Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

The effect is that messina seems a world of many

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indirectly, and hence often erroneously. The effect is that Messina seems a world of many social proximities, where it is easy to come by information and misinformation about oneself and others. The prevalence of noting gives a sense of a community closely, claustrophobically knit together. A similar pattern of repetition and echoing occurs in episodes that call attention to social rank. Leonato's solicitude towards the Prince (1.1) is echoed in Dogberry's fawning upon Leonato (3.5). Margaret imitates her mistress in masquerade, and then flirts with Benedick about her social aspirations: 'Will you then write me a sonnet in praise of my beauty?' (5.2.4—5). Both Beatrice and Don John call attention to Don Pedro's high status, and the Watch are assured that 'If you meet the prince in the night you may stay him . . . marry, not without the prince be willing' (3.3.73-4, 77-8). The repeated noting of social place helps to create the texture of a social world homogenous in its assumptions. The repetition of similar motifs in different keys helps give the sense of a com- munity bound at all levels by a consensual sense of its boundaries. This sense of the world is also created through Shakespeare's attention to incidental social details: the passing mentions of Claudio's uncle and Antonio's son, Margaret's chatty report on the Duchess of Milan's gown, Benedick's visit to the barber, the passing notations of time and place all of these conjure a uni- verse vivid, even solid, in its quotidian particulars. These details are not essential to the plot (to the extent that some of them have prompted debate about Shakespeare's compositional method), but they create a sense of a busy social world, of offstage lives and possibilities, and (in keeping with the play's themes) a sense of the audience's overhearing or witnessing a portion of a universe complete only in another dimension. 60
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Introduction Another feature common to several of the play's strands is the amusing spectacle of a self-regard that fails to fully describe the self in question. The alacrity with which the confirmed bachelor Benedick resolves to be in love and the earnestness with which Lady Disdain vows to tame her maiden pride are two such instances, in which a character's self-professed reputation is no match for the more insistent desire to love and be loved. To these we must add the pomposity of Dogberry, whose exorbitant sense of self-importance quite outpaces the regard in which he is held by others. A more poignant version of these self-misconceptions is provided in Leonato, a father whose affectionate avuncularity gives way to a radical emotional investment in his daughter with infanticidal overtones. Not just actions but situations are reiterated. One gulling scene follows another, and the challenge of Benedick to Claudio comes on the heels of Leonato's (and Antonio's). The love song of 2.3 ('Sigh no more, ladies') is echoed in the tomb ritual's song in 5.3 ('Pardon, goddess of the night'); the masquerade of 2.1 is reversed by the veiled women of 5.4; Hero receives the proposal of a disguised suitor in 2.1,
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