This GCSE English Literature quiz focuses on dialogue in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. With rare exceptions, drama consists primarily of dialogue. This quality can make drama more difficult to read and understand because you are required to imagine how the text might be performed. If you get the chance, try to watch live performances or film adaptations of plays to see how directors and actors have interpreted the text. On the other hand, reading a play gives you the chance to go slowly, to re-read and to think carefully about the dialogue.
Dialogue conveys meaning through its content, as well as through specific details such as language choice, use of dialect and even interruptions and pauses.
As you read Much Ado About Nothing, ask yourself the following questions: How do different characters speak? Do different characters use different vocabularies in order to express themselves? Do they change their speech in different situations, or over time? When reading Shakespeare, you should also compare dialogue that is written in poetry with dialogue that is written in prose. What are the differences between the characters who speak in one but not the other? Do any characters switch between poetry and prose when speaking to others? Why?
The individual beliefs, intentions and preferences of characters are expressed through dialogue, but it also has other important functions. Dialogue gives practical information, such as informing the audience about events in the past which have led to the point at which the play begins or about the past history of characters. In Much Ado About Nothing, for example, we learn that Benedick and Beatrice have known each other for some time and that each has issues with the other’s past behaviour, although we never learn the details.
Memorising Shakespearean dialogue will really impress your teacher, and has the added benefit of preparing you to write about the play. Collect a list of the most significant examples of dialogue for each character, paying close attention to lines which illustrate their characteristics or occur at a turning point in the text.
The quiz below asks you to recognise who is speaking each of these lines. Think carefully about the significance of the quoted dialogue before answering the question. What does the dialogue tell you about the character? Could another character have spoken the same lines? If not, why not? Consider subtext in addition to the factual information conveyed, and whether the dialogue foreshadows or explains any later events.
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