In Act IV of William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, what stylistic devices are used in the speech by Bottom that begins with "Nothing, good mounsieur" and ends with "I must scratch"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Act 4, scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mustardseed (one of the fairies) asks Bottom (the commoner who has been turned into an ass) what Bottom desires. To this question, Bottom replies,

Nothing, good mounsieur, but to help Cavalery Cobweb 
to scratch. I must to the barber's, monsieur; for 
methinks I am marvellous hairy about the face; and I 
am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, 
I must scratch.

This brief passage employs a number of literary devices, including the following:

  • alliteration in “Cavalery Cobweb,” “methinks” “marvelous,” and “tender” and “tickle.”
  • assonance in the short “a” sounds of “scratch” and “am” and also  “ass” and “scratch.”
  • irony when Bottom says that he feels like an “ass” (that is, a fool) when in fact he is literally an “ass” (a donkey).

 

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