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Much Ado About Nothing - Dialogue

This GCSE English Literature quiz focuses on dialogue in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. With rare exceptions, drama consists primarily of dialogue. This quality can make drama more difficult to read and understand because you are required to imagine how the text might be performed. If you get the chance, try to watch live performances or film adaptations of plays to see how directors and actors have interpreted the text. On the other hand, reading a play gives you the chance to go slowly, to re-read and to think carefully about the dialogue.

Dialogue conveys meaning through its content, as well as through specific details such as language choice, use of dialect and even interruptions and pauses.

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As you read Much Ado About Nothing, ask yourself the following questions: How do different characters speak? Do different characters use different vocabularies in order to express themselves? Do they change their speech in different situations, or over time? When reading Shakespeare, you should also compare dialogue that is written in poetry with dialogue that is written in prose. What are the differences between the characters who speak in one but not the other? Do any characters switch between poetry and prose when speaking to others? Why?

The individual beliefs, intentions and preferences of characters are expressed through dialogue, but it also has other important functions. Dialogue gives practical information, such as informing the audience about events in the past which have led to the point at which the play begins or about the past history of characters. In Much Ado About Nothing, for example, we learn that Benedick and Beatrice have known each other for some time and that each has issues with the other’s past behaviour, although we never learn the details.

Memorising Shakespearean dialogue will really impress your teacher, and has the added benefit of preparing you to write about the play. Collect a list of the most significant examples of dialogue for each character, paying close attention to lines which illustrate their characteristics or occur at a turning point in the text.

The quiz below asks you to recognise who is speaking each of these lines. Think carefully about the significance of the quoted dialogue before answering the question. What does the dialogue tell you about the character? Could another character have spoken the same lines? If not, why not? Consider subtext in addition to the factual information conveyed, and whether the dialogue foreshadows or explains any later events.

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  1. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "I cannot hide what I am. I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no man's jests"
    The melancholic Don John demonstrates a fatalistic view of life
  2. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "I will teach you how to humour your cousin that she shall fall in love with Bendick, and I, with your two helps, will so practise on Bendick that, in despite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach, he shall fall in love with Beatrice"
    Don Pedro plays matchmaker with Beatrice and Bendick
  3. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "What, bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour - O God [...] I would eat his heart in the market place"
    Beatrice wishes she were a man so that she might legitimately engage in vengeful violence against Hero's false accuser: "O God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market place"
  4. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "There, Leonato, take her back again. / Give not this rotten orange to your friend"
    Claudio rejects Hero at the altar, publicly humiliating her
  5. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "Did I not tell you she was innocent?"
    The Friar observes Hero closely when she is accused and reads the truth in her face, rather than placing trust in the reports of others. He is presented in direct contrast to her father, who believes the report of the other men over his own daughter
  6. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "O lord, he will hang upon him like a disease. He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio. If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere [he] be cured"
    Beatrice's comment presents friendship with Benedick as a misfortune. This quote is an example of her "skirmish of wit" with Benedick, although he is not yet present to hear her
  7. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "O God, sir, here's a dish I love not. I cannot endure my Lady Tongue"
    By "Lady Tongue", Benedick refers to Beatrice
  8. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "And when I lived I was your other wife; / And when you loved, you were my other husband"
    After her feigned death, Hero presents herself as having been born afresh, "another Hero"
  9. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes"
    When Hero faints, Leonato reveals that her death would be less distressing than the shame he believes she has brought upon him
  10. Match the dialogue to the correct speaker.

    "Moreover, sir, which indeed is not under white and black, this plaintiff here, the offender, did call me ass. I beseech you let it be remembered in his punishment"
    The clownish constable, Dogberry, works out the truth about Don John's plot and the slanderous accusations against Hero. Here he says "plaintiff" when he means "defendant" and he continues to repeat Conrad's dismissive insult

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