In Shakespeare’s work Much Ado About Nothing, comedy is an essential component of the plot. In this play there are two types of comedy: high and romantic. High comedy is very critical of life and has spots of particularly witty dialogue. It is seen in the more sophisticated plays that Shakespeare created while its polar opposite is low comedy which is used in a vulgar style.
Within this play, there are quite a few instances where high comedy can be observed. The characters within the high comedy situations are often Benedick and Beatrice. Beatrice is Hero’s cousin who from first glance seems like she is a serious individual who can have no fun but once she lets someone in, her charming attitude can really be noticed. She can often be seen making witty and mocking jokes towards other people such as in Act II when she says “So deliver I up my apes and away to Saint Peter; for the heavens, he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long” (Shakespeare 2.1. 46-49).
In these lines of the play, there is high comedy as Beatrice jokingly criticizes herself about her likely future of going to hell as in the society she was a part of in that age, it was common thought that unmarried women would end up there. She seems to joke about the fact that she would like to go hang out with all of the bachelors rather than get married in a sophisticated manner.
Another instance in Act II where high comedy is displayed is an witty interaction between Beatrice and Benedick when she requests his presence for dinner. Beatrice goes outside to get Benedick and says “I didn’t take any more pains in thanking me. If the job had been painful, I would not have come” (Shakespeare. 2.3. 252-254), he replies “You take pleasure then in the message” (Shakespeare. 2.3. 255), then before leaving “Yes, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s point and choke a daw withal. You have no stomach, signoir. Fare you well.” (Shakespeare. 2.3. 256-258).
This scene displays the witty dialogue part of high comedy as there is sophisticated witty comments that go back and forth between the two about how she seems to have an issue with going all the way outside to get him but in reality she does not. She makes it seem as though it took her way to much effort to go get them making her seem dramatic. In Act I, Benedick says “Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted; and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none” (Shakespeare. 1.1. 122-225).
This displays high comedy as he seems to be critical of Beatrice’s inability to love him and he sarcastically voices that he does not have any need for romance insinuating that he has no capacity to love anyone. Beatrice once again uses her words to insult Benedick when she says “A dear happiness to women. They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood I am of your humor for that.
I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.” (Shakespeare. 1.1. 126-130). These words can be considered high comedy as she seems to sarcastically have said that no woman would be happy with him as a suitor. She tells him he would be a “pernicious suitor” which means that he would be a horrible one.
The relationship that Beatrice and Benedick have is a perfect example to display the qualities of high comedy as they present criticism of life when Beatrice says no one would ever want to be with him and they also present the aspect of witty dialogue throughout their encounters. The high comedy in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is just one instance where he used comedy to get his point across.