Metaphors & Similes in Much Ado About Nothing

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 define similes and metaphors and then discuss how William Shakespeare uses these forms of figurative language when making descriptions of characters and events in ''Much Ado about Nothing''.


Elton John's tribute to Marilyn Monroe reads, 'And it seems to me you lived your life - Like a candle in the wind - Never knowing who to cling to - When the rain set in…' Unable to find literal words to describe her beautiful vulnerability as she attempted to endure the crazy world of Hollywood, he compares her to a candle in the wind that will inevitably be extinguished by its environment. Describing her by comparing her to a candle is an example of a simile.

A simile compares things that are not similar to emphasize similar traits using the words 'like' or 'as' to connect them. A metaphor is similar to a simile, but without 'like' or 'as' to connect them. In William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, the author uses similes and metaphors to describe characters, events, and even humorous miscommunications. Let's look at some examples of similes and metaphors from this play.


The following are some examples of similes from Much Ado About Nothing.

Example 1

When Claudio tells Benedick about his feelings for Hero, Benedick doesn't understand what Claudio sees in her. Benedick says,

'I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such

matter: there's her cousin, an she were not

possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty

as the first of May doth the last of December.'

Benedick thinks that Beatrice is much more attractive, but compares her temperament to her beauty by comparing May to December. This means that there is a big difference between her internal and external attractiveness. Since the word 'as' is used to connect this comparison, it is an example of a simile.

Example 2

Another example of a simile occurs when Benedick, Don Pedro, and Claudio are bantering back and forth about love. Benedick claims that he will never fall in love and says,

'If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot

at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on

the shoulder, and called Adam.'

This is where we call PETA. At one time, cats were used for target practice. Benedick is saying that he views falling in love as such a terrible thing that is so unlikely to happen to him that he would rather be shot at. The word 'like' is used to compare Benedick to a cat making this an example of a simile.


The following are some examples of metaphors from the play:

Example 1

Ursula and Hero create a plan to make Beatrice think that Benedick is in love with her by intentionally arranging for them to overhear their conversation. Ursula compares tricking Beatrice to catching a fish when she says,

'The pleasant'st angling is to see the fish

Cut with her golden oars the silver stream,

And greedily devour the treacherous bait:

So angle we for Beatrice; who even now

Is couched in the woodbine coverture.'

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