Much Ado About Nothing

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Much Ado About Nothing published in 1995.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

“A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.”

Related Characters: Leonato (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.8-9
Explanation and Analysis:

Leonato, Governor of Messina, speaks this line near the beginning of the play. He and a messenger are discussing a recent battle, saying that Don Pedro, Claudio, and Benedict, all men from different countries, have emerged victorious together with very few lives lost. Leonato comments that a victory is doubly valuable when the winner comes home without losing any men.

This military victory which precedes the play is, in a sense, the only real event in its plot; what unfolds on stage is a series of misunderstandings, disguises, mistaken identities, and "nothings" that lead to the marriages at the end of the play.

These lines also introduce the theme of warfare, which is used as the metaphorical language of courtship during the play. The victory in the military war will be ultimately echoed in the conclusion of the 'war of wits' and the "victories" on the battlefield of love.

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“There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her; they never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”

Related Characters: Leonato (speaker), Benedick, Beatrice
Page Number: 1.1.59-62
Explanation and Analysis:

Leonato's niece Beatrice asks the messenger about Benedick, one of Don Pedro's officers. She argues with the messenger and makes fun of Benedick, and in the process displays her ability with language, her wit, and her sharp sense of humor. In the line here, occurring just after Beatrice's interaction with the messenger, Leonato explains the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick in military terms: they are engaged in "a kind of merry war;" there is "a skirmish of wit between them."

Thus Leonato frames courtship (even if Beatrice and Benedick don't yet realize that they are courting) as battle, an idea that is very common in renaissance love poetry, and that will animate the rest of this play. It's worth noting, though, that while here the war of love is described as being "merry," the events of the play will show that like war it can bring victory and joy but also pain, despair, and even death. 

“Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker), Claudio
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 1.1.195-196
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Pedro and his men, including Benedick, have arrived at Leonato's house, Benedick and Beatrice quickly begin their verbal sparring, both saying that they are completely resistant to the charms of the opposite sex. Leonato then invites everyone to stay at his house for a month. Claudio subsequently tells Benedick that he is in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero. Benedick and Claudio then begin a conversation about Hero, love, marriage, and freedom, in which Benedick utters the quote shown here.

Benedick claims to cherish his status of bachelor, suggesting that marriage would constrict his freedom. He says that he isn't attracted to Hero, and he turns all of Claudio's praises into mockeries and insults to women and marriage in general. In this line, he asks, jokingly, if he'll ever see a 60-year-old bachelor again, since most men are so eager to get married. He claims that not enough men are committed to the bachelor life, comparing marriage to wearing a yoke like a beast of burden. Benedick's comment also adds humor and irony to the play, as a significant part of the rest of the play involves other characters trying to trick him into falling in love.

“Well, as time shall try: ‘In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.’”

Related Characters: Don Pedro (speaker), Benedick
Related Symbols: The Savage Bull
Page Number: 1.1.255-256
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Pedro has entered whil Claudio and Benedick are speaking about love. Benedick immediately reveals to Don Pedro that Claudio is in love with Hero. Though Claudio tries at first to deny it, ultimately he admits to his love. With a dramatic statement about being burned at the stake, Benedick claims that Hero is unworthy of Claudio's love. This point causes Don Pedro to accuse Benedick of being a "heretic" of love.

Don Pedro then says these words, a proverb, to suggest that Benedick will eventually fall in love himself. The proverb says that eventually, even the "savage bull" will "bear the yoke," playing on Benedick's own assertion that married men are like beasts of burden.

Note that the proverb is a line of iambic pentameter though the rest of the dialogue is in prose. This small detail helps underscore Don Pedro's prediction, which eventually comes to pass at the end of the play.

Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

“I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain.”

Related Characters: Don John (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.28-30
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins, like many Shakespearean scenes, with one character asking another why he is so sad. Conrade asks Don John why he is so melancholy, to which Don John first responds with the astrological response that he is born under Saturn and cannot hide what he really is, and then with this quote.

In the quote, Don John states his belief that he cannot hide, much less change, his true interior, and that he is a villain. The quote turns out to be true, as Don John goes on to act villainously for no good reason through the rest of the play. 

