Much Ado About Nothing

by

William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing: Foreshadowing 5 key examples

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Definition of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved directly or indirectly, by making... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the... read full definition
Act 1, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The ultimate example of situational irony in the play is the marriage of Beatrice and Benedick. It is deeply ironic that the two characters who most vocally oppose marriage end up not only married, but married to each other. This use of situational irony contributes to the comic tone of the play and foregrounds the unpredictable nature of love. 

Both Beatrice and Benedick express their contempt for marriage at the beginning of the play. Moreover, the two openly despise each other, making the prospect of their marriage seem even more unlikely. In the very first scene, Beatrice tells Benedick, "I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me," while Benedick insists that he "will live a bachelor." In fact, Benedick mocks men in love at the beginning of the play, but his strong opinions on the matter almost seem to underhandedly foreshadow what's to come, since his unromantic opinions are so pronounced that the audience intuitively prepares for them to change. Indeed, once he falls in love with Beatrice, Benedick becomes just like the lovers he used to mock. The comedic effect of his ironic transformation is particularly evident in Act 3, Scene 2, in which Benedick becomes the subject of Claudio and the Prince's mockery and even admits, "Gallants, I am not as I have been." The scene thus shows that the "savage bull" has, despite Benedick's insistence, been tamed. 

Act 2, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Disguises:

The use of disguises in Much Ado About Nothing frequently generates dramatic irony. In particular, the masked ball in Act 2, Scene 1 is the epitome of dramatic irony: whereas the audience is aware of the identity of each of the characters, the characters do not recognize each other. For instance, when the Prince woos Hero on Claudio's behalf, the audience knows that he is disguised as Claudio, but Hero does not. The dramatic irony that arises from the masks also creates a series of comic misunderstandings: Beatrice insults Benedick to his face without realizing who he is. In order to avoid revealing his identity, Benedick is forced to hold his tongue. The audience's awareness that Beatrice's masked partner is Benedick makes the latter's clipped, polite responses a source of comedy.

A more sinister example of dramatic irony occurs at the ball when Don John briefly convinces the masked Claudio that the Prince has wooed Hero for himself; here, Claudio is unaware that Don John is pretending to think the masked Claudio is Benedick in order to interfere with Claudio and Hero's budding romance. The audience, on the other hand, has been made aware of Don John's machinations in Act 1, Scene 3. Although this misunderstanding is soon resolved, it foreshadows the near-destruction of their relationship later in the play. 

Act 3, Scene 2, in which Don John reveals Hero's apparent infidelity, is a classic example of dramatic irony: the audience knows that the visual evidence (Margaret acting as Hero) to which Don John refers is fabricated, but Claudio and the Prince do not. Throughout Claudio and Leonato's speeches condemning Hero for her "impurity" in the ensuing scene, the audience knows that these allegations are false. This makes the mood of the play more ominous as the audience becomes aware that Hero has become the victim of great injustice.

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Explanation and Analysis—Adam's Sons:

Through the use of allusions to the biblical Adam, Beatrice and Benedick affirm their opposition to marriage. When Leonato expresses his desire to see Beatrice marry in Act 2, Scene 1, Beatrice replies:

Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? To make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I’ll none. Adam’s sons are my brethren, and truly I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.

Later in the same scene, Benedick declares to the Prince that he would not marry Beatrice "though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed"—that is, the Garden of Eden. It is ironic that, despite the pair's outward hostility toward each other, they are prone to using the same allusions. In fact, Beatrice's comment that she would not marry a man because all men are "Adam's sons" (making them her relatives) further implies that she and Benedick are alike. Beatrice and Benedick's shared allusion to Adam thus foreshadows the fact that they are well-matched romantically despite their fraught relationship. 

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Act 2, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis:

During his soliloquy in Act 2, Scene 3, Benedick affirms his opposition to marriage. Contrary to his intended meaning, however, his language also foreshadows his eventual marriage to Beatrice. After Claudio falls in love with Hero, Benedick puzzles over the change in his friend: 

I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love—and such a man is Claudio.

Benedick is amazed by what he perceives as his friend's blindness to his own foolishness once he falls in love. As a result, Claudio has "become the argument of his own scorn." Benedick also wonders whether he will ever fall into the same trap, but  he decides that this is unlikely: "May I be so converted and see with these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not." Despite Benedick's vehement opposition to marriage, the audience knows that he will soon follow the same trajectory due to the preceding scene, in which Benedick and Beatrice's friends devise their plot to make the two fall in love with each other. As a result, this monologue foreshadows the imminent change in Benedick. In this way, Shakespeare's use of foreshadowing in this scene emphasizes Benedick's blindness to his own susceptibility to the follies of love and thus contributes to the comedic tone of the play. 

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Act 3, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Alliteration is used throughout Much Ado About Nothing to contribute to the lighthearted and comedic tone of the play. 

In Act 3, Scene 2, Claudio uses a metaphor that compares Beatrice and Benedick to bears. His use of alliteration in this metaphor foreshadows their future romantic coupling. After seeing Benedick leave with Leonato to ask for Beatrice's hand in marriage, Claudio says:

Hero and Margaret have by this played their parts with Beatrice, and then the two bears will not bite one another when they meet.

Claudio compares Beatrice and Benedick to "bears" because of their previous animosity toward each other. His use of alliteration with the /b/ sound draws attention to this comparison while also subtly highlighting the fact that both Beatrice and Benedick's names start with the same letter—a sly way of hinting at their imminent romantic coupling.

