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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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How does Shakespeare use language and stagecraft to achieve effects and engage his audience in Act 2, scene 3 of Much Ado About Nothing?

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The primary language device Shakespeare uses in Act II, scene iii of Much Ado about Nothing (pronounced note-ing) is plays on words. The scene opens with one instance of this. Bendick calls his servant in. The servant unintentionally--or intentionally--misunderstands Bendick and gives him a nonsensical reply: When sent to collect a book and bring it back, he replies, "I am here already, sir" to which Benedick is forced to reply, "I know that; but I would have thee hence, and here again." This creates a humorous effect and engages the audience.

Another instance of word play is when Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato are talking about Benedick--for Bendick's benefit--and playing off the word "quarrel."  Don Pedro says Benedick "undertakes / them with a most Christian-like fear" to which Leonato replies, "if he break the peace, he ought to enter into a / quarrel with fear and trembling." This adds an engaging humorous twist to the notion of a soldier's courage in battle that applies to personal relations. Another similarly engagingly humorous instance occurs later when Leonato and Claudio know something and Don Pedro exclaims his amazement upon hearing it: "How, how, pray you? You amaze me." The same engaging effects based upon language occur later in Benedick's monologue after having overheard this staged conversation.

Stagecraft in Act II, scene iii that creates effects and engages centers around comings and goings. Entrances and exits create perceptions of activity, feelings of anticipation and suspense, thus engaging the audience. As the scene opens, Bendick is alone onstage. He raises his voice and calls for the entrance of his servant. When the "Boy!" exits, Benedick delivers the first of his two monologues in the scene. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato enter calling for the entrance of the musician Balthasar who adds to the engagement of the stagecraft by singing a context-relevant song. Later, Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato exit. Bendick is alone on stage and delivers his second monologue about requiting Beatrice's love: "Love me! / why, it must be requited." The scene ends with a pithy exchange as Beatrice enters and exits.

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