Monday, September 24, 2012

The Importance of Language/Communication

As we discussed in Twelfth Night, language and the use of words can be extremely important to understanding and interpreting Shakespeare’s plays. I also believe that an in-depth look at the use of language and communication within Much Ado About Nothing can help to further interpret and study the play.
I find it quite interesting how Beatrice and Benedick use their words to attack each other. Both characters are strong and witty, and use their words as weapons. I found it particularly comical when Beatrice tells Benedick that she does not care to ever be in love. He replies, “God keep your ladyship still in that mind. So some gentlemen or other shall scrape a predestinate scratched face” (1.1.109-10). Beatrice comes back with, “Scratching could not make it worse an ‘twere such a face as yours were” (1.1.111-12). The two of them go back and forth using their words to offend one another. One question I have about this, is from the very beginning of Act I. Beatrice’s very first line occurs when, on lines 25 and 26, she asks the messenger, “I pray you, is Signor Montanto returned from the wars, or no?” We soon find out she is actually asking about Benedick by a name no one knows him by. Why are her first words about Benedick, but with a different name? Perhaps this demonstrates a hint of concern for him on her part. I’m really not sure of the significance, but I can imagine that it must be important.
Another thing I picked up on that demonstrates the importance of language and communication involves Don John. I have only read Acts I and II, and so far Don John seems to be the “villain” of this play. There are a lot of characters, but most of them speak often. Don John, though, speaks very little. After being spoken to by Leonato, Don John says, “I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you” (1.1.127). In this line, Don John points out the fact that he does not speak much. I find it interesting that the bad guy in the play is the one with few words. Perhaps this demonstrates the importance of communication. Don John does not use his words to attack like Beatrice and Benedick, but his lack of communication and words could hint that his attacks will be more sinister.
Probably the most important part of the play, within acts I and II, which speaks to readers or viewers about the importance of communication is when Don Pedro’s plan to woo Hero for Claudio is misheard and improperly spoken of. Antonio’s servant overhears the conversation between Claudio and Don Pedro but misunderstands their actual plan. He then relays the wrong information to Antonio, who then relays the information to Leonato (1.2). I believe this incident, though maybe a small part of the plot, is quite significant in that it seems to set the stage for one of the major themes of the play: language and bad communication.
            Although I still have questions and ideas to develop further, I think communication and interpretation words are very important in Much Ado About Nothing. It is an important theme that is demonstrated throughout the play and within the words of the characters.


Jacey Lawler said...

I love looking at language in all of Shakespeare’s plays and can see that you have picked up on some great points regarding communication in "Much Ado About Nothing". Beatrice inquiring about Benedick with a nickname stuck out to me as well. I think you are right that this is a significant moment as she is revealing concern for him. Not wanting to be undone and seen as vulnerable, she uses the name “Signor Montanto” to take away from the fact that she even wondered about Benedick’s state. I liked the points you made about the lack of communication on Don John’s part. His communication seems to be easier found with his followers and in the form of secretly creating chaos for others.

Julian Mocha said...

I thought your comment on evil Don John's lack of communication was a very interesting one that I hadn't considered. I feel like in most modern movies, shows, novels, etc. the villain is given a lot of dialogue and personality so that the audience themselves can decide whether to hate him/her or feel empathy and understanding towards him/her that the characters in the production aren't able to do (either from lack of information or empathy themselves).

I think this is an interesting approach to Don John- are we to understand his evilness through his relations to other characters like Borrachio? Should we chalk him up to being a jerk simply by the plots he plays out? We are never given much of a background on his situation other than a brief whine about how his life is unfair in Act II scene II- so is his anger and evilness well-founded? Maybe we'll never know!

Cyrus Mulready said...

I agree with Julian that the insight about Don John's lack of speech is fantastic! This is a marvelous way of understanding his character. It also puts him in contrast to the lower class characters of the play. Even though they are confused in their use of language, they are still part of the comic world that embraces the "nonsense" of language. Don John, on the other hand, in his withholding of language, cannot join the comic spirit of the play.