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

Lyly anatomy 248 this is a mere portion of a passage

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(Lyly, Anatomy, 248) This is a mere portion of a passage that has been underway, and continues, for hundreds of lines. Indeed, part of the point is the authorial staying power to sustain the subject while generating interest and texture with marks of ingenuity and invention. The writer must aspire to an encyclopaedic range of reference and reiteration, whilst managing to stay on topic, balancing digres- sive expansion against thematic pertinence. This is a style that Benedick might call 'so good a continuer' (1.1.136). Some of Much Ado\ set pieces are akin to this not only in style but also in subject, such as Benedick's monologue against love in the beginning of 2.3 ('I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love . . . ', 2.3.8ff). This, the longest prose speech in Much Ado (27 lines), is rivalled only by the speech at the end of the same scene in which Benedick recants his position. In performance it is usually highly entertaining, chiefly because of the sense of argument that propels it; even as he scorns Claudio, Benedick is slowly persuading him- self. This sense of suasion derives from Shakespeare's focus on the meditative and dialogue-like features of Lyly's prose, as he builds on and improves upon its patterns of call and response, internal 67
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Introduction echoes and retorts, rhetorical questions and answers, reversals and symmetries. (If Lyly's marathon style seems untheatrically static, it does contain within it the dialogic structures that make it sur- prisingly adaptable to drama, albeit in much smaller doses. Lyly himself exploited these.) Yet the Shakespeare passage is infinitely more flexible than the Lyly, and more agile in sketching the drollery of a personality in debate with itself. It is true that Benedick unfurls parallel balanced structures: three sentences in succession list the contrasts between the 'before' and 'after' versions of Claudio, with respect to his musical tastes, clothing and speech ('I have known when . . . and now . . . '; 'I have known when . . . and now . . . '; 'He was wont . . . and now . . . ', 2.3.12-19). But where Lyly's prose would be just beginning to warm up, Benedick stops and shifts the enquiry to himself, and the mesmeric repetitive queries give way to a blunter, more flat-footed idiom: 'I cannot tell; I think not' (22). Then, just when it seems that Benedick has resolved the matter with the seal of logic ('till he have made an oyster of me he shall never make me such a fool', 24—5), he starts up yet again with musing on the features of women: 'One woman is fair . . . ' (25). He concludes again, with a chiastic flourish: 'But till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace' (27-8).
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