Sparknotes gives the following information about Much Ado About Nothing:
Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, because it combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honor, shame, and court politics. It was probably written in 1598 and 1599, as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of his career. Like As You Like It and Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, though interspersed with darker concerns, is a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths. SOURCE
We will divide our reading of the play into five acts. First, you will read acts one, two, and three. Then, you will read acts four and five. Check your course schedule for due dates.
Acts I – III
Read the following explanation and examples of wordplay by Barbara McKean.
Another of Shakespeare’s wordplays is found in constable Dogberry’s particular talent for malapropisms – mistakenly using one word for another that sounds similar. Where others in the play deliberately use language to deceive, Dogberry baffles people without realizing he is doing so. He attempts to give his words an imposing ring, but the results are pure comedy. Among movie and TV policemen who followed in his footsteps are Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Smoky and the Bandit), Inspector Clouseau (The Pink Panther), Maxwell Smart (Get Smart), and Barney Fife (Andy Griffith Show). Shakespeare’s Dogberry gets laughs mostly for his verbal faux pas rather than for physical slapstick.
Examples of his malapropisms are the following underlined words:
- “You are thought here to be the most senseless [sensible] and fit man for the constable of the watch” (3. 3. 11).
- “True, and they are to meddle [mingle] with none but the prince’s subjects. You shall also make no noise in the streets; for, for the ….watch to babble and to talk is most tolerable [intolerable] and not to be endured” (3. 3. 15).
- “Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much more [less] a man who hath any honesty in him” (3. 3. 25).
- “Adieu: be vigitant, [vigilant] I beseech you” (3. 3. 36).
- “Goodman Verges, sir, speaks a little off the matter: an old man, sir, and his wits are not so blunt [keen], as, God help, I would desire ….they were; but, in faith, honest as the skin between his brows” (3. 5. 9).