Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
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. (5.1.215)
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.
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 carpet-mongers, whose names yet run smoothly in the
even road of a blank verse--why, they were never so truly turn'd
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
Benedick is poetic in his thinking and speech, though he fails to be 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 (likely 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" (say 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!)