Much Ado About Nothing Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What sort of wit can be found in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing ?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Wit is frequently portrayed through both irony and puns.

We see Shakespeare use verbal, situational, and even dramatic irony to create wit in the play. Plus, in some instances, the types of irony overlap. Beatrice uses verbal irony a great deal, especially in her verbal attacks of Benedick. One instance of this that we see in the opening scene is that when the Messenger defends Benedick's valor in the recent victorious wars, saying to Beatrice, "And [he is] a good soldier too, lady," Beatrice ironically responds by twisting the Messenger's words and saying, "And a good soldier to a lady; but what is he to a lord?," meaning that only a woman would be so easily deceived by him to think of Benedick as a valiant soldier while the real men he fights with would not be so easily fooled (I.i.44-45).

An instance of wit portrayed through both situational and dramatic irony can be seen with relation to the fact that both...

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revolution | Student

Wit is characteristic of a metaphysical poetry as a style, and was prevalent in Shakespeare period, who admonished pretension with the phrase "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit". It may combine word play or manipulation of words with analytical  thinking, as a kind of verbal showing requiring deep attention, without intending to be humorous ; in fact wit can be a thin disguise for more inner feelings that are not shown directly towards the audience.

a-b | Student

Sorry, the quote I meant to put at the start of the play:

"You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her: they never met but there's a skirmish of wit between them" (I.i.61-64).

a-b | Student

Wit in this context means the clever, interesting, and funny ways of speaking which various characters use in order to get their way or to prove their skill.

The main relationship between Benedick and Beatrice revolves around wit. For example, at the very start of the play, Leonato says to a messenger bringing word that Benedick will soon arrive in Messina's court:

"You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There / is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior / Benedick and her: they never met but there's / a skirmish of wit between them" / (I.i.61-64).

It is a duel of wits and of will that informs the relation between the two main characters of the play, and is especially revealing when the play speaks about the differences between men and women.