Act 3, Scene 4 features another use of alliteration for comedic effect in an exchange between Beatrice and Margaret: 

BEATRICE: ’Tis almost five o’clock, cousin. ’Tis time you were ready. By my troth, I am exceeding ill. Heigh-ho!

MARGARET: For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?

BEATRICE: For the letter that begins them all, H.

In this exchange, Margaret alliterates the /h/ sound to tease Beatrice about her love for Benedick. Beatrice calls attention to this use of alliteration by punning on the letter "H," which was pronounced "ache" in Shakespeare's day. Here, alliteration is used to enhance the witty and sarcastic tone of Beatrice and Margaret's conversation, as well as to accentuate Beatrice's state of lovesickness. 

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Explanation and Analysis—Disguises:

The use of disguises in Much Ado About Nothing frequently generates dramatic irony. In particular, the masked ball in Act 2, Scene 1 is the epitome of dramatic irony: whereas the audience is aware of the identity of each of the characters, the characters do not recognize each other. For instance, when the Prince woos Hero on Claudio's behalf, the audience knows that he is disguised as Claudio, but Hero does not. The dramatic irony that arises from the masks also creates a series of comic misunderstandings: Beatrice insults Benedick to his face without realizing who he is. In order to avoid revealing his identity, Benedick is forced to hold his tongue. The audience's awareness that Beatrice's masked partner is Benedick makes the latter's clipped, polite responses a source of comedy.

A more sinister example of dramatic irony occurs at the ball when Don John briefly convinces the masked Claudio that the Prince has wooed Hero for himself; here, Claudio is unaware that Don John is pretending to think the masked Claudio is Benedick in order to interfere with Claudio and Hero's budding romance. The audience, on the other hand, has been made aware of Don John's machinations in Act 1, Scene 3. Although this misunderstanding is soon resolved, it foreshadows the near-destruction of their relationship later in the play. 

Act 3, Scene 2, in which Don John reveals Hero's apparent infidelity, is a classic example of dramatic irony: the audience knows that the visual evidence (Margaret acting as Hero) to which Don John refers is fabricated, but Claudio and the Prince do not. Throughout Claudio and Leonato's speeches condemning Hero for her "impurity" in the ensuing scene, the audience knows that these allegations are false. This makes the mood of the play more ominous as the audience becomes aware that Hero has become the victim of great injustice.

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Act 3, Scene 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Alliteration is used throughout Much Ado About Nothing to contribute to the lighthearted and comedic tone of the play. 

In Act 3, Scene 2, Claudio uses a metaphor that compares Beatrice and Benedick to bears. His use of alliteration in this metaphor foreshadows their future romantic coupling. After seeing Benedick leave with Leonato to ask for Beatrice's hand in marriage, Claudio says:

Hero and Margaret have by this played their parts with Beatrice, and then the two bears will not bite one another when they meet.

Claudio compares Beatrice and Benedick to "bears" because of their previous animosity toward each other. His use of alliteration with the /b/ sound draws attention to this comparison while also subtly highlighting the fact that both Beatrice and Benedick's names start with the same letter—a sly way of hinting at their imminent romantic coupling.

Act 3, Scene 4 features another use of alliteration for comedic effect in an exchange between Beatrice and Margaret: 

BEATRICE: ’Tis almost five o’clock, cousin. ’Tis time you were ready. By my troth, I am exceeding ill. Heigh-ho!

MARGARET: For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?

BEATRICE: For the letter that begins them all, H.

In this exchange, Margaret alliterates the /h/ sound to tease Beatrice about her love for Benedick. Beatrice calls attention to this use of alliteration by punning on the letter "H," which was pronounced "ache" in Shakespeare's day. Here, alliteration is used to enhance the witty and sarcastic tone of Beatrice and Margaret's conversation, as well as to accentuate Beatrice's state of lovesickness. 

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Act 4, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Disguises:

The use of disguises in Much Ado About Nothing frequently generates dramatic irony. In particular, the masked ball in Act 2, Scene 1 is the epitome of dramatic irony: whereas the audience is aware of the identity of each of the characters, the characters do not recognize each other. For instance, when the Prince woos Hero on Claudio's behalf, the audience knows that he is disguised as Claudio, but Hero does not. The dramatic irony that arises from the masks also creates a series of comic misunderstandings: Beatrice insults Benedick to his face without realizing who he is. In order to avoid revealing his identity, Benedick is forced to hold his tongue. The audience's awareness that Beatrice's masked partner is Benedick makes the latter's clipped, polite responses a source of comedy.

A more sinister example of dramatic irony occurs at the ball when Don John briefly convinces the masked Claudio that the Prince has wooed Hero for himself; here, Claudio is unaware that Don John is pretending to think the masked Claudio is Benedick in order to interfere with Claudio and Hero's budding romance. The audience, on the other hand, has been made aware of Don John's machinations in Act 1, Scene 3. Although this misunderstanding is soon resolved, it foreshadows the near-destruction of their relationship later in the play. 

Act 3, Scene 2, in which Don John reveals Hero's apparent infidelity, is a classic example of dramatic irony: the audience knows that the visual evidence (Margaret acting as Hero) to which Don John refers is fabricated, but Claudio and the Prince do not. Throughout Claudio and Leonato's speeches condemning Hero for her "impurity" in the ensuing scene, the audience knows that these allegations are false. This makes the mood of the play more ominous as the audience becomes aware that Hero has become the victim of great injustice.

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