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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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Analyze the quotation by Beatrice that begins “What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much? Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!” Explain why you chose it and what it tells you about the character who is saying it. Also, what can you learn about this character from word choice, voice, tone, and the overall message conveyed by the quote? Does this character analysis provide any foreshadowing as to what might happen next in Much Ado About Nothing?

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In this passage from act 3, scene 1, of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice is wondering about the likely truth of what she heard by eavesdropping. If it is true, then she vows to change her ways. Beatrice and Benedick are the two main characters in the play, and up to this point they had always quarreled. Their friends, who have decided to make them fall in love with each other, have been planting false information. Margaret told Beatrice that Hero and Ursula were gossiping about her, so Beatrice decided to listen in on their conversation, which has convinced her that her arrogant behavior is making the lovesick Benedick suffer.

Shakespeare has Beatrice using a metaphor, a direct comparison of unlike things for effect, to indicate the quick, harsh, and potentially damaging nature of the news. Beatrice says that a “fire is in [her] ears.” She also speaks in questions to indicate her doubt or reluctance to accept this news as true. This reluctance is connected to the sudden requirement for her to reevaluate her own behavior, which she is understandably reluctant to do. She wonders if people really think she is so proud and scornful.

Her decisiveness and strength of character are also conveyed, however, as she resolves to behave more admirably. She acknowledges her bad qualities and, using the literary devices of apostrophe and personification, says goodbye (in French, “adieu”) to them. Her haste to completely reverse her treatment of Benedick, however, also indicates that she might have been fonder of him all along than she was letting on.

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