Act 1, Scene 1: Beatrice and
Comment on the
language in
Why do you like or
dislike characters in
the play? Do your
opinions change?
Drama is always about
some sort of conflict
(which may be below
the surface).
What do you need to
consider when reading a
Remember – drama
Consider how
needs performance in
dramatic devices
theatre to arrive at its
full meaning. Try to
imagine yourself as a
member of the
Think about how
it might be
staged when
are used, e.g.
Make careful notes on
themes, character, plot
and sub-plot.
Think about the
playwright and
the decisions
they have made.
Look at the dynamics between
Beatrice and Benedick
• Read the exchange from « Well even if he is her
father…» to « I know you from before »
• One person be Beatrice
• The other Benedick
• Each time you think your character makes an
insulting mark raise your hand and count how
many you think they make.
Benedick makes a play on words
based on the previous
conversation with Leonato
If Signor Leonato be her
father , she would not
have is head on her
shoulders for all Messina,
as like him as she is
Beatrice insults Benedick ‘I am
amazed you are still talking, no one
is listening to you’
I wonder that you will
still be talking, Signor
Benedick. Nobody
marks you.
Benedick refers to the fact that she
looks down on everything (disdain)
and asks why she isn’t yet dead.
What, my dear Lady
Disdain! Are you yet
How could disdain die when you’re
here? When you’re around even
Lady Courtesy becomes Lady
Is it possible disdain should
die while she hath such
meet food to feed it as
Signor Benedick? Courtesy
itself must convert disdain
if you come in her presence
That makes Lady Courtesy a traitor. All
ladies love me, except you. It’s too bad I’m
so hard-hearted because I really don’t love
Then is courtesy a
turncoat. But it is certain
I am loved of all ladies,
only you excepted And I
would I could find in my
heart that I had not a
hard heart, for truly I love
Women are lucky then. You would make a nasty suitor.
Thankfully I feel the same way you do. I have no need
for romance. I would rather listen to my dog bark at a
crow than hear a man swear he love me
A dear happiness to women. They
would else have been troubled with
a pernicious suitor. I thank God and
my cold blood I am of your humour
for that. I had rather hear my dog
bark at a crow that a man swear he
loves me
Well, I hope you stay in that frame of mind
or some poor man will end up with his face
all scratched up
God keep your Ladyship
still in that mind so some
gentleman or other shall
‘scape a predestinate
scratched face.
If he has a face like yours, a food scratching couldn’t
make him look any worse
Scratching could
not make it worse
‘twere such a face
as yours were
Listen to you, insulting me like a parrot
Well, you are a rateparrot-teacher
I’d rather be a squawking bird than
an animal like you.
A bird of my tongue
is better than a
beast of yours.
I wish my horse moved as fast as your
mouth and was as tireless. That’s it – I’m
I would my horse had the
speed of your tongue and
so good a continuer. But
you keep your way, I’God’s
name. I have done.
You always slip out of the
argument like this. I know you of
You always end with
a jade’s trick. I
know you of old.
The style comes from the works of John Lyle (1553-1606) titled
Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) & Euphues & his England (1580).
Lyle explores the fashionable traditions of England in a style that is
deliberately mannered and elevated.
Lyle’s was one of the central influences on Shakespeare’s own writing.
In addition to the exchanges between Benedick and Beatrice in Much
Ado About Nothing, both Polonius in Hamlet and Moth in Love’s
Labour’s Lost, employ the Euphuistic style in their dialogue.
Criticism of Euphuism
The Euphuistic style was used less frequently into the 17th century because
it was regarded as overly ornate and artificial. However, it provides a
telling insight into the cultural and fashionable concerns of its period.
Some royal historians argue that the style influenced the language of the
royal court throughout the period.
Characteristics of Euphuism
Euphuism – taken from the name of Lyle’s character Euphues meaning ‘graceful’
and ‘witty’ in Greek – is constructed using very particular rhetorical techniques.
Antithetical balance – sentences are comprised of two matched clauses which have
a contrasting meaning.
Oppositions – the contrasts in the sentences are often denoted by phonological
patterning like alliteration or assonance, and by words, which although different in
meaning, are similar in spelling or pronunciation.
Conflicting Meaning – the conflict in meanings are generated in this style because
of the way that puns are used; references to common proverbials and natural
history, for example, where there is some play-on the duality of meaning.
Aural Ornateness – the balance and antithesis of Euphuism gives rise to a
distinctive tone in its delivery.
Prose Only – Euphuism is a prose form only and cannot be discerned in verse.
TASK: Look closely at Act 1 Scene 1 (lines 112-39)
Try and identify the following aspects of euphemistic style
and annotate the passage.
Antithetical Balance
Conflicting Meaning
Aural Ornateness
1. Why does Shakespeare allow both Beatrice and Benedick to
use euphuistic language?
2. Think about the subject matter –why has Shakespeare
matched this content with the euphuistic style?
3. Given that some critics refer to the style as ‘overtly ornate’
or ‘artificial’ – how does that affect your understanding of
why Shakespeare uses their euphemistic style?
4. Consider the potential irony of Shakespeare’s use of
euphuism in these passages given that both of these
characters polarise themselves from the given social norms
in Messina .
Act 1 Scene 1 (lines 112-39)
Look at characterisation and the dynamics formed
between characters.
-How is/might this be used for comic effect?
Look for the use of language and wordplay in this opening
act - specifically the use of euphuism.