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Reports & Essays: Literature - Shakespeare

"AND""OR"

Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare The Shakespearean comedy, " Much Ado About Nothing", though a light-hearted romp, is not without more complex dimension. In a brief teasing exchange among the women, Margaret's sassy comment to Beatrice (IV.i.79-92), though a seemingly trivial passage, contains in a nutshell one of the play's central themes. Throughout the different scenarios, there is an extended play on words having to do with the image of food and eating. Words are likened to food, "[Claudio's] words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes." (II.iii.20-21) Words become the characters' sustenance and those that lack it, like the silent Hero, "die". In order to bring Hero back to life, words must be eaten, the very same words that condemned her, by those who accused her. This pattern of the throwing out words then later eating them become essential to resolving conflict within the play. Margaret's short speech is a response to Beatrice's demand of an explanation of the former's broad hints about Benedick. In answering, Margaret is purposely ironic, that is, she says exactly the opposite of what she means. "You may think perchance that I think you are in love. Nay, by'r lady, I am not such a fool to think what I list, nor I list not to think what I can, nor indeed I cannot think, if I would think my heart out of thinking, that you are in love, or that you will be in love, or that you can be in love." (IV.i.80-86) Although this is deliberate coyness on Margaret's part, the oppositeness of implicit meaning and explicit words is reminiscent of Dogberry's similar, albeit, unconscious habit and in keeping with the prevalent tone of sarcasm generated by the bickering of Beatrice and Benedick. These small instances of antilogy are telling of the one of a much grander scale. Every character in the play either consciously or unconsciously lies. Beatrice and Benedick both lie unconsciously when they each vow never to get married. Claudio, Don Pedro, and even her own father, for a moment, unknowingly ally themselves with the conscious lie about Hero perpetuated by Don John and Borachio. Hero, Leonato and Antonio all willingly participate in the Friar's deceitful scheme of pretending Hero is dead. If Claudio's words of love and romance are compared by Benedick to a banquet (II.iii.20-21), these lies are "poison" (II.ii.21) which turn such idealized figures as lovers and maids into "oysters" (II.iii.24) and "contaminated stale" (II.ii.25) Once more apparent are the food images. Finding out the truth is tantamount to eating one's words. Indeed, with the playwright's numerous puns on food (the civil orange), references to appetite (Benedick's queasy stomach), and occasional direct phrase, ("Will you not eat your word?") it is not entirely unexpected. Margaret plainly says this as she predicts the outcome of Beatrice and Benedick's merry, romantic subplot. "Yet Benedick was such another, and now is he become a man. He swore he would never marry, and yet now in despite of his heart he eats his meat without grudging; and how you may be converted I know not, for methinks you look with your eyes as other women do." (IV.i.86-92) The metaphor of "eating his meat without grudging" is glaringly conspicuous. In Elizabethan English, the phrase meant "has an appetite like any other man", and is a large enough hint if interpreted this way. But the pun of the line is even more obvious to the modern reader given its common contemporary usage. In Shakespeare's farcical play, Much Ado About Nothing, there is clearly a considerable ado over the mundane ritual of eating. The playwright pointedly invests a special import in food, whose role as a basic necessity almost always renders it an integral but invisible component in stories about people. Despite appearances, this frothy comedy the Bard serves up certainly offers some food for thought

"For complete summary and analysis of literary works, please visit NovelGuide.com

 



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