Much Ado About Nothing


William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing: Similes 3 key examples

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Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Act 2, Scene 1
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. 

Explanation and Analysis—Three Phases of Marriage:

In Act 2, Scene 1, Beatrice uses a simile to express her cynicism about marriage to Hero: 

The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in good time. If the Prince be too important, tell him there is measure in everything, and so dance out the answer. For hear me, Hero, wooing, wedding, and repenting is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinquepace. The first suit is hot and hasty like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly modest as a measure, full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance, and with his bad legs falls into the cinquepace faster and faster till he sink into his grave.

Here, Beatrice suggests that a marriage proceeds in three phases, each of which can be compared to a dance. The "wooing" phase of a relationship resembles a "Scotch jig," a fast-paced folk dance, because of the whirlwind excitement of falling in love. The "wedding" is a dignified ritual like a "measure," a term that refers to a variety of ceremonial dances in 16th- and 17th-century Britain. Finally, Beatrice jokes that "repenting" is the final phase of a marriage because, in her view, all those who marry come to regret it. This phase of marriage resembles the "cinquepace," a 16th-century French dance, suggesting that marriage traps a couple into going through the same motions until death. Through this simile, Beatrice reveals her perception of marriage as an absurd ritual that dooms both parties to dissatisfaction. 

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Act 4, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Dian and Venus:

Claudio's use of allusions to Roman goddesses highlights what he perceives as the contradictory nature of women. While berating Hero for her purported infidelity in Act 4, Scene 1, he tells her: 

You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown.
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pampered animals
That rage in savage sensuality. 

"Dian in her orb" refers to Diana, the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon (her "orb") in Roman mythology. Venus, meanwhile, is the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and desire. Claudio's simile compares Hero's outward appearance to the chaste Diana, but he states that she is, in reality, promiscuous like Venus. This allusion to the Roman goddesses highlights the distinction between appearances and reality that plagues the characters throughout the play, particularly with regard to women's sexuality. The fact that a woman's apparent loyalty cannot be trusted plagues the male characters throughout the play because it leaves them at risk of being betrayed and thus turned into "cuckolds." By making allusions to two different Roman goddesses, Claudio illustrates the seeming duality of women that the male characters so fear. 

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