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Group Readings > Much Ado About Nothing...Act 4, June 10

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
Discussion of Act 4 "Much Ado About Nothing" here....


message 2: by Jim (last edited Jun 11, 2017 06:14AM) (new)

Jim | 38 comments I expect it's been said many times before, but I find the wedding scene gut-wrenching. Poor Hero. And, man, you'd think her dad could calm down a little.

message 3: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments That struck me, too Jim. Everybody just flips on Hero at the drop of a hat. I thought Claudio was supposed to be bad at talking, but he delivers some blistering speeches in Act 4.

So what is Shakespeare trying to say? Is he implying that it is too easy to attack a woman's reputation, and that everyone will just pile on to a rumor? The only people who defend Hero are the friar and the other woman on stage- Beatrice.

My new favorite line: "She has known the heat of a luxurious bed!"

message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim | 38 comments Returning to the title, I think one of the points is that people tend to be too quick to accept and act on falsehoods. There also might be a suggestion that some people have too much time on their hands and entertain themselves by "stirring the pot" with fabrications.

I wonder if there's a hint that even if she's "known the heat of a luxurious bed", it's nothing about which to make much ado. Leonato doesn't seem too concerned if Claudio had been the gentleman in question.

That the friar is one of the voices of reason does seem to suggest that what Jesus would urge would be at odds with the reaction of most at the wedding!

message 5: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments Another question:

Can I get some clarification on the word "ass?" I know that it meant donkey, and I know that it was an insult. At what point did it start to take on a slang meaning for "butt?" It's always seemed significant to me that Bottom in MND gets an ass head- bottom and ass being synonyms after a fashion.

message 6: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 172 comments Leonato and Claudio reject Hero in interestingly different ways (though both through prejudice) - Leonato passionately, Claudio coldly. Leonato then recovers from that (having loved Hero too possessively) but Claudio remains a cold fish. Benedict deserves some credit for not jumping to the same conclusions but reserving judgement. The male habit of believing women to be betrayers on slight or no evidence comes up again in Othello and Cymbeline. It's interesting that the kindly Friar doesn't talk about God - unlike Dogberry, who does all the time.

message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
I have been thinking about your post regarding the significance of donkey or ass, Phil. However I also got very distracted trying to figure out what the significance of the bull motif might be.

I believe both these are very important in the play. My first thought about the bull motif is....mythras. Is love a type of labyrinth? What does this mean or is Shakespeare hinting at myths cults?

In other news...I found this blog site with an intro by Northrop Frye...I thought it might inspire our inquiries?


message 8: by Candy (last edited Jun 16, 2017 06:44AM) (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
I am following and am reading by the way....Ive only been awol because work has been insane. I work part time at an Italian American restaurant in southside Chicago. It has been closed for renovations and just re-opened (soft) last week. There are endless errands, chores and details I have been helping my bosses accomplish and run for the past two weeks.

I have been going from 10-10....and just barely can stand as both my back and feet are killing me....but I am committed to this discussion.

We have a huge "Italian Block Party" this weekend...and I do bring my play and sonnets with me however....I barely have a break for coffee to read so I am so sorry for being AWOL.

I will keep looking for stuff about ass and bull.

Gee, that sounded weird...

message 9: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod

And another fascinating blog on Northrop Frye...this one is bizarre....will it help with our reading? All I'm trying to do is find something about bulls and asses!!!???

message 10: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Tyler (doulton) I am posting this long-ish article in case it provides some illumination:

Steve Cassal. The Explicator. Washington: Spring 2006.Vol. 64, Iss. 3; pg. 138, 3 pgs
Author(s): Steve Cassal

In Much Ado About Nothing, the slander of Hero has attracted a great deal of critical attention. Harry Berger, S. P. Cerasano, Barbara Everett, and A. R. Humphreys, among others, have commented on the slander and its effects on the young heroine. When Claudio describes Hero as a "stale," "an approved wanton," and a "rotten orange" during the church scene (4.1), his remarks constitute slander as defined by the English secular courts during Shakespeare's lifetime-they are false, malicious misrepresentations that attempt to defame or injure (Helmholz xvii, xl, lxxii-lxxxvi, and the OED). However, there is another type of slander in Much Ado, one that tends to be overlooked by critics: that of Dogberry, whom Conrade calls an "ass." Conrade's description of Dogberry is malicious (as well as exasperated), but it is neither false nor a misrepresentation. It is slander that happens to be true and that represents its subject accurately.

The labeling of Dogberry as an ass is presented comically. Part of the joke is that Dogberry publicizes his own slander, bringing it to much wider report than it would otherwise attain, as he proclaims, "remember that I am an ass" and "forget not that I am an ass" (4.2.73-74, 75). Whereas Hero wanted her slander to be erased as soon as possible, Dogberry shouts it to the heavens, or rather to the authorities, urging that the slur against him be written down to inscribe it permanently in Messina's official record: "O, that I had been writ down an ass!" (4.2.84-85). While Hero was painfully aware of the effects of slander on her reputation, her place in society, and her marriage prospects, Dogberry seems clueless not only of the impact of being publicly labeled an ass, but of the meaning of the word. This may be one of many instances where the relation between language and meaning escape him, and it may be the one that displays his comprehension problems at their most basic level. Whereas in other cases he confuses relatively sophisticated terms-"damnation" and "redemption," for instance-here he does not seem to understand the meaning of "ass." However, there is also a sense that, despite his cluelessness, he does somehow grasp the meaning of the slander and wants society to note the damage that has been done to him. In this respect, "Oh, that I had been writ down an ass!" becomes a lament over lost evidence, an expression of regret that there is no official documentation of his slander, and thus no way to recover his reputation. Dogberry implicitly believes that the written word has more power, more authority, than the spoken one, and he mourns the loss of written evidence to support his contention that he has been defamed.

