Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare
Much Ado About Nothing constantly compares the social world—masquerade balls, witty banter, romance and courtship—with the military world. War of wit and love are compared to real wars in a metaphor that extends through every part of the play.
The rivalry of Benedick and Beatrice is called a “merry war,” and the language they use with and about each other is almost always military: as when Benedick complains that “[Beatrice] speaks poniards, and every word stabs.”
Romance, too, is made military. The arrows of Cupid are frequently mentioned, and the schemes which the characters play on each other to accomplish their romantic goals are similar to military operations. Like generals, the characters execute careful strategies and tricks.
Don John and Don Pedro, enemies in the war before the play begins, face off again on the field of social life: one schemes to ruin a marriage, another to create one. Benedick and Beatrice are “ambushed,” by their friends into eavesdropping on staged conversations. Borachio stations Margaret as a “decoy,” in Hero’s window. The “merry war,” of Much Ado About Nothing ends just like the real war that comes before the beginning of the play: everyone has a happy ending. At the very beginning, Leonato says that
“A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers”
— in this, the end of a good comedy resembles the end of a good war.