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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing


by William Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line) Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.

Quote #13

Marry, sir, they have committed false
report; moreover, they have spoken untruths;
secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they
have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust
things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves. (5.1.225-229)

Dogberry’s failure to communicate rests upon his insistence to be overly formal in his speech. He tries to speak in a manner that gives him legitimacy (using the formulas of speech used in court and legal matters). Ironically, his attempts to use formal language undermine his legitimacy. If Dogberry would just speak straight (instead of worrying about his presentation), then the whole confusion leading to Hero’s undoing could’ve been avoided.

Quote #14

   The god of love
   That sits above,
And knows me, and knows me,
   How pitiful I deserve—

I mean in singing. But in loving Leander the good
swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and
a whole book full of these quondam carpetmongers,
whose names yet run smoothly in the even
road of a blank verse, why, they were never so truly
turned over and over as my poor self in love. Marry,
I cannot show it in rhyme. I have tried. I can find out
no rhyme to 'lady' but 'baby'—an innocent
rhyme; for 'scorn,' 'horn'—a hard rhyme; for 
'school', 'fool'—a babbling rhyme: very ominous
endings. No, I was not born under a rhyming
planet, nor cannot woo in festival terms. (5.2.26-41)

Benedick is poetic in his thinking and speech, but he fails in writing. His references are rich, and all he uses wit to refer to the twisted version of love as presented by epic poetry: Leander was the lover of the mythological Hero (probably the namesake of Leonato’s daughter). Leander died by drowning as he was on his way to see his love, swimming across a river to find her. The story is a twisted version of love, and Benedick warps it further by joking that Leander was a good swimmer.

Benedick jokes that Troilus is pandering to his love, Cressida, but Cressida betrays him by loving another. Benedick specifically uses "panders" as a pun on Pandarus, Cressida’s uncle who originally set the couple up.

Finally, "quondam carpet-mongers" (what???) means knights of the old days who avoided military service. It was joked that they earned their keep by lounging around on the court carpets, rather than fighting on the battlefield. These knights exemplify the definitional shift occurring during this time: once, being a gentleman meant being a great warrior, but the term was slowly changing and coming around to signify one who was versed in the arts of the court, including being a great lover (Remember what Beatrice says about manhood in 4.1.319). 

Ultimately, this all means that Benedick thinks that the guys who wrote epic love poetry were wusses, and though their stories have been immortalized by great poems, they didn’t love as deeply as he does. Thus, poetry is nothing when love is true. (Phew!)

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