Animal Imagery in Much Ado about Nothing

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     Shakespeare uses a lot of animal imagery in Much Ado about Nothing, making references to animals to more fully define a person or a persons actions. For example, in the opening lines of the play, the messenger, who announces to Leonato that the prince and some of his men are coming, describes Claudio as "doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion." In just a few words, the messenger describes Claudio's character, his psychology, and his actions. Shakespeare uses animal imagery here to give his audiences a mental picture to help them immediately grasp the significance of Claudio and what he has done. Claudio seems like a very mild-mannered young man, meek, and a good follower. However, when Claudio had to face battle, he must have surprised his fellow soldiers with his fierce attitude, slaughtering his enemies as fiercely as a lion.

      Animal imagery works because everyone knows the general traits of certain animals, such as the sheep and the lion. The contrast between these two animals is dramatic. In addition, Shakespeare's audience would have been familiar with Biblical references to the lamb and the lion. By using the lamb and the lion to describe Claudio, Shakespeare has told a significant background story about Claudio in just a few words.

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