The diction that Shakespeare has employed in most of his writings is poetic. The lines of the plays are organized in the manner of synonymous with poetic structures. His consistent use of archaic language depicts the period in which he lived. In the play Much Ado About Nothing, the Elizabethan diction is in full use. The language and rhetoric here has been exploited to explore the theme of the ideal of social grace.
The characters’ dense and colorful manner of speaking is reminiscent of the ideals that courtiers strove to achieve in most of their interactions during the renaissance. The language here is heavily laden with metaphors and punctuated by rhetoric which gives additional meaning to the theme being explored. Characters like Benedick, Don Pedro and Claudio all use a witty banter that was used by courtiers to attract and influence the attention and approval in very noble households. To do this, they speak in highly contrived language while keeping their utterances to look effortless.
Benedick and his friends try and show their polished social status both in the manner of their behavior and in their speech. The play pokes a lot of fun at the fanciful language of love that courtiers used. When Claudio falls in love, he strives to be the perfect courtier ever and he uses language to do this. Again, it is language that manipulated to capture the extent of Hero’s loss of honor because she had had sexual encounters before marriage. This was a very significant loss from which one never recovered during the Shakespeare’s time. On page 138, she is described as one who had fallen into a pit of ink that even the wide sea hath drops too few to wash her clean again. That cannot fail to strike as a very serious annihilation.
The use of language and rhetoric has been further explored to make the play more dramatic and meaningful. He uses rhetorical questions like the one on page 70 where the question “with who” is intended to engage the audience. He uses this to persuade the audience to know an answer which they do not know yet which they should. This makes the play more dramatic because he is able to engage with the audience and cleverly help them understand the significance of the scene.
The play itself is primarily about gossip and the title aptly captures that. It is a gig fuss about a trifle and by the end, it is like it never happened at all. Shakespeare is witty himself and plays on the meaning of the word nothing. First, it would be pronounced as ‘noting’ in his time. It meant a worthless person. However, he deliberately plays with the meaning in this play for we know that ‘nothing’ could also refer to females genitalia. Hero’s genitalia is ridiculed and one readily sees how ashamed she becomes because of her sexual desires. She thus fails the ideal of social class by losing her honor amongst the people. Language here is used to locate that describe that ideal and how it is valued.
The word “nothing” is noting in the play. This is why when Claudio comments about Hero, he asks whether anyone had noted her. To note here is to stigmatize. Benedick answers that he noted her not but instead looked on her which means he never noted her. And when he did, he noted her in his own way, maybe about her complexion and height. So that generally, Shakespeare uses language to explore a number of issues. Rhetoric as well add to the general meaning of the play. Everyone else is aspiring for the ideal of social grace and that is when Hero is found to have lost hers’, nobody is ready to associate. In fact, it is much ado about nothing anyway.