Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Joseph Altnether

Joe has taught college English courses for several years, has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and a Master's degree in English literature.

Shakespeare breathes life into a number of his seemingly minor characters. Margaret, Hero's serving woman from ''Much Ado About Nothing,'' is just such a character. Rough around the edges yet instilled with incredible depth for a seemingly irrelevant character.

Rough Around the Edges

Sometimes a name just fits a person. Shakespeare's choice for Margaret is exceptionally appropriate. The name comes from the Greek and approximates the word margaritari, which means pearl. Pearls are hidden jewels that are encased within a hard outer shell (mollusk or oyster). Margaret's character is much like a pearl.

On the exterior, she can be a bit gruff and crass. In a conversation with Benedick, what starts out as a request to write a sonnet, turns a bit tawdry. Benedick affirms Margaret's beauty, so much so that he declares ''no man living shall come over it.'' She responds ''to have no man come over me! Why, shall I always keep below the stairs?'' The implication is that her beauty will keep her from being intimate with a man. As for living below the stairs, Margaret takes that as an indication that she is only fit to live among the servants. She needn't worry since the questionable company she keeps find her exceptionally willing and accommodating.

The man with whom Margaret keeps close company is Borachio. Borachio is a person of questionable character. He agrees to help Don John derail the marriage between Claudio and Hero. He ''appoints (Margaret) to look out at her lady's chamber-window.'' He will use Margaret to deceive Claudio that Hero is cheating on him. This shows how much influence Borachio has over Margaret, and she is willing to obey him without question. This is an indication that her choice in friends is not always sound. Or perhaps just a shell to hide the treasure within.


When it comes to fashion, Margaret knows all. She and Hero discuss Hero's choice of wedding gown. Immediately Margaret indicates that ''your other rabato were better…s'not so good.'' She does follow that up with much praise for Hero. She tells her that the ''Duchess of Milan's gown…'s but a night-gown in respect of yours.'' Margaret further explains the exquisite material used to create the Duchess's gown. Considering the lack of media and resources, Margaret demonstrates extensive knowledge about the current fashion trends.

Despite the extravagance of the Duchess's gown, Margaret notes that the simplicity of Hero's gown not only enhances Hero's beauty, but also provides Margaret the opportunity to enhance Hero's beauty. She notes that the headdress Hero plans to wear is ''excellently, if the hair were a thought browner.'' In addition, she mentions the fashion of Hero's dress, telling her that the ''gown's a most rare fashion.'' Margaret's talent comes to the forefront of this scene, showing that she is someone who could help anyone look better.

Biting Wit

Already demonstrating an ability to exchange innuendos with the men, Margaret also shows that she can use language to her advantage. When Beatrice comes to visit her cousin Hero, she is ''stuff'd...I cannot smell.'' She tells everyone that she is stuffed up and sick. Margaret takes this opportunity to twist her words and meaning. She responds, ''A maid, and stuff'd! There's a goodly catching of cold.'' While this may seem to be a show of sympathy for Beatrice, Margaret uses stuffed to imply that Beatrice is pregnant.

There is further meaning within Margaret's comment. When she mentions ''a goodly catching of cold,'' it is in regards to Beatrice really catching hold of something. Since there is the implication on Margaret's part that Beatrice is pregnant, Beatrice has come down with a lot more than just a simple flu bug. The banter between the two women continues until Beatrice mentions that Margaret should ''wear (her wit) in her cap.'' Much like the jester in the king's court, Beatrice finds that Margaret's biting wit could entertain even the royal court. This is also an admission that Margaret is clever and smart. Although this comment may simply flatter Margaret, depending on the tone, it could be taken as a compliment.

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