In his play Much Ado about Nothing, Shakespeare makes use of violent language as a tool that plays a crucial role. The following are some examples of speech and words in the play that represent both wounds and battles.
To begin with, in Act 1 scene 1, Leonato, the father of Hero and the uncle of Beatrice, explains that there exists a kind of merry war between both Benedick and Beatrice. He adds that these two never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them. The word skirmish means a spontaneous minor conflict or a fight. Thus, in this regard, it is considered as a strong word symbolizing the battle between these two who enjoy trading insults whenever they are together (Gay, 1999). In a similar regard, verbal swordplay is exemplified in the play in the scene where Hero has been vindicated. In this part of the play, Benedick asks Margaret, who is Heros attendant to fetch him his beloved Beatrice. He says, I give thee the bucklers. Which means that he gives up. Nonetheless, Margaret does not heed what Benedick tells her, and she instead asks him to give them swords. She says, Give us the swords, we have bucklers of our own. Benedick, on the other hand, cautions her in response saying, if you use them, Margaret, you must put in the pikes with a vice, and these are dangerous weapons for maids. At this point of the play, Benedick refers to words that Margaret intended to use as spiked shields that are dangerous. For this reason, he warns Margaret about the potential harm that these words would cause (Shakespeare & Mares, 2003).
Besides, Beatrices remarks about Benedick are also a representation of the wounds and the battles that existed between the two. This is particularly highlighted when Beatrice exclaims, What should I do with him? Dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? These remarks essentially indicate the use of violent language in the play especially between two conflicting characters who ridicule each other regardless of whether they both are conversing or speaking out loud about one another.
The words, valiant trencherman are harsh words that Beatrice uses to make fun of Benedick in his absence. This means that Beatrice refers to Benedick as a hearty eater who she considered courageous only as an eater and not as a man. She states that he is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an excellent stomach. The Statement, She speaks poniards, and every word stabs: if her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her; she would infect to the North Star, is also another significant implication of words that represent battle since Benedick complains about how Beatrices insults rampage since every word felt like a dagger stab, which is considered very painful. In the same vein, Benedick declared that if Beatrices breath were deadly as the word she used, there would be no living neat her and infection due to these hurtful words would extend as far as the North Star (Smith & Peter, 2004).
What do Shakespeare and his cast of characters accomplish by metaphorically turning words into weapons?
In the play Much Ado about Nothing the extensive metaphorical turning of words into weapons evidently enables Shakespeare as well as his cast of characters to relate critically to the readers. In this regard, the reader can come to visual thinking about how the play effectively combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honor, shame, as well as court politics. This, in essence, provides the readers with a way in which one can communicate with their visual message in a meaningful manner and as a result, create a sense of understanding, familiarity, and awareness of the plays central themes.
Concerning the characters, the metaphorical turning of words into weapons enables them to express their conflict or even their anger towards the other characters. For instance, despite the fact that Shakespeare portrays both Beatrice and Benedick as more mature than the typical lovers in most of his comedies, the fact that their words are metaphorically turned into weapons that they use against one another reveals their unhealthy competitiveness which substantially portrays a childish novice in them when it comes to love. Shakespeare, on the other hand, can efficiently develop both the characters and the themes of the play through this metaphorical turning of words into weapons. Other than the characters of the two protagonists, Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare through the metaphorical use of violent language is able to develop the primary themes of the ideal of social grace and also the loss of honor. Besides, though the use of violent language and words to metaphorically represent weapons, Shakespeare is able to portray his attitude toward courtship and romance, which, in his account, combines mature cynicism with an awareness that the social realities surrounding courtship may detract from the fun of romance (Wright, 2006).
What does the over-use of all this violent language signify in the play and the world outside it?
In this particular play, the extensive use of violent language brings about the humorous mockery and also the intertwined dialogues between the characters of the play. For instance, an intertwined conversation which is evidenced by the extensive use of violent language is exemplified in the play where soldiers have just returned to their native village from a victorious war only to find love prevailing through the village. Nevertheless, through the use of war language, characters are efficiently developed since a majority of them such as Beatrice and Claudio joke around in cruel dialects. Thus, based on this context, the over-use of the violent language in the play, therefore, allows immense aggressive language to thrive in the characters and at the same time, enables the author, Shakespeare to alleviate the conflict that is portrayed in the play.
On the other hand, to the world outside of the play, Much Ado about nothing, this extensive use of violent language signifies the introduction of division, especially between two or more parties (Buk-Swienty, 2017). For instance, when perceived from a normative perspective, violent language, which may be inclusive of insults and lies, among others, is deemed as a deviation from the norm (Broomhall & Finn, 2015). Therefore, in the current workings of the outside world or even our society, the extensive use of violent language is perceived unethical. In a similar regard, to the world outside of the play, the use of violent language such as that portrayed by both Beatrice and Benedick, who are lovers, signifies an element that stirs up and manipulates emotions.
Broomhall, S., & Finn, S. (2015). Violence and emotions in early modern Europe. Routledge.
Buk-Swienty. (2017, March 7). The Violence of Language and Literature. Retrieved from http://arkbooks.dk/the-violence-of-language-and-literature/
Gay, W. C. (1999). Linguistic Violence. Retrieved from http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/wcgay/publingvio.htm
Shakespeare, W., & Mares, F. H. (2003). Much ado about nothing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, J., & Peter, J. (2004). Much Ado about Nothing. Shakespeare Bulletin.
Wright, N. E. (2006). Legal Interpretation of Defamation in Shakespeares Much Ado About Nothing. Ben Jonson Journal, 13(1), 93-108. doi:10.3366/bjj.2006.13.1.9
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