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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

In a play involving so many mischievous schemes, language is an important tool. Characters’ feelings and intentions are obscured as often as they are illuminated by their language. Miscommunication – both intentional and unintentional – is a common source of drama, and strong language is as likely to be a deception as a symptom of true feeling. Related to deception, most characters tend to take for granted that what others say is actually true, without considering other points of evidence. It’s almost as if the characters don’t believe others could possibly lie. This, of course, leads to more troubles.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Does language have a moral dimension? What does it mean that the most honorable characters (Beatrice and Benedick) speak in the most veiled language, while the thoroughly bad Don John speaks straight (if false) throughout the play?
  2. Shakespeare uses Dogberry as a caricature of all the people who aspire to speak above their "station" in life. Is Shakespeare being classist here?
  3. What do you make of the fact that Benedick can speak so wonderfully in his daily life, but can’t write worth a d--n in his poems to Beatrice? Does this somehow indicate that his love is not suited for formal conventions, or that his love is not as true as it could be?
  4. What does it mean that Hero and Claudio are constantly silent during their courtship? The two seem to not have a single proper conversation until Claudio denounces Hero on their wedding day. Does this undermine their supposed love for each other? Is it possible to love someone without ever really communicating with them? Can Claudio and Hero be understood by watching the part of The Little Mermaid where Ariel has no voice and Ursula does weird, gross things with her body and says, "Don’t underestimate the power of body language"?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Language is a social register that conveys both the station and the intelligence of characters. The quicker a character’s speech, the more thoughtful he or she is.

Communication is less important in this play than miscommunication.

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