Don John would rather be himself and be hated than act falsely and pretend to be happy or kind. Thus he deems himself a "plain-dealing villain" in great contrast to the whimsical, love-struck characters who are constantly pretending and playing tricks. Soon after this proclamation Don John learns about his brother Don Pedro's plan with Claudio to woo Hero in disguise; Don John immediately decides to attempt to mess up his brother's plan and prevent the courtship of Hero. He does this not out of desire to court Hero himself. Instead, he just wants to make everyone else as unhappy as he is.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”

Related Characters: Beatrice (speaker)
Related Symbols: Beards
Page Number: 2.1.36-39
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene opens with Antonio, Leonato, Beatrice, and Hero discussing Don John's attitude and comparing him with Benedick. Beatrice jokes that Don John talks too little and Benedick talks too much, saying that a good husband would be somewhere in the middle. After this joke Leonato tells Beatrice to be careful so that she can find a husband, at which point Beatrice says that she's happy that she doesn't have one, especially because she hates beards.

Thus begins a discussion here about beards, in which Leonato suggests Beatrice marry a beard-less man. Her response, given in the quote, is that someone with a beard is more than a youth, and someone with no beard is less than a man (boyish). She doesn't like bearded men, but beardless men are merely boys who cannot handle her. Beards become more and more important in the play as symbols of manliness.

Note also that this discussion has an extra level of irony because, in Shakespearean times, female parts were played by beard-less youths. When a young actor's beard came in, it was an indication that he could begin to play adult male parts instead of boys and women on stage. The original speaker of this line would have been a young man without a beard dressed as a woman.

“Speak low, if you speak love.”

Related Characters: Don Pedro (speaker), Hero
Page Number: 2.1.97
Explanation and Analysis:

After Beatrice tells Hero that courtship is like a dance, the partygoers all arrive wearing masks. Don Pedro, pretending to be Claudio, immediately approaches and begins dancing with her. The two exchange some flirtations, before Don Pedro offers this romantic line: "Speak low, if you speak love." After this line, the pair moves aside and begin to whisper.

Don Pedro's words seem to imply that courtship should be secretive and done in whispers, which is ironic since he is pretending to be Claudio – it's a really secret courtship, with secrets kept even from Hero. However, while there is a romance to the secrecy of courtship, the play will also show how such secrecy can be destructive and leads to jealousy in general, and men's fear of being cuckolded more specifically, that can be particularly dangerous for women. Even in this scene, Claudio worries that Don Pedro is actually wooing Hero for himself. Later, Don John will make it appear that Hero has secretly been seeing other men, which causes Claudio to abandon Hero. So, just to make it clear: here Claudio is part of a scheme in which another man woos Hero for him, but later he immediately condemns Hero for allegedly seeing other men. The "secrecy" of love therefore seems to create a space not just for romance but also for masculine anxiety about love, and perhaps also misogyny toward women. 

“Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.”

Related Characters: Claudio (speaker), Don Pedro
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 2.1.143-178
Explanation and Analysis:

Don John and Borachio have just tricked Claudio into thinking that Don Pedro is in love with Hero and is wooing her for himself. After telling their lie, Borachio and Don John leave Claudio alone on stage; it is then that he offers his response to the false news in the form of a soliloquy.

Claudio says that friendship is constant and can be trusted in all areas except love and courtship. He concludes then that "all hearts in love use their own tongues," meaning he should speak for himself and not send a disguised surrogate to woo for him. He also says "let every eye negotiate for itself / And trust no agent." According to Claudio, love enters through the eyes, which in this play symbolize the senses in general. Thus a lover must trust only his own senses, and never the information and help of others. This notion is slightly ironic, since Claudio comes to this conclusion based on information he got from others who happened to be lying.

Also note how Claudio speaks about beauty as a "witch." There is an implication again that while Claudio loves Hero he is deeply afraid of being in love, and more specifically of being "tricked" into love by feminine beauty.  

“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were but little happy, if I could say how much.”

Related Characters: Claudio (speaker)
Page Number: 2.1.300-301
Explanation and Analysis:

Convinced by Don John that Don Pedro loves Hero, Claudio appears sad and upset. Don Pedro questions him, but ultimately reveals that the marriage between Claudio and Hero has been arranged and approved. At this point Claudio's hesitations about Don Pedro seem to vanish, but he is speechless. Beatrice even needs to say, "Speak, count, ’tis your cue," a joke that Claudio has missed his cue (which of course would be doubly funny in a performance of the play, as the audience would be reminded of that fact that it is watching a play).

