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That the title Much Ado About Nothing been associated with a pun — so that, in effect, something can come ex nihilo — has become a commonplace in Shakespearian scholarship; however, the word-play upon ‘noting’ and ‘nothing’ (as in the Don Pedro/Balthasar dialogue in act II) is seemingly too slight for considering that an entire play, or even its title, would have been built upon it. Though this word-play is enhanced through the added meaning of noting — that is, making notes in the ‘immediate context’ of sounding notes in music, but also in the ‘larger context’ of taking notes, or eavesdropping — I submit that the explanation is unsatisfactory for justifying the title, which may unfortunately retain the general impression of flippancy. I propose, however, a more agreeable solution which need not make the audience feel ‘taken in’ or embarrassed by seeming insincerity or flippancy: it is one that builds upon the inherent insouciance of the title, without having to apologize for it in the least. My view is that the title as we have it was originally the play’s subtitle. At some point, then, the main title got lost. If so, the lost title may have been Love’s Labour’s Won, for this is the only title of Shakespeare’s which we have without a play to to go with it from this period of his career. Since a number of Shakespeare’s other comedies have similarly ‘flippant’ subtitles, the interpretation here offered would not be setting a new precedent.
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