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Archetypal Symbols In The Play Much Ado About Nothing

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An archetype is “a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology.” A symbol is “a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.” In the play “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare, there are many archetypal symbols that can be found, such as horns, poetry, and masks. Those three symbols add meaning to the play and/or contributes to the audience’s experiences in many different ways.

Horns, for example, those from a bull, are the conventional images of cuckoldry. A cuckold is a man whose spouse sleeps with other men without his insight, which was a wellspring of extraordinary stress for men during the Elizabethan time. To be marked, a cuckold implied everybody aside from the spouse thought about the wife's extramarital exercises, which would have been strongly despicable for her significant other. The horn is an ideal image of this disgrace—everybody can see the horns on a cuckold's temple while he can't. Horns add meaning to the play when Don Pedro makes funny comments to Benedick about the 'savage bull' horns. This happened when Benedick protests against marriage, proposing that marriage conquers the wild bull. The image changes throughout the play as the characters' perspectives on marriage change. As Benedick approaches marriage, Claudio guarantees Benedick's horns will be gold-tipped, a reference to Zeus.

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The poems within 'Much Ado About Nothing', symbolizes Benedick and Beatrice's failed attempts at a traditional romance. In the Elizabethan era, poetry was regularly used to express sentimental emotions. Beatrice and Benedick both take a stab at it, as to confirm by the pieces their companions appear as a confirmation of their affection, yet they aren't ordinary poets. Benedick, specifically, worries over rhyming schemes and inevitably decides he 'cannot woo in festival terms.' This is a sign their relationship will work uniquely in contrast to that of Hero and Claudio.

Masks are worn for two reasons in Much Ado About Nothing: to mislead and to hide one's actual feelings. Their most outstanding use is during the move in Act 2, Scene 1. The majority of the men wear masks, and in specific versions of the play the ladies do, as well. Don Pedro wears a mask to 'woo' Hero for Claudio, and Benedick wears a mask to discover Beatrice's sentiments about him. In these cases, masks are symbols of frailty. Claudio stresses he won't have the option to sufficiently 'woo' Hero, so he sends a masked Don Pedro to carry out the responsibility. Benedick is hesitant to get some information about him eye to eye; however, he feels more secure doing as such behind the namelessness of the mask. One might say the masks work as shields shielding male vanity from female contempt.

In conclusion, symbols played a massive role in the play “Much Ado About Nothing.” Horns, poems, and masks were used a lot in the play, and they were symbolized in different scenes. Those three symbols add meaning to the play and/or contributes to the audience’s experiences in many different ways. Do you think there could be any other symbols that were used in the play?

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Archetypal Symbols In The Play Much Ado About Nothing. (2021, September 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“Archetypal Symbols In The Play Much Ado About Nothing.” Edubirdie, 21 Sept. 2021,
Archetypal Symbols In The Play Much Ado About Nothing. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2023].
Archetypal Symbols In The Play Much Ado About Nothing [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 21 [cited 2023 Dec 9]. Available from:
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