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Literary Devices in Much Ado About Nothing

Literary Devices Examples in Much Ado About Nothing:

Act I - Scene I

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"or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex?..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Benedick admits to being a “professed tyrant” to women. His attitudes towards women are similar to the attitudes Beatrice holds towards men. Shakespeare creates an intriguing balance between the four central characters of the play. The two pairs of couples—Claudio and Hero, Benedick and Beatrice—are mirrors of one another. It is clear thus far that Shakespeare is creating character doubles, a favorite technique.

"No, not till a hot January...."   (Act I - Scene I)

This saying from Beatrice is an example of an adynaton—a figure of speech meant to indicate an impossibility. “Not till a hot January” has an almost identical meaning to common adynatons such as “when hell freezes over” or “when pigs fly.”

"Note this before my notes; There's not a note of mine that's worth noting...."   (Act II - Scene III)

This is a heavily layered pun. Balthazar says that one should take “note.” He then says that there is not a musical note of his that is worth listening to (“noting”) or worth anything (“nothing”). Balthazar’s pun on “noting” and “nothing” reflects the the pun in the play’s title. Much “ado” (needless commotion) ensues throughout the play because characters continually make “note” of “nothing.” They make a fuss over perceptions of things rather the things themselves.

" Therefore let Benedick, like covered fire, Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly..."   (Act III - Scene I)

In an ironic gesture, Hero claims that she will not tell Beatrice of Benedick’s passion for her. She knows, however, that Beatrice can hear her every word. Hero suggests that Benedick should suppress his passion “like covered fire,/Consume away in sighs.” The lines evoke the image of a candle being snuffed out, the resulting smoke of which is alluded to in the ethereal reference to “sighs.”

" Conclude, conclude, he is in love..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Recall that Beatrice prefers men without beards. Considering the theme of love as a loss of freedom, Benedick’s shaving of his beard here becomes a symbol of his domestication by love. When Claudio compares Benedick to a lute (a musical instrument used in serenades,) he draws on the motif of love and music and implies that Benedick is merely an instrument that has been played by love.

"'Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man...."   (Act III - Scene IV)

This line is a double entendre, meaning that it is open to two interpretations. On the one hand, Margaret is making a comical innuendo that after marriage Hero will lie with her husband: "his weight will literally make her heart heavier." However, we can also read this figuratively. In the Renaissance, passionate love was often described as a kind of disease. Margaret’s line thus suggests that Hero’s marriage to Claudio could bring with it a sadness that would make her heart feel even heavier.

"exclamation..."   (Act III - Scene V)

“Exclamation,” meaning the action of crying out in pain, anger, surprise, etc., is a malapropism for “acclamation,” an expression of praise or enthusiastic approval. Shakespeare includes these malapropisms to make Dogberry a comedic character at whom the audience can laugh. However, they are also moments that can mock members of the audience: if you do not catch the malapropism, then you are as ignorant and laughable as Dogberry.

"if I were as tedious as a king..."   (Act III - Scene V)

Dogberry misinterprets the meaning of the word “tedious,” which means long and tiresome, as wealthy. Because he misinterprets the word, he also misses Leonato’s insult. This demonstrates an educational disconnect between the rich and the poor, which Shakespeare uses to create humor.

"Well, I am glad that all things sort so well...."   (Act V - Scene IV)

This line serves as a type of meta commentary on the play itself. Benedick remarks on how well things ended up to signal to the audience that they have arrived at the happy ending. This also acts as a moment of comedy that reveals the playwright’s hand in manufacturing this ending: “all things” and “so well” are hyperbolic expressions that express Benedick’s apparent surprise that everything was able to resolve.

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