Claudio responds to Beatrice that "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy." Claudio is saying here that true happiness is unexplainable. Note Shakespeare's use of the superlative on perfect, a word which seems to in itself to already connote the superlative. "Perfectest" is excessive, beyond what is just perfect.

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

“One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker)
Page Number: 2.3.27-30
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene Benedick soliloquizes in Leonato's garden. Benedick is frustrated that Claudio, whom he considered to be a perennial bachelor like himself, has become a lover and is getting married. Like Beatrice's response to Hero's engagement, in which the former starts to entertain the idea of marriage, Benedick begins to wonder if he will ever change his mind and get married. But like Beatrice, he constructs for himself a scenario in which he'll never find a suitable bride.

Here, he lists different desirable traits in potential wives: "fair," "wise," and"virtuous." Benedick then concludes that until all of these graces is combined in one perfect woman, he will not get married. Whereas earlier he refused to even consider marriage, now, given the social pressure of Claudio getting married, he can consider getting married, but still protects himself by deciding that he could only ever marry an idealized woman. Recall that he even criticized Hero, the woman who inspired Claudio's "perfectest" joy. 

“Note this before my notes; There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.”

Related Characters: Balthazar (speaker)
Related Symbols: Nothing
Page Number: 2.3.56-57
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Pedro, Leonato, Claudio, and Balthazar have entered, causing Benedick (who was soliloquizing about marriage moments earlier) to hide behind some trees. The group notices him hiding, but they pretend not to.

Don Pedro asks Balthazar to play music, and he agrees, but not before punning on nothing, noting, and musical notes. This pun recurs throughout the play and even in its title: chaos is caused because characters keep noting (noticing) nothings (lies and tricks). Balthazar says, essentially, notice this before my musical notes, there's not (another note pun) a musical note of mine that's worth listening to (noting) / worth anything (nothing).

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

“…of this matter
Is little Cupid’s crafty arrow made,
That only wounds by hearsay.”

Related Characters: Hero (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.23-24
Explanation and Analysis:

Most of the characters are now conspiring to get Beatrice and Benedick to fall in love. Here, Hero sends Margaret to get Beatrice and to say that she has overheard Hero and Ursula gossiping. Hero then tells Ursula that they must get Beatrice to overhear them talking about how Benedick "is suck in love with Beatrice." By overhearing this, they hope, Beatrice will then fall in love with Benedick. Hero claims that it is moments of gossip like this one that comprise Cupid's arrows, which "only [wound] by hearsay."

Hero's theory of how love works seems to be generally upheld by the events of the play, as Benedick and Beatrice do end up falling in love, but the theory also applies more generally to information and the way that characters view the world, in this play and in most Shakespearean comedies. Errors, misunderstandings, mistaken identities, gossip, and lies become the substance of reality for comedic characters; confusion abounds until the play concludes and the thick layers of mistakes and untruths are unwoven.

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

“Well, every one can master a grief but he that has it.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker)
Related Symbols: Beards
Page Number: 3.2.27-28
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins with the discussion of Claudio's upcoming marriage, and with Don Pedro saying that after the wedding he will spend time with Benedick, who is always merry and impervious to cupid's arrows. To this assertion, Benedick says "I am not as I have been," indicating he has changed and fallen in love. Leonato and Don Pedro think that Benedick is sad or just needs money, but Claudio correctly asserts that he is in love. Benedick says that he has a toothache, and when the other men suggest that his sadness seems inappropriate for only a toothache, Benedick delivers the quoted line. 

He essentially says that it is easy to give suggestions on how to get over sadness, but difficult to get over it yourself. This line also speaks to the way that romance and emotions are crossed between characters. Don Pedro courts Hero for Claudio, and a whole group is conspiring to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love. It is easy for them all to intervene in each other's love lives, but many of the characters face difficulties when dealing with their own situations.

Note also that Benedick's appearance and reality are changed at once. He is not as he has been, emotionally, but he has also shaved his beard, changed his attire, and put on perfume. His appearance as a man changes with his inner shift towards love.

“Even she: Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.”

