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Why does Shakespeare use the device of a masked dance in Act II Scene I of 'Much Ado about Nothing'?

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Harriet French 24th February 2003 Why does Shakespeare use the device of a masked dance in Act II Scene I of 'Much Ado about Nothing'? Shakespeare uses the device of a masked dance in Act II Scene I for many reasons, mainly for the entertainment value of an Elizabethan audience these were the people Shakespeare intended the play to be viewed by, and also to dramatically further the plot. Using a masked dance allows for many characters to be in the same place at the same time, allowing all of the different social classes to mix and interact, something which would not normally have happened in Elizabethan times. This would have had a pleasing effect on the 'groundlings' watching the performance and also one of amusement to the 'aristocrats' in the audience who would take delight in seeing how much better they are than the groundlings. With all these people in the same place at the same time, confusion, mistaken identity, misunderstanding, and deception I sure to occur, which enable the plot to enhance and gain an eager interest from the audience. During the scene there is dancing, laughing, joking, music, fancy dress, colourful masks and general light-heartedness. This has an amusing, entertaining and stimulating effect on the whole audience, as there is a lot to see and do throughout the scene. All the colour, music and dancing means huge entertainment value for the whole audience, as it not only amasses all the characters, but reveals different sides to some of the main characters in the play, which we may only have had a hint of before hand. ...read more.


The upper class would enjoy the scene for most of the same reasons, but also because of the clever wit and humour and also the plot enhancement that occurs. For example, the language used, which contains a lot of double meanings and metaphors. For example, when Beatrice refers to marriage as a 'Scotch Jig,' "The first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch Jig (and full as fantastical), the wedding mannerly modest (as a measure) full of state and ancientry, and then comes Repentance, and with his bad leg falls into the cinquepace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave." Here Beatrice is saying that marriage is like a dance, exciting at the beginning, a bit slower in the middle and afterwards you will be full of regrets. The upper class would find Beatrice's insulting humour amusing as marriage would have been very important to a girl in Elizabethan times, and for some woman their main ambition would be to find and nice, wealthy husband, whereas the lower classes would not understand what she is talking about. The other main aspect Shakespeare has used the masked dance for is to enhance and further develop the main plot, as well as the sub-plot. The masked dance bring all of the characters in 'Much Ado about Nothing' together, giving the evil Don John a chance to put into action his plan to split Claudio and Hero up, which he does. ...read more.


The audience will find it amusing that a lady would have the upper hand over a man and would take delight in seeing Benedick in such an unfortunate position. This would not have occurred had it not been for the masked dance, and Beatrice would not have been able to say these things to Benedick without out it. The last main aspect of the plot the masked dance scene in Act II Scene I allows for is the development and deeper understanding of the characters. For example, we learn a lot more about Beatrice in this scene, for instance her likeness to Queen Elizabeth I who shares Beatrice's poor attitude towards men and marriage, for example when Beatrice says marriage is like a Scotch Jig. Shakespeare intended Beatrice's character to reflect Queen Elizabeth's mannerisms to entertain and amuse the audience and she was the present Queen at the time this play would have been on at the theatres. We also learn a lot more about Claudio, that he is fickle and easily led on by those around him and does not have much faith in the woman he supposedly loves. He is quick to change his mind on how he feels as one minute he is madly in love with her and then next he hates her. Overall, the use of a masked dance in Act II Scene I of 'Much Ado about Nothing' is a very effective way of providing humour, mixing social classes, furthering the plot and most of all catering for the entire range of people present in and Elizabethan audience, which was Shakespeare's main aim when writing a play. ...read more.

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