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Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing

These annotations provide insight and analysis into several of the most well-known quotes from Much Ado About Nothing.

Quotes Examples in Much Ado About Nothing:

Act I - Scene I

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"Alas! He gets nothing by that. In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the(55) whole man governed with one..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Leonato’s niece Beatrice hears the news that Don Pedro and his company are visiting. Included in the group is Benedick—Beatrice’s “sworn enemy.” Every time the two meet, they continue their battle of wits. In this passage, Beatrice proclaims her victory from their last encounter and how Benedick is now left with only one wit. Beatrice’s statement implies that Benedick is even less intelligent and witty than a half-wit, or fool.

"What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Beatrice and Benedick have some of the wittiest dialogue in this romantic comedy. Here, Beatrice starts this round of insults by asking Benedick why he continues to speak if no one is listening to him. She knows how much he loves the attention he gets from others, and so this insult is meant to deflate his ego. His response includes the first of many playful nicknames that Benedick continues to use throughout the play. He calls her “Lady Disdain” to accuse her of disliking everything and to show that her insult did no harm. She responds with just as witty a retort, saying that he provides so much disdain for her to feed on that she'll never die.

"What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no(30) beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him. Therefore I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward and lead his apes into hell...."   (Act II - Scene I)

Leonato is holding a masquerade ball as entertainment for his household guests. He and Beatrice converse about the men who will be there, and they discuss Beatrice’s possibly marrying a bearded, or a beardless, man. Beatrice claims that she would rather sleep with a sheep than marry a bearded man, who would be too old for her. On the other hand, she finds beardless men useless because they are “less than a man” or immature. Therefore, Beatrice believes no man is suitable for her and sarcastically states that she is ready to live up the supposed punishment for unmarried women: leading a bunch of apes into hell.

"Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? ..."   (Act II - Scene I)

Once again, the readers witness Beatrice’s sharp tongue at work and her wittiness, which is specifically used to mock the idea of falling in love or getting married in this context. She believes that it will “grieve,” or be miserable for, a woman to be “overmaster’d” or committed to a man, who she calls a “piece of valiant dust,” or, in other words, a handful of dust. This metaphor implies that men are unreliable, and as a result, Beatrice despises the idea that women must be subservient to men.

"let every eye negotiate for itself,..."   (Act II - Scene I)

Claudio has just been duped into believing his beloved Hero is unfaithful. He is quick to believe the lies of others; Don John and Borachio have only pretended not to recognize Claudio's disguise and lied about Hero's plans to run away with another man. "Let every eye negotiate for itself" means that people in love only act for themselves. Friendship, which is "constant in all other things," becomes irrelevant.

"windy side..."   (Act II - Scene I)

To be on the "windy side of care" means to be out of care's way, or out of danger. This is a nautical allusion: the windy side is the windward side, which gives a ship enough wind to maneuver out of danger.

"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,(60) Men were deceivers ever, One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never:..."   (Act II - Scene III)

“Sigh no more” could be interpreted as do not cry or feel sad anymore. Its repetition along with the following line reflect a tone of acceptance. “One foot in sea and one on shore” suggests unfaithfulness and unwillingness to commit to a relationship. “To one thing constant never” can be interpreted in a more general context; it is essentially saying that men can never be “constant” or devoted to anything.

"What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?(110) Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu! No glory lives behind the back of such. And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee, Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand...."   (Act III - Scene I)

After learning that she has a reputation for being overly prideful and scornful, making her “unlovable” to Benedick, Beatrice expresses disbelief and shock. Suddenly, the character who defies societal expectations regarding women and marriage manages to abandon her contempt and “maiden pride.” She acknowledges that she has a “wild heart,” yet here she wants Benedick to “love on” as she will love him in return. However, it appears that Beatrice allows Benedict to pursue her more as a reaction against the reputation she has gained.

"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps...."   (Act III - Scene I)

Hero and her attendant Ursula have planned to have Beatrice overhear their staged conversation, which will trick her into believing that Benedict loves her (as he does in reality). Hero and Ursula’s plan represents a Cupid’s trap. Moreover, the execution of this plan indirectly shows how Beatrice and Benedick are both stubborn and in self-denial regarding love and matrimony.

"O, what men dare do..."   (Act IV - Scene I)

Once again, Claudio has been duped into believing that Hero is unfaithful. He picks up on Leonato's "I dare" from the previous line and begins (loudly) questioning the very nature of agency and mistakes—particularly the mistake he believes Hero has made.

"For there was never yet philosopher That could endure the toothache patiently,..."   (Act V - Scene I)

With the morning of his daughter’s wedding ruined and his honor indirectly affected, Leonato is upset. When Antonio tells Leonato that indulging in grief and self-pity is childish, Leonato responds that even philosophers, who appear godlike and immune to human suffering, will fail to “endure” a “toothache.” Essentially, Leonato is using this example to defend his emotional vulnerability, which is part of human nature.

"Done to death by slanderous tongues Was the Hero that here lies...."   (Act V - Scene III)

Claudio and everyone else, except the Friar, believe Hero to be dead, and Claudio makes this speech at what he believes to be her tomb. "Slanderous" means false and malicious, which here has double meaning: Claudio and Hero's father both viciously denounced her for unfaithfulness, causing her to fall into a dead faint. However, Claudio was duped into believing this, and so the perpetrators of the lie could also be considered "slanderous tongues."

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