Illustration of Hero wearing a mask

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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How would you explain the dramatic function of the language in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing?

Expert Answers

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You need to read this question and think what it is that the language does to contribute to the drama in this scene - how is language used to establish themes, relationships and character in this scene? I will give you a starter by looking at the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice.

The initial sparring match between Benedick and Beatrice introduces a number of key themes and motifs that will come to dominate the rest of the play, as well as introducing their characters.

Interestingly, Beatrice always responds to Benedick. She shows she has the ability and intelligence to use Benedick's words and twist them to throw them back at him as an insult. However, this coming second hints at a wider theme that is echoed throughout the play: that of women who must wait for men to propose before they can speak about marriage. Beatrice in Act IV Scene i laments this back-footed position, saying "Oh God! Would that I were a man!"

Also, the motif of masks, obviously a key image in this play, is raised through their dialogue, as they use words to hide their mutual desire. Although all of Beatrice's words are sarcastic, her inquiry about Benedick does ascertain her desire to check his safe return and his performance in battle, thus hinting at a deeper attachment than her dialogue would first suggest. And Benedick's easy familiarity with Beatrice does indeed point to a more meaningful relationship.

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