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Allusion in Much Ado About Nothing

In Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare uses allusions to Greek and Roman mythology, especially in the witty interactions between Beatrice and Benedick. There are also allusions to the Bible, which are used to characterize the personalities, values, and motives of different characters.

Allusion Examples in Much Ado About Nothing:

Act I - Scene I


"clapped on the shoulder and called Adam..."   (Act I - Scene I)

This is a reference to Adam Bell, a character in the poem Of Sir Thomas Norrey by William Dunbar. Adam Bell is a legendary English outlaw and archer who lives in Carlisle, Cumbria. He has an altruistic nature much like that of Robin Hood.

"Cupid..."   (Act I - Scene I)

In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of love and affection. He is known in Greek mythology as Eros. Cupid is depicted as being blind and carrying a bow and arrow.

"Vulcan..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Vulcan is the Roman god of fire, especially the fire from volcanoes. He is known in Greek mythology as Hephaestus. Vulcan is often depicted with a blacksmith’s hammer to show his expertise in the field.

"play the flouting Jack..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Here, the verb “to flout” means to quote or recite with a sarcastic purpose. Benedick asks if Claudio is trying to convince them of something they know not to be true. He refers to Cupid’s (usually blind) being able to see, and Vulcan’s (the famous blacksmith) being a great carpenter. Benedick wants to be sure that Claudio’s feelings about Hero are true.

"He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion..."   (Act I - Scene I)

The lion and the lamb are important mythological symbols, both commonly found in the Bible. The lamb represents meekness and docility, while the lion represents boldness and violence. The messenger’s metaphor suggests that Don Pedro’s frail exterior belies his forcefulness.

"Troilus..."   (Act V - Scene II)

Troilus is a warrior in the Trojan War depicted in Roman mythology. In medieval literature, Troilus was written into a tragic love story with a woman Cressida. The couple is separated shortly after they fall in love when Cressida is traded to the Greeks for a Trojan soldier and taken as a paramour by a Grecian officer.

"Leander ..."   (Act V - Scene II)

Leander is a character from Greek mythology who swims across a narrow channel to his lover Hero every night. One night, a terrible storm blows out the lantern Hero places in her tower window to guide Leander’s journey. Lost in the channel without this light, Leander drowns.

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