. It can be difficult to determine where to place trust, and how much to place, if any. This dilemma is dramatized and brought to life in stunning ways with Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing. The placement of such a virtue, as it shall be called, differed from character to character with some using only latent wisdom to decide such placement. The evolution of the trust, which Benedict and Beatrice situated in each other, is the most telling and versatile throughout the masterpiece on stage. Benedict and Beatrice’s relationship changed because they started to trust each other.

No trust connection is shown between the parties in question at the beginning of the play. Sufficient amounts of toxicity characterized the connection between Benedick and Beatrice. Ample examples can be provided for this, most of which include vicious verbal attacks. One such is as follows: “I wonder that you should still be talking, Signor Benedick, nobody marks you” remarks Beatrice in her first direct correspondence in the play to her future lover (1.1.114-115). A colorful response from Benedick follows, “What my dear Lady Disdain, are you yet living?” (1.1.116-117). These baneful declarations are not merely face to face, they are also behind the back. One such jab was meant by Beatrice to be behind the back when she said to Benedict of Benedict at a masked ball that he was the prince’s jester (2.1.135). Furthermore, Beatrice is given the appellation “harpy” by the other side of the match (2.1.265). Suffice it to say, the relationship is pernicious; there is no respect, much less trust, coming from either side.

Trust must always be given a place to start, or it will forever be nonexistent. It seems improbable for the connection between the two to produce even a twinkling of positive hope. Against the odds, though, things do become better quite suddenly. The friends of Benedict and Beatrice decide that they would attempt at matching the two using imposed external means - they are going to say that they are both in love with each other while mentioning the virtuous and defining qualities of the other; “mentioning,” that is, to a point of inveiglement (2.1.343-378). Upon hearing of Beatrice’s supposed love for the first time, Benedict instantly declares his love (2.3.223-248). Such a change in verbiage by Benedick encourages the reader to think that Benedick “fell in love” like a blind man, while walking along, would fall off a cliff. Likewise, upon similar things falling to Beatrice’s ears, she herself vows her love and her change in action, from callous to pleasing. “[I will] tame my wild heart to your loving hand,” she announces in an imaginative encounter with her new sweetheart (3.2.113-122). The relationship had started, yet “on the grounds of what” is the question.

Something changed between these two individuals, and readers and skeptics are left to wonder what that was. Commonly, it is suggested that mere emotions and feelings of the pair changed, thus changing everything else. However, given the circumstances, that is a foolhardy idea. Benedict and Beatrice were emotional people (because everyone is emotional), but they were not emotionally controlled. And, even if they were, it is hard to conclude that such a radical reorientation was due to emotion. Furthermore, emotional change is unlikely to be the major change in the relationship because there were strong signs of attraction before the trickery. For example, Beatrice asks about Benedick when the men arrive back from war (1.1.30-31); Benedick says that Beatrice stabs him deeply with her speech (2.1.244-245). Additionally, consider the amount of voluntary attention one gives to another; even when this attentiveness may have been pejorative, it was indeed focusing on the other person nonetheless (1.1.114-143). So it was not emotions that changed, but something else.

At odds with reason, trust will at times build its own foundation upon which to stand. Clearly, emotions must ground themselves in something actual; (this being seen, especially, through the lens that Benedict and Beatrice were attracted to one another before the famous deception by their friends). Sudden stabilization, as it happened, was unlikely. So what was the stabilization based on? What was the change grounded in? Some of the best things that can happen are unlikely: it was unlikely that trust was what changed the relationship, yet it was the determining factor. Benedict and Beatrice were suddenly able to be transparent with one another because they believed (falsely on not), that they would not be mocked for their feelings (4.1.269-305). Trust was required for any semblance of unity, and it, not emotions, was the change that took place, even when it had to be established gratuitously.

Such a fact, that trust is what changed the relationship, is evidenced when Benedict decides to kill Claudio, his longtime friend because Beatrice wanted him to (4.1.302-350). Logic would have determined that this was foolish (indeed it seems to have certainly been) though this did not matter to Benedict. Beatrice, similarly, had to believe that Benedict was not just spying on Hero and the plans to be done with her after Claudio’s accusations (4.1.118-268). She had no proof that he was not just sticking around and leveraging his control over the situation. More logically, she could think that Benedict was being manipulative on behalf of Claudio. But, if love is a mental disease, then their actions could make sense (Plato 239). Neither person distrusted in the words and actions of the other. With reason being absent from their decisions, it can be difficult to determine the reason for their actions. The sacrifice of logic in the place of trust was due to the desire for a functioning quality relationship.

In the beginning, a lack of trust made the connection unsustainable and outright ludicrous. When each heard of the supposed love the other had for them, it was not a change of their own emotions, it was a change in their trust. In addition, after the accusations against Hero, each had a plethora of reasons to believe in the disingenuousness of the other, and, therefore not trust. However, beyond reason and logic, they both decided to trust - they had to trust for the sacrifice of the relationship. Benedict and Beatrice had not a concrete reason to trust each other beyond mere rumors. Even given this, they did - they did, because without trust there is no connection, and Benedict and Beatrice finally realized that they wanted a connection. The quality of and the existence of their relationship was grounded on the amount of trust one had in the other.

The reason for trusting, then, should not be solely placed on evidence of one’s trustability (because such evidence is almost impossible to weigh and near to never conclusive), but the reason for trusting should be placed on the desire for relationship. The cause of Benedict and Beatrice to have a relationship was trust; and the existence of trust was in the desire for relationship. It must be recognized, moreover, that this is a human universal: one cannot fully prove the existence of God, yet some trust God; and, after doing many intellectual tricks, realize that they must trust God to have a relationship with him (Myers 48-49). One must trust to live, and how one lives is determined by the placement of trust. Benedict and Beatrice decided to trust each other, the result of this was that they had a functioning relationship. It was nothing else other than trust that turned the relationship around.

It is strange to trust. Benedict and Beatrice’s relationship quality was determined by their amount of trust in each other: when trust was small, the relationship was rough; when trust was high, the relationship was stable. Their relationship changed because they trusted each other. One must not know everything to trust or have full certainty to trust, but one must trust to be in the world. Realize: when we do not trust another it is not that we suddenly trust in nothing; we always trust in something. That something could be our version of logic, our understanding of facts, an idea we find appealing, but it is usually ourselves. We are human, all too human; we are fallen and fallible, and such is our fate. We are brutally self-interested, unashamedly mean, outlandishly mistaken. What humans do matters eternally. It would be wise to put trust in something outside ourselves because we are nothing to compare to the one I Am. Human existence is founded upon trust and the breaking of that trust. Human beings may as well live for something worth dying for; human beings may as well trust in something worth the risk.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William, et al. Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Shakespeare Library). Annotated-Illustrated, Washington Square Press, 2004.

Plato, et al. Selected Dialogues of Plato: The Benjamin Jowett Translation (Modern Library Classics). Modern Library, 2009.

Myers, Jeff. Understanding the Faith: A Survey of Christian Apologetics (Volume 1) (Understanding the Times). David C Cook, 2016.

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