Though they don’t appear until Act 3, police constable Dogberry and his deputy Verges serve not just as comic relief but also as tools by which Shakespeare is able to propel the plot forward. In terms of comedy, Benedick and Beatrice offer an intelligent, merry sort of wit; Dogberry and Verges, in contrast, make all sorts of blunderous statements, frequently mix up their words, and typically operate under a logic that only partially has merit. Shakespeare employs them as a pair of his trademark fools, enabling him to criticize bureaucratic institutions such as the police force, which he characterizes as bumblingly incompetent.

Their pair’s sense of their own importance and authority (both real and perceived) contributes to the humor of the play while also setting into motion the end reveal. In Act 3, scene 5 when the pair attempts to convey to Leonato that they have captured Conrad and Borachio, they are unable to communicate the value of what they’ve achieved, largely because they don’t recognize it themselves. That is, they manage to be almost helpful, but serve merely as a temporary speed bump to the play’s resolution. In the end, they do technically aid in alleviating the play’s primary conflict, but it is through a somewhat indirect route; Borachio confesses after he and Conrad are brought in by the Watch, and it is Claudio and Don Pedro who put all the pieces together. In this way, their incompetence both hinders the process and ultimately makes the play’s happy ending possible.