Related Characters: Don John (speaker), Claudio
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 3.2.99-100
Explanation and Analysis:

Having failed to stop the courtship and engagement between Claudio and Hero, Don John now seeks to stop their impending marriage. To do so, he plans to put together a fake scene of Hero and a lover in the window to convince Claudio that his fiancee is being unfaithful. When Don John says that she has been disloyal, Claudio clarifies with, "who, Hero?" to which Don John responds with the quote, "Even she."

The end of the sentence is devastatingly simple: "Leonato's Hero, your Hero, every man's Hero." By mentioning Leonato, Don John makes the claim specific to Hero herself, by mentioning Claudio he makes the claim personal to Claudio, and with "every man's Hero" he delivers the harsh accusation that many men have been with her. Claudio and Don Pedro remain unconvinced, but decide to shame Hero together if they find out that the claims are true.

The simplicity of Don John's speech is well aligned with his tactics. While other characters (like Hero herself) stage false conversations to be overheard, Don John stages a false image to be seen. His deception relies on the eyes instead of ears; he insists that they witness visually. This insistence might be loosely related to Othello's demand for "ocular proof" when he believes his wife is unfaithful in Othello. Perhaps love can be generated by one sense alone, either sight or hearing (or overhearing exactly what someone wants to you hear), but infidelity and heartbreak need to be verified with proof – the senses must be checked against one another. 

Meanwhile, note how quickly Don Pedro and Claudio decide to shame Hero if they think she has been unfaithful. Love in the play turns quickly to misogynistic rage, again suggesting just how anxious men are with the idea of love, language, and fear of their wive's possible infidelity.

It is also worth noting that the word "Nothing" was also used in Shakespearean times to refer to a woman's sexual parts. And so the title of the play refers to the fact that the plot of the play involves much ado about sex, about virginity, and about all the misunderstandings ("nothings") about such "nothings."

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

“I think they that touch pitch will be defiled.”

Related Characters: Dogberry (speaker)
Page Number: 3.3.55-56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene the constable Dogberry and the night watch are introduced. The quote is Dogberry's (ridiculous) reasoning for leaving criminals alone: touching something dirty makes you dirty, so it's safer to let criminals do what they want. Yet the fact that Dogberry's logic is so obviously ridiculous only highlights the incredible fact that this line also relates to the way that characters in the play view shame. Claudio is willing to publicly shame Hero to distance himself from her, since by appearing with her and marrying her when she is ashamed, he would become tainted ("defiled") and become shamed as well.

Throughout this scene Dogberry shows his incompetence and hilarious lack of intelligence, as he constantly misuses words, misunderstands situations, and advises his men to allow criminal behavior. Dogberry's position allows for a humorous dramatic irony and for the plot of the play to be extended. Later in the scene, Dogberry and his men will learn about Don John's plans, but the incompetence of the nights watch will prevent them from making this discovery known until the very end of the play.

“Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is? how giddily he turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty?”

Related Characters: Borachio (speaker), Conrade
Page Number: 3.3.130-132
Explanation and Analysis:

Conrade and Borachio (two henchman of Don John) are talking about Don John's plan, all the while being overheard by the watchmen. After saying that he received money from Don John for his part in the plan, Borachio begins talking about fashion. In the quote, he describes fashion as a "deformed thief," commenting on how true identities and forms are obscured by the fickle, changing appearances of fashion.

This line of thinking relates to the themes of perception, masquerade, and disguise, which are all explored in the play, but here it functions primarily as a source of comedy. Humorously, a night watchman misunderstands Borachio and believes he is talking about a person, a third thief named Deformed. Because of this misunderstanding, the watchmen arrest Borachio and Conrade who are actually guilty of framing Hero.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

“Oh what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!”

Related Characters: Claudio (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.19-20
Explanation and Analysis:

Hero and Claudio are about to be married, but Claudio has been tricked by Don John into thinking that Hero has been unfaithful, and he plans to break off the wedding. It is with this line that he first indicates to the Friar, Leonato, and Hero, as well as all in attendance at the wedding, that something is not right. When the Friar asks Claudio if he knows any reasons the pair should not marry, Leonato says "I dare make his answer, none." To this line Claudio responds with dramatic flair: "Oh what men dare do!" and so on. His over the top exclamation points to his own doubt and confusion, and to the confusion that accompanies disguise, trickery, and altered perception: no one knows what they are doing. The quote is also an outburst against the men he believes have slept with Hero.

