In the play Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Act 4 brings about the falling action of the play. Act 4 presents the important themes that run through the play. It also presents one of the main scenes in which tragedy strikes.
In scene 2 of act 4 the constables, Dogberry and Verges have held Borachio, Don John's henchman and Conrade and the Watch for questioning, in a bid to find out the truth (to see who is telling the truth, whether Claudio or hero and who is behind it). Here at the prison where these men are held there is the Sexton, the town clerk who is under the authority of it all. A sexton was a minor church official in charge of church property or was a town clerk. Dogberry, Verges and the Sexton both enter on stage wearing black gowns which were the official robes of St. Elizabethan Constables. They also serve the purpose of coming to the bottom of what caused Hero to "die" metaphorically.
Some of the elements of drama that are presented in scene 2 are: Entrances, internal stage directions dialogue and costumes. These elements guide you in visualizing what is taking place on stage in front of an audience.
In line two, it appears that Verges is in charge of arranging the examination room where the prison is. This was .evident when he stated "O, a stool and a cushion for the Sexton."
Dogberry and Verges are also presented as two low class actors who come on stage and do what is called low comedy such as tripping, slapping. This is effective as it helps in their investigation. And this type of comedy helps to bring back a good mood as a result of the tragedy that took place in scene one. The low comedy was evident in Dogberry and Verges' use of malapropism (comical misuse of a word by confusion with one which sounds similar) in their speech. This was evident in lines 38 in which Dogberry states "yes, marry that's the eftest way." Eftest is a nonsense word, he seems to mean fastest.
In line 14 Dogberry refers to Conrade as "Sirrah." This means fellow, a term of contempt which Conrade's insistence on his status seeks to reject.
While questioning Conrade and Borachio, the Sexton tries to make sense of Dogberry's and Verges' nonsense and he suggests to them that they should go and call the Watch that are their accusers. This was evident in lines 35-37 which states, "Masters Constable, you go not the way to examine. You must call forth the Watch that are their accusers." Leonato had probably ordered them to find out who was behind causing the shame of his daughter, Hero.
The first watchman states that Borachio said that Don John was a villain and that Claudio meant to disgrace Hero before the whole assembly. This was stated in lines 55-56: "And that count Claudio did mean, upon his words to disgrace Hero before the whole assembly, and not marry her." This implies that Claudio wanted the strength of his words to really embarrass and disgrace her. The second Watchman states that Borachio had received a thousand ducats from Don John for accusing Hero wrongfully. These statements all suggest conspiracy.
Â In lines 59 Dogberry states: "O, villain thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this." Redemption is malapropism for damnation. He is referring to Don John. At this Â the Sexton has concluded that Don John Â is the mastermind Â behind all of this, (Hero being accused wrongfully) and he is going to tell Leonato about it so he ordered that the men Â be bound and brought to Leonato. At this Dogberry said "come, let them be opinioned' In line 69. 'Opinioned' is malapropism for 'pinioned.' Both Borachio and Conrade are carried away and Conrade resists and is referred to as a 'naughty varlet 'by Dogberry, This means that means he sees him as a worthless Knave/rascal. Conrade curses back and Dogberry states another malapropism towards him. In lines 76, 77 he states "Dost thou not suspect my place?" suspect is malapropism for respect. He is stating that comrade does not respect his authority. He states that he is a 'householder' in lines 83. A householder is a person qualified to vote by ownership of property. At this he wants to show that he warrants the respect that Conrade needs to show him. In lines 83-84 Dogberry continues and he states "as pretty as a piece of flesh as any is in Messina" he is suggesting that he is impressive in appearance but also in social reputation. There is a stage tradition of playing Dogberry as fat. There also could be a sexual innuendo, on 'flesh,' as the male sexual organ. It seems as if Dogberry is very proud of his reputation and now he is becoming very boastful about it. In lines 85-86 he states, "and a fellow that hath had losses, and one that had two gowns â€¦" he is suggesting that he has been wealthy enough to afford to lose money and still have two gowns.
Act 4 Scene 2 - Theme analysis
There are a few themes and issues that are presented in this scene of the play. These themes are: Appearance versus reality, attitude to power and authority and loyalty and trust.
The theme of Appearance versus reality comes out in scene 2 of Act 4.
In this scene Dogberry and Verges are presented as constables who are seen as unprofessional. Their unprofessionalism is presented through their speaking. This is evident in many lines; among these is in line 1 where Dogberry asks "Is our whole dissembly appeared? 'Dissembly' should be replaced with the word 'assembly'. And in line 5 when Verges states that "Nay, that's certain, we have the exhibition to examine." 'Exhibition' should be replaced with the word 'commission.' Â In their speech you see the wrong use of words and wrong construction of their sentences.
Conrade and Borachio are seen as villains in conspiracy with Don John. In their encounter with Dogberry and Verges the theme of "Attitude to power and authority" comes out in two different instances. It is shown when Conrade was brought before Dogberry and was asked his name (Yours Sirrah?)Â in lines 14, which means male social inferior. He responded to Dogberry by answering saying "I am a gentle man sir and my name is Conrade." By referring to Dogberry as "sir" it shows that he probably has some respect toward his status as a Constable. However, Conrade seemed unable to uphold that respect towards the end of Â the act when he called Dogberry an 'ass' by resisting and shouting, " You are an ass, you are an ass!"
In addition to this another theme that takes precedence in the scene is loyalty and trust. It is present where as Borachio and Conrade told the constables the truth by revealing that Don John had paid them a sum of money to accuse hero. It is shown when the Watchman says to the constables and the Sexton that he had "received a thousand ducats of Don John for accusing the lady Hero wrongfully."Â They weren't loyal to Don John in keeping their Conspiracy a secret.
Act 4 Scene 2- Technique critique.
Â Â 1) "Is our whole dissembly appeared?" (Dogberry-line 1). In this line there is the use of a device known as Malapropism. Instead of saying dissembly Dogberry should have said assembly.
2) "â€¦, we have the exhibition to examine (Verges - line 5). Malapropism is used here. Verges is supposed to say commission instead of exhibition.
3)"â€¦, that the eftest way." (Dogberry line 38). Malapropism is evident here. Eftest is perhaps Â a mistake for fastest.
Â Â Â Â Â 4) "â€¦, this is flat perjury" (Dogberry line 44). Malapropism is seen here where Dogberry
said 'perjury' when he should have said 'treachery.'
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5) "â€¦, thou art full of piety" (Dogberry line 81) can also be seen as Malapropism since Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â piety is perhaps a mistake for 'impiety'
6) "Dost thou not suspect my place (Dogberry-line 77) suspect is malapropism forÂ respect.
7) "Dost thou not suspect my years?" (Dogberry line 77). This is referring to age but years can be a pun if it is heard as 'ears.'
8) "â€¦-go to!-â€¦go to-â€¦" (Dogberry line 85) This is intensifying exclamation which is a command to move forward.
9) "Thou naughty varlet."(Dogberry line 74). This can be seen as a metaphor where comrade is compared to a rascal who is a worthless person. It can also be used to create humour.
10) "As pretty as a piece of flesh" lines 83-84. This can be seen as a paradox because Dogberry is referring to himself as a person who is impressive in appearance and in social reputation, this may be true but it seems contradictory when you look at him and the comical way in which he speaks.
10)"away! You are an ass, you are an ass! (Conrade-line 75)- This is a metaphor since Conrade is comparing Dogberry to an ass (someone who is stupid and worthless).