ABSTRACT

Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing and The Winter's Tale share a common setting: Sicily. This article explores what that setting means in the plays by focusing on the issue of hospitality, which gets disrupted. A key element of hospitality is entertainment, which literarily means “to hold together.” But fractures occur in Sicily, leading to a breakdown of the social fabric. The center does not hold. In Much Ado about Nothing, for example, the wedding scene in 4.1 should offer the quintessence of joy and hospitality; but it does not, thanks to the machinations of Don Jon and the credulity of Claudio and others. It takes a presumed death to begin the restoration. Similarly, in the Sicilian world of The Winter's Tale hospitality falters completely by the end of 3.2 as Hermione apparently dies and so does the royal son. The remainder of the play seeks a way to re-create an entertaining, hospitable Sicily. Against all odds, such a restoration, portrayed most profoundly in the appearance of Hermione in the final scene, occurs as the fatal country of Sicily recovers the art and grace of hospitality.

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