Suggested Essay Topics
Act I, Scene 1
1. Contrast the forms of language used by Leonato, Don Pedro, and Claudio with that of Benedick and Beatrice. Why did Shakespeare give them differing forms of expression? What do these forms tell you about the nature of the characters and the probable direction the play will take? Who are the least predictable and most predictable characters and why?
2. Shakespeare has introduced the concept of masks, or deception, at the onset of the play. Cite the use of this concept. What information does this give us about the theme of the play?
3. Beatrice masks her concern for Benedick with her wit. What does the dialogue suggest about their prior encounters and future encounters? Use the text to explain.
4. When Claudio asks Benedick about Hero's modesty, Benedick responds by asking whether Claudio wants an honest response or his customary macho response. What does this tell you about Benedick's awareness of his own nature? Using the text, discuss Benedick's answer to Claudio's question.
Act I, Scene 2
1. In the text, Leonato refuses Antonio's offer to send for the eavesdropping servant. Why? Does he not wish to enlarge on the report? Does he not wish to seem over-anxious? Does he trust his brother implicitly? Explain.
2. In a town where news travels quickly, who else might the servant tell his report to? Might the town now have two rumored suitors for Hero's hand? What kinds of gossip would this lead to? Compare the way news travels in Messina to the ways in which news travels in your community. Are they similar or different?
Act I, Scene 3
1. Today, unlike the time about which Shakespeare writes, illegitimacy is accepted. Do you think that Don John has a right to resent the world for being born a bastard? Can you think of any argument that would bring about a change of mind in him? Why do you think Conrade advises him to be patient and to practice flattery?
2. Borachio is revealed as an informer who will aid Don John. What kind of a man do you think he is? Ironically, he accidentally obtained his information while employed as a perfumer at Leonato's house. Why do you suppose this is the method Shakespeare used to convey this information to Don John? How is the word odor used in terms of reputation? Explain.
Act II, Scene 1
1. Why is Claudio so easily deceived by Don John and Borachio? How does he respond to the deception? What does his soliloquy tell you about his character?
2. Using the text, explain what happened off stage during Benedick's dance with Beatrice? How do we know this happened? What effect did this have on Beatrice?
3. What effect did his dance with Beatrice have on Benedick? Does Beatrice know him and not know him? Is there any truth in her statement that he is Don John's court jester? How does he respond to Beatrice afterward? How do you think he'll respond to her in the future? Explain, citing lines from the text.
4. Don Pedro considers Beatrice a good match for Benedick, while Leonato thinks they'll talk themselves to death in a week. Who do you agree with? Why? Use the text to defend your position.
Act II, Scene 2
1. Who designed and is directing the slander against Hero? What is the plan? How will it be brought about? What roles have been assigned and to whom? Cite the text to explain.
2. Do you think Borachio's plan will succeed? What do you think the responses of Don Pedro and Claudio are likely to be? Would you fall for such a hoax? Explain.
3. What are the motives of the plotters? Are they the same or different? Can any motive ever justify slander? What values does a slanderer lack? Explain.
Act II, Scene 3
1. Why do you think Shakespeare chooses the moment of Benedick's gulling to remind us of the title of the play? Why does he use flattery to ensnare Benedick? Is Benedick actually misled by the gull or does the gull offer him the opportunity to own a part of himself he had denied? Explain.
2. Compare Benedick's two soliloquies. Do they reveal a change in consciousness? Describe the change in consciousness, citing the text.
3. How are Benedick's speeches, before and after the gulling, handled stylistically? Do they have theatrical value? Explain, citing specific passages from the play. How do you imagine an actor would play this role? Describe specific stage business the actor would employ.
Act III, Scene 1
1. Why does Beatrice accept the gull so willingly? Why is she able to surrender her faults so freely? What does this tell you about the true nature of her character? Explain.
2. What does Beatrice mean when she says that "others say thou [Benedick] doest deserve, and I believe it better than reportingly"? What...
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