L.O: To explore gender in the Elizabethan
era. To relate this context to the language
of Beatrice and Benedick.
LL3: Analysing and Producing
The assessment of this unit is based on a folder of work of approximately 3000 words,
comprising of four pieces in total. Its focus is on texts produced for performance. It
encourages the development of extended formal essay writing skills, independent research
and creative writing linked to performance.
Section A: Dramatic texts in context
Candidates are required to produce a piece of work of approximately 1500 words, based on
their study of two drama texts:
one play by Shakespeare selected for detailed study;
one play/performance text by another dramatist/writer
The relevant assessment objectives for this section expect candidates to:
use integrated approaches to explore relationships between texts, analysing and
evaluating the significance of contextual factors in their production and reception
demonstrate detailed critical understanding in analysing the ways in which structure,
form and language shape meanings in a range of spoken and written texts (AO2);
select and apply relevant concepts and approaches from integrated linguistic and
literary study, using appropriate terminology and accurate, coherent written
Elizabethan perceptions of the roles of men and
women were becoming increasingly problematised
by the time Elizabeth I took to the throne.
Elizabeth’s own image was conflicted: she
projected a complex and ambiguous persona that
defied gender expectations of the period.
Equally, Elizabethan literature was also
increasingly interested in the role of women.
Much Ado About Nothing examines the problems
at the centre of relationships between men and
Each group has been given a fact about
In your groups discuss your fact.
Ensure every member of the group has a clear
understanding of the facts and will be able to
teach other students what they have learnt.
Rotate and share – Make notes to ensure that every person
has a good understanding of the expectations for
Nearly three quarters of the play is written in prose.
The earthy, pragmatic and realistic views of central characters like Beatrice and
Benedick suit the prose style that Shakespeare uses in Much Ado.
Much Ado is counter to the generic structures and techniques that Shakespeare
employs in many of his other plays concerning romantic love: in Much Ado love is
pragmatic and realistic, its characters therefore, speak in a style that is commensurate
with their outlook.
In Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare undermines the critical view that prose is
primarily the domain of characters of lesser social status, instead, he chooses to match
the pragmatism of his socially superior characters with a style akin to their sentiments.
Indeed, much of the humour – coarseness in fact – that is generated by Benedick and
Beatrice’s ‘merry war’ is delivered in prose.
However, it also marks a much more subtle deviation on the part of the characters: that
is, the cultural expectation of the playgoer was that characters of status should speak
in verse. However, when a character fails to meet this expectation, it precludes that
they themselves are deviating from the social norms of the play’s world.
Only a brief consideration of Benedick and Beatrice’s outlook on marriage would indicate
that they are deviating from the social norms of their time. In a society where
marriage is central to the social order, Benedick and Beatrice locate themselves outside
of such expectation. In turn, Shakespeare indicates this to the audience because
Benedick and Beatrice are created to reject the stylistic conventions of Elizabethan
Prose & Verse
Shakespeare’s prose in Much Ado About Nothing draws on
a specific style and construction called Euphuism. The
style comes from the works of John Lyle (1553-1606)
titled Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues
and his England (1580). In both texts, Lyle explores the
fashionable traditions of England in a style that is
deliberately mannered and elevated.
Lyle’s work became one of the central influences on
Shakespeare’s own writing. In addition to the exchanges
between Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About
Nothing, both Polonius in Hamlet and Moth in Love’s
Labour’s Lost, employ the Euphuistic style in their
The Euphuistic style was used less frequently into
the seventeenth century because it was regarded
as overly ornate and artificial.
However, it provides a telling insight into the
cultural and fashionable concerns of its period.
Some royal historians argue that the style
influenced the language of the royal court
throughout the period.
Criticism of Euphuism
Euphuism – taken from the name of Lyle’s character Euphues meaning ‘graceful’ and
‘witty’ in Greek – is constructed using very particular rhetorical techniques.
Antithetical balance – sentences are comprised of two matched clauses which have a
Oppositions – the contrasts in the sentences are often denoted by phonological
patterning like alliteration or assonance, and by words, which although different in
meaning, are similar in spelling or pronunciation.
Conflicting Meaning – the conflict in meanings are generated in this style because of
the way that puns are used, for example, where there is some play-on the duality of
Aural Ornateness – the balance and antithesis of Euphuism gives rise to a distinctive
tone in its delivery.
Prose Only – Euphuism is a prose form only.
The characteristics of
Why does Shakespeare allow both Benedick and
Beatrice to use the Euphuistic style; bearing in mind
that Beatrice is a female?
Consider the subject matter than Benedick and
Beatrice are discussing; why do you think that
Shakespeare has matched this content with the
Consider the potential irony of Shakespeare’s use of
Euphuism in these passages given that both of these
character polarise themselves from given social norms