Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing Summary Questions: Act II

Act II, scene 1:
27.  According to the lecture why is Beatrice probably living with her uncle?  How does her situation in the household make her attitude toward love and marriage more unusual?  How does she “prove” that she will never love a man?  What seems to be Beatrice’s reason for opposing marriage?  How does it differ from Benedick’s?

As Beatrice’s parents are not mentioned at any point in the play one may deduce that she is an orphan, and this explains why she is living with Leonato. The fact that Beatrice is an orphan makes her attitude towards love and marriage all the more daring as Leonato may ask her to leave his house for opposing the beliefs of their society. Beatrice opposes these beliefs of love and marriage with every statement she makes and she ‘proves’ she will never love by saying; “I will even take in earnest/ of the Berrord, and lead his apes into hell”. In other words, Beatrice has resigned to go to hell a spinster rather than go to heaven a bride. Beatrice’s reason for opposing marriage differs from Benedick’s; she does not fear infidelity but rather being dominated by “a piece of valiant dust”.

28. Explain the folklore behind Beatrice’s remark about leading apes into Hell?

According to the notes of the text, to “lead apes into hell” was supposed to be the fate of those who died maids (unmarried).

29.  What is a “conceit” in Shakespeare’s works, and which one does Beatrice use to describe the process of wooing, wedding and repenting?

A conceit, in literary terms, is an elaborate/extended metaphor or a clever/complex comparison. Beatrice uses a conceit to compare music and dancing to the process of courting and marriage; “wooing, wedding, and re-/ penting”, she says, “[are] as a Scotch Jig, a measure, and a cinque pace”.  

30. What do Leonato and Antonio want Hero to do if the Prince proposes?  What does Beatrice advise her to do?

As would any father and uncle, Leonato and Antonio instructs Hero to obey her father’s instructions and to accept the Prince’s proposal should he make any of “that kind”. Beatrice, however, instructs Hero not to blindly follow Leonato’s orders out of ‘duty’ but to ensure that if she does want to marry it is to a “handsome fellow” of her own choosing.

31. Why did gentlemen wear masks at a dance?

Why does anyone wear masks? The answer is simple; to disguise themselves as to allow themselves to engage in activities they could not do otherwise if their identities were known. The masks also create an atmosphere of mystery and secrecy as one could become whoever he/she desired beneath the safeguard of a fa├žade.

32.  How does Pedro try to impress Hero when they dance?  How does she respond?
Don Pedro tries to impress Hero during their dance by alluding to a story of Greek mythology; the story of Baucis and Philemon, “a poor and ancient couple”, according to the notes of the text, “[who] entertained the gods Jupiter and Mercury unawares in their thatched cottage”. Hero is equally impressive in her response as she proves she is familiar with the story by saying, “why then your visor should be thatched”.
33.  How does Ursula first recognize her partner is Antonio?  How does she try to make him feel better?

Ursula recognizes her partner as Antonio by the “waggling of his head” and his “dry hand[s]”, she attempts to reduce the insult of her earlier descriptions of him by saying she also recognizes him by his “excellent wit” and “virtue”.

34.  How does the interchange between Benedick and Beatrice when they dance differ from that of the other couples?  How does he insult her in two ways?  How does she insult him?  Which of her insults seems to hurt him the most?  Why?

While the interchange between the other couples is amiable (even flirtatious), between Benedick and Beatrice insults continue to be served back and forth. Benedick insults Beatrice by saying ‘someone’ has called her “disdainful” and that her witty remarks are copied out of a “jest book”. As Benedick insults Beatrice’s intelligence, so she insults his. She calls him “the Prince’s jester, [and] a very dull fool” whom men laugh at rather than with and then “[they] beat him”. Of all of Beatrice’s insults her remark that he is “the Prince’s jester” seems to hurt Benedick most; perhaps because he is not only a soldier but also a Lord of Padua and being called a jester by Beatrice diminishes his rank.

