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What are some examples of "fashion" in Much Ado about Nothing?  Hi, I have to write an...

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muchadoaboutn... | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 22, 2011 at 8:53 AM via web

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What are some examples of "fashion" in Much Ado about Nothing?

 

Hi, I have to write an essay on the key theme of Fashion and clothes in Much Ado About Nothing, and I really need some help. Some quotes and explanations would be great from throughout the play or an explanation as to why this plays an important role in the play. Thanks!

 

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 23, 2011 at 2:13 AM (Answer #1)

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In Act III, scene iv of Much Ado About Nothing, Hero and Maragaret have a conversation about clothes:

MARGARET

Troth, I think your other rabato were better.
HERO
No, pray thee, good Meg, I'll wear this.
MARGARET
By my troth, 's not so good; and I warrant your
cousin will say so.
HERO
My cousin's a fool, and thou art another: I'll wear
none but this.
MARGARET
I like the new tire within excellently, if the hair
were a thought browner; and your gown's a most rare
fashion, i' faith. I saw the Duchess of Milan's
gown that they praise so.
HERO
O, that exceeds, they say.
MARGARET
By my troth, 's but a night-gown in respect of
yours: cloth o' gold, and cuts, and laced with
silver, set with pearls, down sleeves, side sleeves,
and skirts, round underborne with a bluish tinsel:
but for a fine, quaint, graceful and excellent
fashion, yours is worth ten on 't.
HERO
God give me joy to wear it! for my heart is
exceeding heavy.
MARGARET
'Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man.
HERO
Fie upon thee! art not ashamed?

A "rabato" is a "collar," and a "tire" is a "headdress."  When Hero says, "that exceeds, they say," she means that [the gown] "is amazing."  So, the conversation is but a filler on fashion while Beatrice is fetched, but it reveals the class distinctions between engaged upper-class Hero (who can afford expensive gowns and hair) and unmarried, lower-class Margaret (whose nightgown is "quaint" by comparison).  Margaret ends the conversation by making a dirty joke, so clothes are used to attract a husband as well.

Earlier in the play, "masks" were the focal point of the party.  During such masquerade balls, expensive and elaborate costumes were worn by men and women as part of pagan revelry.  Here, Don Pedro woos Hero for Claudio, and Benedick and Beatrice argue in disguise.  So, clothing is not only used to show one's gender, status, and wealth, but also one's inner feelings and secret motivations.  Don John, a bastard, for example, would most likely wear black to show his melancholy, while Hero, a virgin, would wear white.  As an example, Beatrice says this of Benedick:

Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as
the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the
next block.

Giving outward clues of inward motivations is a kind of "pathetic fallacy" or an "objective correlative."  What we see outside mirrors what one feels inside.

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