Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Jade’s Trick

The first scene between Shakespeare’s wittiest lovers, Beatrice and Benedick (of Much Ado about Nothing), ends with Benedick pulling “a jade’s trick.” Literally, a “jade” is an ill-conditioned horse; so a “jade’s trick” is what you would expect from such a creature—that it drop out of a race before the finish. Figuratively, Beatrice means that Benedick is lamely dropping out of the battle of wits because he can’t keep up.  Basically, his response to Beatrice’s last barb is to say, “Oh, yeah? Well, whatever.  I have to be somewhere.” Here’s the great opening repartee that defeats Signior B such that he decides to drop out of the race before he loses anyway:

BEATRICE
I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you.

BENEDICK
What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

BEATRICE
Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.

BENEDICK
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.

BEATRICE
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 humour for that: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.

BENEDICK
God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.

BEATRICE
Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were.

BENEDICK
Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

BEATRICE
A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.

BENEDICK
I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer. But keep your way, i' God's name; I have done.

BEATRICE
You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old.
(I.1)

Ending any kind of argument with a “jade’s trick” is a lame way to go. But when it comes to legal arguments, stopping when you have nothing new to add, even if it means letting the other side have the last word, is far superior to yammering on just because you don’t want to yield the floor. This is especially true in oral argument or when examining a witness at trial; if you are going to take up the court’s time with rebuttal, you better really have some new zinger or insight to offer instead of just prolonging the game by regurgitating your principal points. Same thing with reply briefs; they should focus the reader on the details key to the dispute, not recap what has already been covered in the opening brief. 

In short, you can’t win a battle of wits just by dropping out before you lose; but you also can’t win one simply by being the last person talking. As clever Beatrice puts it, “an excellent man” is one “just in the midway between … the one [who] is too like an image and says nothing, and the other [who is] too like my lady's eldest son, evermore tattling.” (I.2)

6 comments:

  1. Interesting and informative, helped me with my Much Ado About Nothing essay at school:)

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  2. SAME HERE!! but no use I have to know the definition

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  3. The real OG Moonman here just sniffing for some kfc

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  4. ya wat m8 dont come on here moonman m8

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  5. great explanation for it now i understand MAAN and i can do my drama assignment thanks:) :) :) :)

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