“There is not chastity enough in language
Without offence to utter them.”

Related Characters: Don John (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.102-103
Explanation and Analysis:

Don John and Don Pedro are supporting Claudio's claims, since they all witnessed the evidence of Hero's infidelity together (though of course this was by Don John's design). When Don Pedro begins recounting what they saw and heard, Don John interrupts and tells him not to speak of it, since there "is not chastity enough in language" to say out loud what he knows.

By saying this, Don John at once suggests that Hero's crimes are too horrible to be uttered, and prevents Don Pedro from revealing the fabricated details which might be easily shot down by Hero or her family. As we know, Don John's tactics are more rooted in theatricality, performance, and sight than in language. Part of his act is what he doesn't say, and what he prevents others from saying. We also know from watching (or reading) the play that language is not chaste, since it is constantly being used for puns, innuendos, and misdirection, even in the play's title.

“But mine , and mine I lov'd , and mine I prais'd,
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her; why, she— O! she is fallen Into a pit of ink…”

Related Characters: Leonato (speaker), Hero
Page Number: 4.1.144-148
Explanation and Analysis:

Hero has fainted at Claudio's accusation of her infidelity, and after briefly being unconscious as been revived. Leonato seems to be upset that she's still alive, supposing that she had died of shame at the accusations. Here Leonato laments the shame brought to him by his own child. He begins with the fact that she is his with "mine" and slowly builds, repeating mine and adding new modifiers with increasing length: "mine I lov'd, and mine I prais'd, and mine that I was proud on." He concludes the crescendoing list with the stunning assertion that she was so much his daughter that "I myself was to myself not mine," suggesting that he completely lost himself in his role as her father. When he finishes by saying that this daughter, inextricably tied to him, has "fallen into a pit of ink," he is saying that she is tainted, and recalling Dogberry's line "they that touch pitch will be defiled," that now he is tainted and shamed as well.

Note again how quickly, and with how little evidence, men – this time Hero's father – believe that a woman has been unfaithful. Throughout the play there is a current of just how mistrustful men are of women, just how much men fear and believe that women are always on the verge of betraying them sexually (and of course the sense that men have that they should naturally have control over women's sexuality). It really is remarkable that in a play so focused on love, there is this constant sense of men's mistrust and misogyny toward women.

“O! that I were a man for his sake, or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”

Related Characters: Beatrice (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.331-338
Explanation and Analysis:

The Friar has concocted a plan in which Hero will pretend to be dead while Leonato gets to the bottom of her accusation, the hope being that it will make Claudio even more thrilled to marry her when he finds out she is actually alive (though modern audiences might object that Hero might not want to marry Claudio after he mistrusted and then shamed her). Now, Beatrice and Benedick are alone on stage; the pair has just admitted they are in love with each other, and Beatrice is upset by what has happened to Hero. Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio for her.

When Benedick refuses, Beatrice speaks the lines quoted. She wishes that she were a man so that she could kill Claudio herself, or that Benedick would be a man and do it. But, she laments, classical manliness has faded, and devolved into only language. Valor, she says, has become nothing more than lying and false oaths. Since she cannot be a man simply because of her wish to become one, she concludes that she'll die as a woman because of her grief. Beatrice's criticism of manliness and the prevalence of language over action speaks to the theme of the play, in which nothing really happens but talk and falsity. It also inspires Benedick to agree to kill Claudio.

Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

“O that he were here to write me down an ass! but, masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.”

Related Characters: Dogberry (speaker)
Page Number: 4.2.77-80
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene is comic relief from the intense emotions around the false accusal and shaming of Hero.

Dogberry and his men are failing miserably at interrogating Borachio and Conrade, with Dogberry himself constantly misusing words, confusing things, and focusing on minor details. After Don John's plot to fake Hero's infidelity has been revealed, Conrade calls Dogberry an ass. At this insult Dogberry launches into a tirade, from which the quote is excerpted. Here he obsesses over the idea of one of his men writing down that he is an ass. He repeats the line over and over again, constantly reminding his men not to write it down, but all the while making himself seem more and more like an ass with his continual denials and repetitions.

