Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing


William Shakespeare

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Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Analysis

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Themes and Colors
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Much Ado About Nothing, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon

For the characters of Much Ado About Nothing, romantic experiences are always connected to issues of freedom and shame. If dignity comes from having a strong and free will, then love, desire and marriage are a threat to it. This is the position taken by most of the characters. Benedick, for example, compares the married man to a tame, humiliated animal. The events of the play confirm this position on love and dignity taken by most of the characters. Benedick and Beatrice begin the play seeming witty, aloof and superior to the others. But by the end, their love has made them somewhat ridiculous. Like puppets, they are manipulated by their friends.

Ironically, Much Ado About Nothing suggests that the characters fear of shame in love is more likely to lead to embarrassment than love itself will. Terrified that marrying Hero will dishonor him, Claudio shames her publicly. But when the truth comes out, his outburst seems silly. The same goes for Beatrice and Benedick: their extreme resistance to love and marriage (and the accompanying shame and loss of freedom) makes them look all the more ridiculous when they finally give in. They also lose more of their freedom: while Claudio chooses Hero, Benedick and Beatrice are chosen for each other.

At the same time, Much Ado suggests that giving in to our strong feelings for other people is unavoidable. Despite the shame of going back on their principles, despite the knowledge that the whole thing was set up by others, Benedick and Beatrice are happy in love—perhaps this happiness is more important than dignity and freedom. As Benedick puts it, “man is a giddy thing,” and the play ends with joyous dancing.

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Marriage, Shame and Freedom ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Marriage, Shame and Freedom appears in each scene of Much Ado About Nothing. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Marriage, Shame and Freedom Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing

Below you will find the important quotes in Much Ado About Nothing related to the theme of Marriage, Shame and Freedom.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

“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:

“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
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 1.1.255-256
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

“Speak low, if you speak love.”

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

“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:
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:
Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

“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:
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:
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:

“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:

“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
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 4.1.144-148
Explanation and Analysis:

“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:
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: