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In Shakespeare's play, Much Ado About Nothing, Dogberry consistently uses malapropisms.

What are the creative ideas behind giving him this style of speech? Does he use it on purpose? What's his intention?

Please give me your best interpretation of why Dogberry uses malapropisms.

  • Welcome to Literature SE! This is an interesting question; I've just edited it to be a little less personal / opinion-based and a little more answerable, following the guidelines of good subjective. – Rand al'Thor Mar 30 at 8:24
  • Thanks so much Rand al'THor <3 This is my first time posting haha! – Munchies Mar 30 at 8:25
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Dogberry is not as intelligent as he likes to think he is

Shakespeare used malapropisms many times in his plays to show an uneducated character who is using vocabulary that they don't entirely understand. Hostess Quickly, an associate of Falstaff, was another major offender, as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet as per the paper, Shakespeare's Use of Malapropisms and their Translation into Spanish.

In this tragedy the nurse is a character that continuously tries to imitate the speech of a lady. But as her origins are rather low, she makes several mistakes each time she decides to use some word of Latin origin. The presence in the play of a friar whose speech is clearly influenced by his study of the classical languages, far from providing the nurse with the perfect source to improve her speech produces on the reader a comic affect by the comparison of both speeches. The friar's Latinisms become blunders in the nurse's mouth: "If you be he, sir, I desire some confidence with you"(II.iii. 118-119). The malapropism is produced because of the similarity in the pronunciation of the term "confidence" and that of the word the nurse really intends to pronounce: "conference". Both terms have a Latin origin although they do not belong to the same root. The OED highlights the use of " confidence" as a humorous blunder for "conference" in some other works by Shakespeare. As these terms exist in the English language most translators decided to ignore the mistake in the nurse's speech, but in the original text this is made explicit in the way in which other characters make fun of her speech. Thus Benvolio replies intentionally:" She will endite him to some supper"(n.iii.l20). Benvolio is offering "endite" as a delibérate malapropism for "invite".

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  • Thanks for the awesome answer Sean! Really appreciate it <3 – Munchies Apr 6 at 10:39
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    Not at all. I got to play Benedick for a production here in Pittsburgh (among other roles in Shakespeare shows), and I took a Shakespeare class in college, so I've got a decent grounding. :) – Sean Duggan Apr 6 at 11:33
  • Thanks for the help again Sean. It's great to hear from someone who is an expertise in Shakespeare :) – Munchies Apr 13 at 7:21

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