35.  At the party why does Claudio pretend to be Benedick when approached by Don John?  What does Claudio believe has happened with Pedro and Hero?  What does Benedick think has happened?  What’s the significance of the willow?

One may assume that Claudio pretends to be Benedick simply to hear what it is Don John has to say. Don John, who is aware that Claudio is masquerading as Benedick, informs him that Don Pedro is “enamour’d on Hero” and intends on marrying her that night. Claudio believes Don John’s lies and becomes melancholic, and his current state is made no better by the arrival of Benedick who also believes that Don Pedro has wooed Hero for himself. Benedick asks Claudio to accompany him to the nearest willow so that he may acquire a garland to advertise his ‘supposed’ unrequited love.

36. What is “hyperbole,” and how does Benedick use it?  Identify two of Benedick’s best ones?

A hyperbole is defined as a deliberate exaggeration for effect. Benedict uses hyperbole first to exaggerate how Beatrice insulted him, secondly how her insults made him feel, her ill qualities and then to describe what he would rather do than “hold three words’ conference” with her. Two of Benedick’s best hyperboles are:
“I would not marry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgress’d”. In that hyperbole Benedick is saying he would not marry Beatrice for the whole Garden of Eden.  In another he begs Don Pedro to send him on any “embassage” that will get him away from Beatrice saying, “I will fetch you a tooth-picker now from the furthest inch of Asia”. The latter hyperbole is quite powerful as a trip to Asia in Elizabethan time may have taken months or perhaps years.

37.  Explain Benedick’s reference to Hercules having to “turn spit” and chop up his club. 

According to the notes of the text, “to turn the spits on which the meat was roasted was one of the tasks of the ‘black guard’, the lowest of menials”. So essentially what Benedick is saying is that Beatrice’s insults could transform a Greek god into the most meager of soldiers.

38.  When Beatrice enters at line 260 Benedick offers to go on three seemingly impossible journeys.  What are they and what are they designed to accomplish?

When Beatrice enters at line 260 Benedick offers to “fetch a tooth-picker from the furthest inch of /Asia: bring the length of Prester John’s foot: [and] fetch a hair of the great Cham’s beard”. These hyperboles are designed to emphasize just how willing Benedick is to talk with Beatrice – which is not willing at all.

39.  Explain what Beatrice reveals about her past relationship with Benedick in this scene.  Explain her reference to being “put down” and “giving birth to fools.”

After Benedick exits the scene in a fury, Don Pedro remarks to Beatrice, “you have lost the heart/ of Signior Benedick”, to which she replies, “Indeed my Lord, he lent it me a while, and I/ gave him use for it”. Beatrice’s reply suggests that she and Benedick had once been engaged in a romantic relationship which apparently ended bitterly. Don Pedro continues by saying, “You have put him down Lady, you have put/ him down”, to which Beatrice replies, “So I would not he should do me, my Lord, lest/ I prove the mother of fools”. Some critics have interpreted Beatrice’s words to mean that she insults Benedick (“put’s him down”) to prevent him from making her a fool’s mother; as Benedick is fool it serves that any child he would give her would be likewise. Additionally, the word fool was then synonymous to bastard; therefore, Beatrice believes that if her relationship with Benedick did not end he might have impregnated her and refused to marry her.

40. Why does Don Pedro appear to propose marriage to Beatrice?  Why might it be     serious?  Why might it be in jest?  How does she treat the proposal? What connection might there be between this proposal and Pedro’s planned deception of Beatrice and Benedick?

Towards the end of the scene Beatrice laments that everyone is getting married except her, whether her lamentation is serious or not depends on the actress performing her role. Similarly, Don Pedro propose marriage to Beatrice in reply to her lamentation, this too may be serious or not, however, one may assume that it is serious as Don Pedro must be feeling quite lonely now that he is about to lose the company of his “right-hand” Claudio. Nevertheless, most person would agree that the Prince’s proposal was in jest as he is unperturbed by Beatrice’s refusal and also because it is highly unlikely that the Prince of Aragon would seriously consider marrying an orphan girl from Messina. Though the Prince has no intention of marrying Beatrice, he intends to see her married to Benedick, just as he intended to see Claudio and Hero together. Perhaps while the Prince is not in love himself he simply enjoys meddling in romantic affairs.

