Much Ado, Bloom, and MalaproprismMalapropism (the misuse of words) has a long history as part of low comedy.  Harold Bloom, a leading contemporary critic and professor at Yale Univeristy, has...

Much Ado, Bloom, and Malaproprism

Malapropism (the misuse of words) has a long history as part of low comedy.  Harold Bloom, a leading contemporary critic and professor at Yale Univeristy, has criticized shakespeare for overusing this technique in Much Ado About Nothing.  Analyze the extend to which Shakespeare may or may not deserve the Wrah of Professor Bloom. 

Asked on by haleh

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alexb2's profile pic

alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted on

There is a certain segment of the population who just love malapropisms. It's funny, and even when it's not funny, sometimes packing a whole lot of them in a row, like in parts of Much Ado About Nothing, becomes funny simply because of the repitition. I can imagine audiences crying with laughter as misunderstanding becomes fact and vice-versa. 

True, it's a bit "low brow", but so what! It's a lot of fun for the audience, which was of course (as discussed above) the main goal.  

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Far be it from me to criticize Harold Bloom...ah, what the heck - I guess I'll live on the edge today! :)

I think Shakespeare's use of malapropism, particularly with the character of Dogberry in Much Ado, is hilarious and entertaining.  Shakespeare was writing plays to entertain people, not to be judged and criticized 400 years down the road, and to that end he was successful.  People in Elizabethan England lived very hard, dangerous lives.  Dying of starvation or the plague were very real threats.  Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights managed to inject some humor into these people's lives, and for that I say, God bless 'em!

Puns are called the lowest form of humor, and malapropisms are a form of punning.  Frankly, I don't care.  I think it shows a high-level vocabularly to be able to joke with words, and come on, who doesn't love it when Dogberry says, "O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this!" (4.2) :)

Bravo!! I think we sometimes forget that Shakespeare was writing to make a living and not providing fodder for future teachers. And his audience would have been like audiences today--they would have preferred the humor. My journalism students are all honor students, top ten percent of their classes. Most of them eat lunch with me in my room. What makes them laugh? Somebody passing gas! (I just can't make myself use the slang.) They can't understand why I think that kind of humor is vulgar.

That's not to say that Shakespeare is vulgar, but he did have to appeal to the masses to sell tickets. He had competition from other theater groups and had to draw in the crowds.

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Far be it from me to criticize Harold Bloom...ah, what the heck - I guess I'll live on the edge today! :)

I think Shakespeare's use of malapropism, particularly with the character of Dogberry in Much Ado, is hilarious and entertaining.  Shakespeare was writing plays to entertain people, not to be judged and criticized 400 years down the road, and to that end he was successful.  People in Elizabethan England lived very hard, dangerous lives.  Dying of starvation or the plague were very real threats.  Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights managed to inject some humor into these people's lives, and for that I say, God bless 'em!

Puns are called the lowest form of humor, and malapropisms are a form of punning.  Frankly, I don't care.  I think it shows a high-level vocabularly to be able to joke with words, and come on, who doesn't love it when Dogberry says, "O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this!" (4.2) :)

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