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English Literature


Opposites and verse structure

Opposites are also used frequently. They highlight the conflicts in the story between men and women, truth and lies, or being single and getting married. There are lots of examples. One of the clearest is Beatrice's explanation for not getting married (in Act 2, Scene 1):

"He that hath a beard is more than a youth: and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth, is not for me. and he that is less than a man, I am not for him"

Another way of looking at the language of Much Ado About Nothing is to examine the lines. Shakespeare used different patterns of lines for different effects. Some are written in blank verse, so they have ten syllables which are organised in five pairs. The first syllable is weak, the second stronger. So if we look at a typical line, we traditionally show the weak or unstressed syllable with an 'x' above it, and the stressed syllable with an '/' above it. In this example Claudio is saying goodbye to Hero:

    x    /    x    /    x    /    x    /    x    /

But fare thee well, most foul, most fair, farewell

Reading it like this, we can hear an obvious beat. We can also see that the key words tend to be stronger and carry more meaning. They also seem to sum up Claudio's contradictory views of his rejected bride: fare - well - foul - fair - well.

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