Imagining the Mind: Empathy and Misreading in Much Ado About Nothing

  • Nicholas R. Helms
Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


Using Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Helms describes how imagination breaks down in complex social situations where multiple individual perspectives must be imagined simultaneously. To circumvent this difficulty, characters rely on the empathic connection they have with others, and overconfidence in that empathy leads to misreading. Recent criticism has focused on the inferential errors that Claudio makes when he misinterprets Hero’s blush in act four. Drawing on theories of cognitive ecology and the embodied, embedded, and extended mind, Helms shifts the focus of the discussion from misinterpretation of facts to misreading of emotions, arguing that Claudio’s trouble is not external—social forces or erroneous impressions—but internal; Claudio follows the tide of imagination, failing to combine inferential distance with his own readings of others.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas R. Helms
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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