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.