Dogberry – a prideful idiot

Dogberry is a constable who guards the town at night alongside the other members of the watch. He, together with his fellow watchman Verges, accidentally overhear Borachio and Conrade discussing their plan to frame Hero. They then capture the two men, which leads to the reunion of Claudio and Hero and alas a happy ending.

Shakespeare uses characters like Dogberry in many of his other works most notably in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the rude mechanicals. A big part of what makes Dogberry so comical and entertaining is the irony implemented in his character. Like the rude mechanicals, we can see that he is poorly educated especially through his meager use of language. He takes great pride in his work as a constable although he does not realize that he does his job poorly which is a bit ironic.

Another piece of irony comes from the fact that other more educated characters in the play such as Claudio, who misleadingly doesn’t know the truth about what’s going on, uses his words for evil whereas Dogberry, along with Verges, are the only people who hold the truth yet they are too idiotic to communicate the information effectively.

All throughout the play, we see Dogberry confusing words due to his lack of knowledge. It is obvious that Dogberry thinks of himself as a noble man as he continuously prompts his men to do as he does. Still, he is oblivious to the fact that he does not perform his job well. For example, we see this in act 3 scene 3 when he instructs his men not to “meddle” with the thieves they may encounter because “the less you meddle or make with them, why, the more is for your honesty” (48-9.) He is basically saying that these thieves are dishonest and the further they stay away from them, the more honest they will remain. Here he is confusing the act of taking action when it comes to the thieves with the act of actually working with the thieves. After a watchman asks “If we know him to be a thief, should we not lay hands on him?” (50), Dogberry says he is technically allowed to but recommends to just let him be and “steal out of your company” (55).

All in all, the word choice and misunderstanding as well as the irony that Shakespeare employs in Dogberry shows the audience just how honorable and intelligent Dogberry truly believes he is. While we all know he means well, we also know that this is not the case.

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2 thoughts on “Dogberry – a prideful idiot

  1. tarabutler93

    I find Shakespeare’s use of irony here very interesting as well. Dogberry wants to sound intelligent and to be good at his job but is the complete opposite while there are others who do not want as badly for these things and yet they come easily to them. We see situations like this constantly today. People wanting what they can’t have, people wanting to appear a certain way and failing, and so on.

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  2. alyssakaplan1

    I loved the character Dogberry, because of his desire to sound intelligent when he actually makes himself seem the exact opposite. He reminded me so much of the rude mechanicals, and I enjoyed his mistakes every time. It made the play much more comical than it already was. I found it ironic however, that the “town idiot” is the one who wound up saving the day!

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