Much Ado About Nothing

by

William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing: Hyperbole 2 key examples

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Hyperbole
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements are usually quite obvious exaggerations intended to emphasize a point... read full definition
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements are usually quite obvious exaggerations... read full definition
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements... read full definition
Act 2, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In Act 2, Scene 1, Benedick uses hyperbole to emphasize how intensely he dislikes Beatrice. When the Prince notes that Beatrice is approaching, Benedick asks: 

Will your Grace command me any service to the world’s end? I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me on. I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the furthest inch of Asia, bring you the length of Prester John’s foot, fetch you a hair off the great Cham’s beard, do you any embassage to the Pygmies, rather than hold three words’ conference with this harpy. You have no employment for me?

By alluding to formidable figures from legend, including "Prester John" (a legendary Eastern king), "Cham" (the ruler of the Mongols), and "the Pygmies" (a mythical race from Greek mythology), Benedick declares that he would rather attempt impossible tasks than interact with Beatrice. His language here is a hyperbolic expression of his intense aversion to Beatrice. His use of hyperbole not only contributes to the comic tone of the play, but also makes the prospect of his falling in love with Beatrice seem even more unlikely. This increases the audience's anticipation for their ultimate marriage. 

Explanation and Analysis—Warring Words:

In Act 2, Scene 1, Benedick uses personification, metaphors, and similes in order to highlight the intensity of his frustration about failing to defend himself against Beatrice's insults. After Beatrice unknowingly insults him to his face at the masked ball, Benedick laments to the Prince: 

O, she misused me past the endurance of a block! An oak but with one green leaf on it would have answered her. My very visor began to assume life and scold with her. She told me, not thinking I had been myself, that I was the Prince’s jester, that I was duller than a great thaw, huddling jest upon jest with such impossible conveyance upon me that I stood like a man at a mark with a whole army shooting at me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.

Benedick uses personification when he suggests that his rage upon hearing Beatrice's insults was so intense that his very "visor," or mask, came to life to argue with her. His hyperbolic assertion that even an oak tree would have talked back to defend itself against Beatrice is another example of personification. Finally, he personifies Beatrice's words, indicating that they are so sharp and hurtful that they resemble "poniards" (small daggers). Using a simile, he compares himself to a "man at a mark" defenseless against the shots of a whole army. Through his use of rich figurative language, then, Benedick suggests that Beatrice is so enraging that even inanimate objects would not be able to endure her. 

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