The theme of battle is present throughout ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, whether it be with malicious intentions, in playful jest or between wit and emotions. It is an aspect of the play that provokes much interest within the audience and enables the character’s relationships with each other to be seen with more clarity. Shakespeare achieves this with his use of language and the structure of the scenes and dialogue.
There are several battles between many characters. The obvious battle of Beatrice and Benedick is a ‘merry war’ and a journey of self discovery aided by the deception of friends. However, there are more vicious battles like that of Don John’s quest of destruction which seems to be fueled by the apparent jealousy that he has for his
brother, Don Pedro.
The language used is of vital assistance within the play, conjuring imagery associated with battle and playing on words to create banter and a certain degree of humour. By subtly using this imagery we are able to see the links between the theme of battle in general and how it can be connected to the ongoing battles throughout the play, continuously underlying and retaining the strength of the theme.
Shakespeare uses this imagery to describe Beatrice from Benedick’s point of view, to portray her verbal sparring and wit in such a manner that the audience can see the effect of the strength of her character;
‘She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.’
Although Benedick has feelings for Beatrice this imagery seems unfavourable and therefore undermines his emotions and this is achieved by using harsher imagery that is not normally considered when thinking of women. This additionally develops the character’s opinions of Beatrice so she is not portrayed as a stereotypical woman. Shakespeare uses it to highlight the battle that Benedick is actually facing within himself because he is almost consolidating himself by offering negative comments about her.
The imagery of hunting, which also conveys the idea of conflict, is used throughout the play. It could be perceived not only in the same sense as the battle, but in the way that characters are hunting down other characters. An example of this is when Don Juan strives to hunt down Claudio to makes sure he witnesses the false liason with an interpretation of Hero and Borachio.
I also think that it could be used as a metaphor for the manner in which Beatrice and Benedick are forced into love. In the same way and animal is leured into its death in hunting is the same as the way the pair are leured into loving one another.
‘Some Cupid Kills with arrows, some with traps’
The language used is reflective of the false pretences that Hero and Ursula are creating to make Beatrice believe that Benedick is in love with her. It is a trap, not a chance meeting that has resulted in love.
The use of puns and playing on words assists the battles, not only by occasionally creating confusion, but by also dropping in subtle suggestions in often non-offensive tones. The battle that exists between Leonato and Beatrice is friendly and therefore the dialogue is light hearted to listen to;
‘…thou wilt never get thee a husband if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.’
This refers to Beatrice’s tongue and her quick-witted nature, which results in sharp responses but it is also a pun because when putting the play in context we know that ‘shrews’ were wives who continually told their husbands off. This does hold a certain element of truth in it because it is probable that if Beatrice was to be married she would be a domineering wife with a quick tongue.
The use of puns is used to twist the opponent’s words in the battle. This therefore lets them appear to have the upper hand when it is a battle of wits, which it is with Beatrice and Benedick.
‘I took no more pains for those thanks than you take pains to thank me. If it had been painful, I would not have come.’
By interpretating the word ‘pains’ in a different way, Beatrice manages to with hold an advantage over a smitten Benedick. It highlights the strength of their battle and the audience uses the puns as a device to be able to achieve a more extensive insight into the battle between the partnership and the potential relationship. This play on words is an intelligent device which conveys the idea of battle by using alternative ways of provoking banter.
These puns can occasionally be used as sexual innuendos, which once again show the idea of a relationship between the couples in the play;
‘O, when she had writ and was reading it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet.’
This plays on the idea of a sheet of paper and allows it to be interpretated as the sheets on a bed. A suggestive element of the language aids the idea of battle by mocking the opposition and undermining it as if they were in conjunction with one another.
The use of personification is used to express attitudes and opinions to particular characters, for example, Benedick is personified as a disease; ‘If he have caught the Benedick’ and this therefore portrays a negative opinion of him and shows how the battle can criticise and undermine a character during the banter. Shakespeare uses language in this manner to associate the character with something that it often considered in a negative light, like disease in this case.
The use of repetition reiterates a point and strengthens an argument. When Claudio, Leonato and Don Pedro are acting that Beatrice loves Benedick they are battling against Benedick by creating false affections.
‘O God, counterfeit? There was never counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion as she discovers it.’
Leonato appears alliterate because this use of repetition conveys Beatrice’s so-called affection with more clarity. It also portrays to the audience how false the story is because it appears as if the character is reassuring his lie. This also reflects the theme of battle between truth and lie because Benedick is unaware which is which.