There is an echo in Dogberry's concern about his reputation of Claudio and even Leonato's concern about their reputations after they have come (with little evidence) to believe that Hero was unfaithful. And once again, Dogberry's ridiculousness implies that these men, so concerned with their own reputations above all, are ridiculous too.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

“Charm ache with air and agony with words.”

Related Characters: Leonato (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.28
Explanation and Analysis:

This profound line is offered in a long speech made by Leonato, in which he responds to his brother Antonio's attempts at consoling him. In the dramatic speech, Leonato says that those who aren't suffering can't possibly understand or help those who are. These people who aren't suffering think they can "charm ache with air and agony with words," but Leonato insists they can't. Thus, while he is focusing on grief, his speech is also about the limitations to the power of language. Language can cause people to fall in love and can deceive people, but according to Leonato language alone is insufficient to heal a deep wound or to cure suffering.

“For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods
And made a push at chance and sufferance.”

Related Characters: Leonato (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.37-40
Explanation and Analysis:

After the long speech, Antonio calls his brother childish, to which Leonato responds with the lines in the quote. He claims to be only "flesh and blood," saying that he is only human. He says that there has never been a philosopher who could "endure the toothache patiently," no matter how well he wrote and philosophized about fate, chance, and human suffering. Again, he is arguing that language and reason are insufficient to alleviate mortal suffering and pain.

Recall also how Benedick complained in Act 3, Scene 2 of a toothache when he had fallen in love. This echo links love and suffering, and asserts that both are deeper than language, that they belong to the body in the way that a toothache does, beyond language.

After this point, Antonio responds by suggesting that Leonato seek revenge on Claudio, Don Pedro, and Don John. Leonato agrees, since he has come to believe that someone is lying about Hero's supposed infidelity.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

“I was not born under a rhyming planet.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker)
Page Number: 5.2.40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

Benedick speaks this line in a soliloquy after he has sent Margaret to get Beatrice. He sings a little song, attempting to find a way to communicate his feelings to Beatrice, and laments his poor singing ability. Because he wasn't "born under a rhyming planet," meaning he doesn't have any natural ability rhyme or write poetry, he says he can only come up with bad rhymes.

First, Benedick's reference to the planet under which he was born echoes Don John's assertion earlier in the play that he is evil because he was born under the planet Saturn. In each case, these men argue that their natures are determined by the stars; that they couldn't change or learn even if they wanted to. They proclaim, therefore, that their true natures are set no matter the perception of them. 

Meanwhile, Benedick's struggle with writing poetry speaks to the limitations of language brought up by the play, the way that it frustrates and confuses. (Benedick's struggle with rhyming is also ironic, since it is written by Shakespeare, a master poet.) At the same time, Benedick has been engaging in a war of wit and language play with Beatrice for much of the play, so it's not clear that he actually does have limitations with language. Perhaps, instead, he is making excuses for finding it difficult to express his love through language, which would then be another indication that love, like a toothache, is more profound, more of the body, than language can evoke.

Act 5, Scene 4 Quotes

“…get thee a wife, get thee a wife: there is no staff more reverent than one tipped with horn.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker), Beatrice
Related Symbols: The Savage Bull
Page Number: 5.4.126-128
Explanation and Analysis:

The drama of the play has been resolved, with all plots and confusions rectified. Hero's innocence has been established, and she and Claudio have married. Beatrice and Benedick learn that they have been tricked and set up by their friends, but nonetheless agree that they are truly in love and agree they too will wed. Benedick's views on marriage have changed: he excitedly insists on music and dancing, and even advises Don Pedro to get married. Benedick tells Don Pedro that he seems sad, and repeats the idea that he should get a wife.

It seems, then, that the play has resolved completely in favor of marriage. Yet Benedick's line that "there is no staff more reverent than one tipped with a horn" complicates things. A man who had horns was the standard description of a cuckold – a man who's wife has been unfaithful. What exactly Benedick is saying here is not clear. He may be implying that all women will eventually be unfaithful, and so all married men are essentially cuckolds. He may be suggesting that married men, because they are vulnerable to being cuckolded if their wives are unfaithful, love their wives (are "more reverent") more than they would otherwise. And he may just be joking about the idea that women are likely to make men cuckolds. Nonetheless, even as the play ends happily, with a marriage complete and another to come, it continues to complicate the very idea of love and marriage with male anxiety about female infidelity and the associated shame.

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