Act II, scene 2:
41.  How do we know that Don John and Borachio are aware of the possible consequences of their planned deception?

It is obvious that Don John and Borachio are aware of the possible consequences of their planned action as Borachio says, “[it is] enough, to misuse the Prince, to vex/ Claudio, to undo Hero, and kill Leonato”.

Act II, scene 3:
42. In the first 15 lines of his opening soliloquy what are the three ways Benedick believes love has changed Claudio’s behavior?

Benedick believes love has changed Claudio’s behavior, for instance, his taste in music, as “there was [once] no music with him but the/ drum and fife, [but] now had he rather hear the tabor/ and the pipe”. In this observation Benedick notes that Claudio was once a rowdy young man but now that he is in love he has become more tranquil; as “the tabor and the pipe” are traditional music of peaceful men. Benedick also notes that love has changed Claudio’s choice of fashion as he would no longer “[walk]/ ten mile a- foot, to see a good armour, [but lies]/ ten nights awake [designing an elaborately embroidered coat]”. Another aspect of Claudio’s behavior which Benedick perceives has been affected by love is his manner of speaking. Once Claudio “was wont to speak plain, and to the purpose (like an/ honest man and a soldier), [but] now [he has become a maker of fine phrases]”.  

43. What are eight “graces” which Benedick believes a hypothetical woman must have before he would consider marrying her?  What one quality is he flexible upon?

According to Benedick before he even considers marrying a woman she must be: rich, wise, virtuous, fair, mild, noble, of good discourse, and an excellent musician. In regards to the hair colour of this ‘hypothetical woman’ it may be “what colour it please God”.

44. Why does Benedick hide when Claudio, Pedro and Leonato come in to talk?

There is no explicit reason for why Benedick hides when his friends enter, but as he was just denouncing Claudio for his decision to marry it may be assumed that he hides as not to be drawn into conversation of the intended marriage which he assumes is inevitable. 

45. What one element of the “gulling scene” seems to convince Benedick that it is no trick? What effect does the news of Beatrice’s possible suicide have on Benedick?

Benedick is convinced that the “conference” which Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato hold to discuss Beatrice’s ‘supposed’ feelings for him must be sincere because Leonato, “the white bearded fellow”, is present. While Claudio and Don Pedro are likely to trick him, Benedick is convinced that Leonato is too noble in his elderly state to play such tricks. News of Beatrice’s possible suicide drives Benedick to say that her love “must be requited”.

46.  What are three different ways that Benedick’s friends question his personal character between lines 180 -- 195?

Don Pedro exclaims that Benedick “hath a contemptible spirit” and he, Claudio, and Leonato question his wisdom and his valour.

47.  What is the sexual meaning of “die” in Shakespeare’s plays?

According to Professor Bill Harlan, “to die” was Elizabethan slang for sexual climax.

48.  What are two ways in which Benedick justifies his sudden change of heart in his soliloquy at lines 217 – 242?

Benedick justifies his sudden change in behavior by saying, “Doth not the appetite alter”, meaning though he had previously been disdainful towards women he is allowed to alter his opinion (appetite), he continues by saying such an alteration is natural as “a man loves meat in his youth, that he cannot endure in his age”.

49.  What is Beatrice’s meaning in the message she delivers to Benedick between lines 243 – 252?  What does Benedick think she means?

 While Beatrice means exactly what she says between lines 243 – 252, Benedick, who is now seeing with Cupid’s eyes, thinks her words have a “double meaning”. For instance, Benedick says, “I thank you for your pains”, to which Beatrice replies, “I took no more pains for those thanks, than you did to thank me”. Benedick interprets her remark to mean, “Any pain that I take for you is as easy as thanks”.