Use Of Literature Devices In William Shakespeare’s Play Much Ado About Nothing

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Sujit Iyer Ms. Williams 10th World Lit 28 August 2019 Literary Analysis on ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ In the play, Much Ado About Nothing, language has a lasting impact on the course of the plot and adds a special element to each character. William Shakespeare effectively uses figurative language and many other tactics to develop individual characters and the overall theme.

One character he specifically is able to change is Benedick. Benedick starts out as a stubborn minded man opposed to all women but develops a change of heart throughout the play. Benedick and Beatrice fall in love leading to the eventual marriage betwixt the two, something Benedick once swore off. Shakespeare is able to manipulate and develop Benedick through the use of multiple literary devices.

In Act one, Benedick is visibly opposed to marriage and women in general. In the first scene of act 1, Leonato perfectly describes Benedick’s disposition to Beatrice, stating “There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her” (lines 59-61). Shakespeare cleverly uses an oxymoron in this case as the words merry and war are opposites. The use of the oxymoron shows how their encounters are lighthearted yet still intense. Shakespeare also utilizes similes and metaphors to convey Benedick’s thoughts. During one of their “wit-wars”, Benedict says “Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher” (line 136).

Benedick is comparing the way Beatrice instructs him as to a parrot, showing his disdain for her insults. It sets the stage for the many wit-wars to continue. Later in the act, when discussing Hero, Benedick says “There’s her cousin, and she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December” (lines 186-188). The use of the simile, in this case, compares Beatrice’s personality to the polar opposites of May and December. It illustrates how Benedick finds Beatrice pretty but is still very opposed to her character. His attraction to Beatrice is a hint as to how he eventually does fall in love with her and that he does have a soft spot for her. Through the course of act two, Benedick completely changes his views on women.

At the beginning of act 2, Beatrice unknowingly insults Benedick to his face. Shakespeare uses a metaphor to compare Benedick to a very dull fool or jester. Benedick reacts very rashly to this statement and begins to develop a hatred for Beatrice when before their encounters were merely light-hearted. He uses a metaphor to compare Beatrice’s comments to being stabbed in the heart. His reaction is best represented by the quote “I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the furthest inch of Asia, bring you the length of Prester John’s foot, fetch you a hair off the great Cham’s beard, do you any embassage to the Pygmies, rather than hold three words’ conference with this harpy” (lines 262-266). The use of hyperbole in this excerpt shows the extremities to which he would go to just to avoid the company of Beatrice. Although he would not actually go around the world, it shows his current disdain for her.

In scene 3 of act two, a devious plan was hatched by a few of the other characters to spur love between Beatrice and Benedick. They say that Beatrice is madly in love with Benedick which is much to his surprise. He quickly falls in love with her launching into a monologue., after a conversation with Beatrice, Benedick states “If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain; if I do not love her, I am a Jew” (lines 264-265). Here, Shakespeare uses the word Jew as a symbol. As antisemitism was common in the 16th century, Jews were commonly regarded as heard-hearted misers. Shakespeare uses the literary device to show how Benedick regards it as his duty to love Beatrice. It illustrates how his love for Beatrice is not fully innate and is likely due to the fact that he feels pity for Beatrice. Benedick completes his change in character during acts two through five.

He is unused to this feeling of falling in love and thinks that he alone has experienced love before because it is such a novel experience for him. This is evidenced in act 3 when Benedick states “Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it” (lines 27-28). He believes that his acquaintances can not relate to him even though they know exactly what is going on. Throughout the duration of the play, Benedick comes to terms with his feelings for Beatrice and devotes himself to her. He states that he loves nothing more in the world than Beatrice, showing that he has finally accepted that he truly does love her. Beatrice however, is still hesitant about her feelings for him. She seems to use Benedicks’s feelings as leverage, saying that if he truly does love her, then he will kill Claudio.

When writing from the point of view of Beatrice, Shakespeare uses a straightforward and edgy tone which further shows that Beatrice is not convinced that Benedick is worthy of her love yet. Benedick hesitantly agrees which shows that his love for her trumps one of his dearest friendships. As the play progresses, Shakespeare uses a more light-hearted and jovial tone as Claudio is cleared of shame. The change in tone foreshadows the eventual marriage of Benedick and Beatrice. Shakespeare uses many puns and has Benedick make many jokes at the expense of his previous thoughts on love. In conclusion, Shakespeare’s use of language has a profound impact on the character development of Benedick in the play Much Ado About Nothing.

Shakespeare’s use of literary devices convey the feelings and thoughts of Benedick and his changing tone throughout the story appropriately fits each stage of Benedick’s character development. Without Shakespeare’s unique use of language, Benedick would be a much more static character and the play’s message as a whole would be harder to understand.


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