Dogberry's defamation may be contrasted with Hero's in that the comic character, unlike the heroine, never seems to grasp fully the nature of the slander that is leveled against him. But the constable's defamation also resembles Hero's. Dogberry, like Hero, is a vulnerable figure within Messina society, and both characters rely on the good offices of powerful males. Indeed, Dogberry is feminized and has the marginalized status of a woman throughout the play. He even describes himself as "as pretty a piece of flesh in all of Messina" (4.2.79), a line that probably evoked a great deal of laughter in Shakespeare's time when uttered by the comic actor Will Kemp, for whom Shakespeare created the character of Dogberry (in the 1600 quarto the name "Will Kemp" is one of the speech tags for Dogberry).

But beneath the comedy one notices that Dogberry sees himself much as the men of Messina see Hero: as a pretty piece of flesh, an object, a piece of property. Dogberry parodies this kind of male gaze directed at women.

Like Hero, Dogberry lacks the verbal facility to defend himself, though his problem is not a lack of words, as we see in the heroine, but rather a mangling of language.

He, like Hero, cannot use words effectively enough to mount a defense against slander. His cries for justice, like Hero's, fall on deaf ears, but like Hero he is vindicated at the end. He may be an ass, but he is instrumental in catching the villains of the piece. Like Hero, Dogberry "hath had losses" (4.2.82). Usually these are interpreted as being losses of money, property or possessions, but one wonders if Dogberry has not also suffered the loss of his reputation, if his "years" and his "place" were disrespected even before his encounter with Conrade and Boracchio.

The men of the watch serve many functions in the play. One, of course, is comic relief. They provide a counterpoint to-and perhaps a parody of-the macho posturing of Don Pedro and the other manly men of the Messina Men's Club. With their malaprops and non sequiturs the watch also offer a comic use of language that counterbalances the witty, intelligent and sophisticated banter of Beatrice and Benedick. Not all of the watch's functions are comic, however. In Much Ado, as Jean Howard has suggested, Dogberry and Verges demonstrate that "beneath the world of unstable appearance there is a world of essences to which man has access if he has, paradoxically, either careful noting skill or strong powers of intuition" (108). Dogberry and Verges "intuitively know a thief despite misunderstanding his language" (108). And Dogberry uses his intuition to sense when he is slandered even when he cannot fully grasp the meaning of what is said against him.

One should also note that the church scene-the nastiest scene in the play, and the one that Much Ado must struggle to accommodate within its comic framework-is sandwiched in between two scenes that feature Dogberry and the watch. These comic scenes are meant to cushion the negative impact of the church scene, and it is primarily through this cushioning that the ugliness of that scene is absorbed within the comic spirit of Much Ado. Structurally, the scenes of the watch distract the audience from the vile activities of the nuptial that goes wrong. Conrade's slander of Dogberry, following on the heels of Claudio's slander of Hero, fuses the tragic with the comic, lessening the impact of Hero's plight. Indeed, through comedy, Hero's debacle is linked to that of Dogberry, and so the play accommodates the sordid business of the church scene and maintains its comic trajectory.

message 11: by Phil (new)

Phil Jensen | 97 comments What an interesting article! I admit that I pretty much wrote Dogberry off as a purely comic relief character.

message 12: by Jim (new)

Jim | 38 comments Great article Natalie. Thanks!

message 13: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
Well done Natalie! Very interesting article.

What does this say about Dogberry and his age? Is it just a good attitude? He seems like he has figured out how to not take himself so seriously....perhaps because others don't take him seriously? And maybe it's an example of being able to feel less stress in life?

message 14: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 172 comments I think the article is a bit heavy-handed about Dogberry and the ass joke. He has another function which I think is more important alongside his humorous role, namely to show how difficult it is to get to the truth of an allegation if you are a pompous ass with an exaggerated respect for authority ('Why, this is flat perjury, to call a prince's brother villain...Pray thee, fellow, peace. I do not like thy look, I promise thee '. in parallel, the allegation against Hero cannot be properly investigated because of the irrationality built into the gender system.

message 15: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 172 comments And an afterthought on your comment, Candy (while admiring your tenacity despite your ghastly working conditions): surely Dogberry does take himself seriously - too seriously about the status of constable but not seriously enough to carry it out properly.

message 16: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
I have just survived my work ordeal Gabriel. I am exhausted all week LOL


message 17: by Bobby (new)

Bobby | 57 comments Phil wrote: "Another question:

Can I get some clarification on the word "ass?" I know that it meant donkey, and I know that it was an insult. At what point did it start to take on a slang meaning for "butt?" I..."

According to the OED neither "bottom" nor "ass" had the meaning of buttocks in Shakespeare's time, but the author of this article makes a very thorough argument that the contemporary meaning of both words is at least a possibility in Shakespeare's play:

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