Language in Much Ado About Nothing

I remember reading Much Ado About Nothing in the 8th grade. I don’t recall what activities I did to supplement the reading, or even the name of my English teacher. I do, however, reminisce about the story because it has an important theme that all 12-13 year olds could probably take a cue from: an element of civility, decorum and over all good manners. It also shows the binary between more complex or more simplistic speech, and how our preconceived good manners can channel the correct use of language.

Throughout the play, I feel that Benedick, Claudio and even Don Pedro use their words and language in a way that, although it may make the young women blush and it is extremely intricate, it still invokes the proper etiquette of the time. I was thinking of the transformation of Claudio as a prime case in how a person can change their language for whatever situation they’re in. For example, Benedick says of Claudio: “He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier, and now he has turned to orthography. His words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes.” (II.iii.16-19) Claudio used to choose a more direct approach in his speech, but after falling in love Hero he takes on a flowery tone. (Benedick even calls Claudio “Monsieur Love”.) (II.iii.31)

Isn’t this something that many adolescents can relate to? They are learning their society’s social graces, and are more capable of manipulating their spoken and written words than when they were younger. Of course, they are going to make mistakes, but they learn to differentiate their speech when they are speaking to friends, to loved ones, and to adults. I think that they can channel themselves into these characters, and can relate to both the bickering and the calm conversations.


3 thoughts on “Language in Much Ado About Nothing

  1. Ryan Williams

    I agree with you. This play is one of value for younger people. I feel that is a valid observation and something that I personally would not have thought of. The fact that you did read this at younger age and took that from it is incredible. I feel like Shakespeare, in particular this work, should be incorporated earlier in scholastic programs.

  2. Marianne North

    I think you're right about the characters having to learn to change their language depending on who they're talking to. In the beginning it seemed like Claudio had to stop talking like a soldier and remind himself that love is something more subtle and gentle—so it wasn't really appropriate for him to talk about conquering Hero like an enemy. He really did have to learn to talk in a completely different way, didn't he? Many other characters in the play change to suit the situation and company; the only exception seems to be Don John. I think this would suggest that in order to be happy or succeed in life one must conform to certain norms.

  3. Adrienne Horgan

    that's an interesting way to look at the story. I never thought of it beign a tool for young adults to learn the differences in language and when and where to use them. Benedick and Beatrice i think might be perfect examples of the children who have not learned to manipulate the difference in their communication skills, we see this because they speak the same way with everyone and they have no tact when it comes to their 'merry war' which they resume in front of everyone without any care at all.


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