Alliteration in Much Ado About Nothing: Examples & Meaning

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine William Shakespeare's use of alliteration in the comedy ''Much Ado About Nothing.'' In this play, alliteration is used to indicate lightness, which is sometimes playful and sometimes dark and sarcastic.

Background and Definitions

From Dumb and Dumber to The Great Gatsby, authors use alliteration to emphasize what they want their audience to remember. Alliteration is when several words that begin with the same sound are used within the same sentence or a few sentences. Alliteration has a poetic quality that can be used to portray light-heartedness or sarcasm. In William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, alliteration is used in both a teasing and sarcastic manner in this comedic play about love and the problems with love. Let's look at some examples of alliteration.

Balthasar's Self-Deprecation

Just before Don Pedro convinces Balthasar to sing, Balthasar says, ''Note this before my notes: there's not a note of mine that's worth the noting.'' Balthasar is using a pun to play on the meaning of the word 'note' as being both to notice something and a musical term, but this is also alliteration because of the repeated use of words that begin with the letter 'N.' Alliteration emphasizes Balthasar's self-deprecating humor just before he launches into the song Sigh No More proposing the double-standard of male infidelity as being natural.

Beatrice Is Rethinking Her Position

As they are preparing for Hero's wedding, Beatrice sighs, ''Heigh-ho!'' Margaret teasingly asks if she is calling ''For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?'' If you remember in Act 2, Scene 1, Beatrice expresses to Don Pedro her frustration that everyone seems to think she should ''sit in a corner and cry, 'Heigh-ho for a husband!' '' The repetitive use of words that begin with the 'H' sound emphasizes Margaret's sing-song teasing and draws attention to the foreshadowing that Beatrice is ready to change her stance that marriage is not for her.

Claudio's Sardonic Accusations

Claudio mistakenly believes that Hero has cheated on him. He goes to the church where they are supposed to be married and publicly humiliates her. When she blushes from the horrific accusations Claudio is making, Claudio says, ''Can cunning sin cover itself withal!'' This means that he thinks it is all an act to try to cover her sins. This is an example of alliteration because of the repetition of words that begin with the 'C' sound. The purpose is to emphasize Claudio's biting sarcasm.

Beatrice Cries for Her Cousin

After Claudio's scene at the church, Benedick finds Beatrice crying because of the way her cousin, Hero, has been treated. When Benedick asks if she has been crying this entire time, she responds, ''Yea, and I will weep a while longer.'' This is an example of alliteration because of Beatrice's repeated use of words that begin with 'W.' Beatrice uses alliteration to justify her tears and emphasize that she's got more coming.

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