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English Literature


Wit and repetition

Another technique Shakespeare uses is the pun. A lot of jokes are puns: a play on words using words that sound similar but have different meanings. So, when Beatrice says Claudio is "civil as an orange", she plays on the similarity between 'civil' and 'Seville'. He is either polite or bitter (like the oranges from Seville).

Repartee is when characters give quick, witty replies. We see this most often with Beatrice and Benedick. For instance, when they argue in Act 1, Scene 1, they are able to twist the other person's words around. And both want to have the final word.

Repetition is also used frequently in Much Ado About Nothing. Repeating a word or phrase draws attention to it. For instance, in Act 5, Scene 2, Beatrice says:

"Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath"

The word 'foul' is repeated six times in just three lines. This is not by accident. Shakespeare is drawing attention to how unhappy Beatrice is. Another way of repeating ideas is to use lists, such as Benedick in Act 3, Scene 2 talking of a Dutchman, Frenchman, German and Spaniard.

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