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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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What do the food references in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing indicate?

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The repetition of food and eating in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing helps to further portray the theme of honor.

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The repetition of the symbol of food helps to further portray the theme of honor. Leonato has thrown Prince Don Pedro a feast fit for a king in order to honor him for his safe return home and his valiance in the war. Hence, we frequently hear food, dinner, and feast mentioned.

One place where we see food mentioned is when Don John learns that his brother is courting Hero for Claudio's sake. Don John is jealous of the attention his brother is showing Claudio and feels that Claudio may usurp Don John in power. When Don John learns that Don Pedro is now showing Claudio extra attention by courting for him, Don John refers to it as "food to my displeasure," meaning that this new attention Don Pedro is showing Claudio will likely increase Don John's dissatisfaction in how he is being treated by his brother (I.iii.54-54). Since food in the form of a feast represents honor, food represents the antithesis of honor in this line, showing us what a dishonorable character Don John is and how he is about to treat his brother, Claudio, and Hero dishonorably. Hence we see that references to food symbolizes either honor or the antithesis, dishonor.

A second place where we see food mentioned and symbolizing honor is in Act 2, Scene 3 when Beatrice says to Benedick, "Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner" (II.iii.223-224). Beatrice dislikes Benedick very much, finding him a dishonorable person. However, both she and Benedick are being tricked into falling in love. Benedick overhears Don Claudio say that Hero has told him that Beatrice is in love with Benedick but refuses to let him know, as we see in the lines:

Hero thinks surely she will die; for she says she will die if he love her not, and she will die ere she make her love known. (II.iii.161-163)

Since Benedick learns that Hero has said this, he feels prone to believe it because Hero is virtuous and honorable. However, we know that it is a lie and when Beatrice calls him into dinner, we know that dinner is symbolizing honor, or the question of honor. 

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