What is the Role of Abundance of Methaphores in the Play?
The great abundance of metaphors in Much Ado about Nothing is a direct result of the subject of the play, the simultaneously exciting and confounding nature of love. Nothing can bring more joy and pain than the pursuit of love. The ability of metaphors to allow a character to convey their feelings to the audience, in a manner in which the audience can directly relate, make metaphors a natural literary device for Shakespeare to utilize in the play.
One of the themes of Much Ado about Nothing, how love can be just as vicious as war, is itself a metaphor (Dickson, 2009, pp. 266-67). This metaphor is established early in the play when Leonato describes the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick as a “merry war,” marked by confrontation (Shakespeare, 1.1.59-62). Yet by the end of the play their marriage demonstrates that true love itself can be a kind of war (Greenblatt, 2010, p. 135).
Shakespeare also uses metaphors to convey the state of mind of his characters in a powerful manner. When Claudio believes Hero to be unfaithful, he does not simply state that he is in pain and does not wish to marry her. Instead Claudio uses a powerful metaphor, comparing Hero’s supposed loss of virginity to a spoiled piece of fruit (Shakespeare, 4.1.30-41). This metaphor communicates both the change in her status from an object of his desire to an object of repulsion, as well the depth of his heartbreak. The metaphor works so well because the audience has direct experience with fruit turning rotten. These two examples of metaphors communicating complex ideas and emotions to the audience demonstrate why Shakespeare loaded Much Ado about Nothing with such metaphors.
Dickson, A. (2009). The Rough Guide to Shakespeare. New York: Penguin.
Greenblatt, S. (2010). Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare. New York: WW Norton & Company.
Shakespeare, W., & McEachern, C. (2006). Much Ado about Nothing. London: Arden Shakespeare.
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