[Consider the presentation of Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship early in the play, in particular, how does Shakespeare make Act two Scene 3 entertaining for the audience?] “Much Ado About Nothing” was written by William Shakespeare in the late 1500’s, and is set in Messina, Sicily. The play is a comedy, about love and deception, and in it we see a battle of the sexes and themes such as, love, hate, jealousy and friendship. The play centres around two relationships, one between sharp-witted Beatrice and light-hearted Benedick, and another between young lovers Hero and Claudio.
To pass time, Don Pedro sets a “Lover’s Trap” for Benedick, a bachelor, and Beatrice, his favourite arguing partner. Meanwhile, the evil, Don John conspires to break up Hero’s and Claudio’s marriage by accusing Hero of having an affair. Shakespeare interweaves two plots in this story which in the end, as the title says all turns out to be ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ In the beginning of the play Shakespeare presents Benedick as a light-hearted character, he does this by showing the audience that Benedick is witty and has clever insults when he is mocking Beatrice, “I would that my horse had the speed, and so a good continuer.”
Shakespeare is preparing the way for the audience to realise Benedick is perfectly matched with Beatrice way before he does, even when he teases her he uses metaphors and word play, this is a form of dramatic irony. Benedick is the entertainer; he uses witty hyperbole to express his feelings. Benedick vows he will not marry. He engages in a competition to outwit, Beatrice, but his friends Don Pedro, and Claudio, believe he has deeper feelings for Beatrice.
Act 2 scene 3 ends with a soliloquy “if I do not take pity of her, I am a villain! If I do not love her, I am a Jew” [Lines 239-240].This line is from Benedicks’ soliloquy. It shows the audience a different side of Benedick and leaves them, wondering if he will really love Beatrice, or if he is doing it for himself, his pride and honour. By not having Benedick makes this clear Shakespeare builds tension because the audience left knows that something important has not been said this makes the audience feel involved and manipulates our sympathies. When Benedick hears Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato discussing Beatrice’s love for him, Benedick admits to being “horribly in love with her,” [Act 2 Scene 3 Line 215].
Beatrice is the niece of Leonato, and is close friends with her cousin Hero, Leonato’s daughter. Beatrice is feisty, witty, clever and sharp and Shakespeare portrays her as being almost like the female version of Benedick. Beatrice keeps a “merry war” of wits, with Benedick. The play suggests that she was once in love with Benedick but that he led her on and their relationship ended. In the comic there was a conversation between Don Pedro and Beatrice that suggests this, Don Pedro says “You have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.” Beatrice replies “Indeed, my lord, he lent it to me awhile, and I gave him used for it, a double heart for a single on.
Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice: therefore your Grace may well say I lost it.” [Act 2 Scene 1 Lines 245] Similar to Benedick, Beatrice refuses to marry because she has not found the perfect, equal partner. Beatrice rages with fury at Claudio for mistreating her cousin, and rebels against the unequal status of women in Renaissance society. For example, in Act 4 scene 1 Line 309-310 she says, “O that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake!”
And in Act 4 Scene 1 Line 313-315 she passionately says: “I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving…” This tells us that Beatrice is frustrated because in the Renaissance Society that she lives in women had no equal rights. It also shows the audience that Beatrice is very independent for her time. Early in the play Shakespeare presents Benedick and Beatrice as individuals that will never get married. Beatrice says “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me…” [Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 107-108]. Beatrice puts herself out of reach from Benedick and from all men. Benedick also says, “It is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted.
And I would I could find it in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none…” [Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 101- 104], he describes himself to be a ‘ladies man’ every woman loves him apart from Beatrice. At this point both of them are sure they will never marry or fall in love. In Act 2 Scene 3, Leonato, Don Pedro and Claudio work together to try and convince Benedick that Beatrice is in love with him.
Benedick unknowingly finds himself caught in the position of being the one deceived. He thinks that he is eavesdropping on his friends, but, they deliberately speak louder so that he will hear them. In this scene Benedick realises that he is in love with Beatrice. In a soliloquy Benedick says that there is no shame in changing his mind about marriage, and declares, “I will be horribly in love with her…. the world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married” [Act 2 scene 3 Lines 207-215].
This speech gives the audience an emotional glimpse into Benedick’s generous and compassionate heart. Although Beatrice comes across as being very sharp, she is vulnerable. Once she overhears Hero describing that Benedick is in love with her, she opens herself to the sensitiveness and weakness of love. Beatrice is overwhelmed by the fact that Benedick is in love with her, Benedick and Beatrice both change after the “trick”. No one can trick you into loving someone you either do or you don’t.
One of the ways that Shakespeare makes Act 2 Scene 3 entertaining for the audience is by using hyperbole. In this scene Claudio describes Beatrice’s feelings for Benedick by saying she, “Weeps, sobs, beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, curses- ‘O sweet Benedick! God give me patience!” [Act 2 Scene 3 Lines 140]. This use of hyperbole serves two different purposes, firstly Claudio uses it to persuade and convince Benedick of the depth of Beatrice’s love for him and that what he is overhearing is the truth. Secondly, Shakespeare uses this hyperbole for the audience’s benefit; to entertain them and to create comedy. It shows Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato enjoying them at Benedick’s expense, exaggerating to show that Beatrice is a mess because she is torn between desperately keeping her feelings secret, and letting Benedick know about her love for him.
Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato realise that they have to be very convincing and put on a good show to fool Benedick. Another way in which Shakespeare makes this scene entertaining for the audience is by having Benedick very quickly change his opinion about love. Part of the comedy in this scene is watching Benedick start off very clear about his life and his position about women, and see him at the start of Act 2 Scene 3 mocking men who laugh at other men for being in love but then fall in love themselves, and then by the end of Act 2 scene 3, Benedick has fallen in love himself.
He is completely changed and has become very romantic, and he has no doubts about his feelings for Beatrice. Shakespeare makes this entertaining for the audience by having Benedick go through a complete change of mind. Shakespeare adds to the entertainment at the end of this scene by having Benedick interpret Beatrice’s action as evidence of her being in love with him, “You Take pleasure then in the message!” [Act 2 Scene 3 Lines 231]
Beatrice who is innocent to all of the trickery dismisses him and teases him like she always does, “ Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s point, and choke a daw withal” [Act 2 Scene 3 Lines 232-323]. Beatrice is unaware of any change in Benedick. During the course of the play Shakespeare uses different types of wordplay to convey the characters thoughts and feelings; he also uses different types of themes such as jealousy, Hate, Love, and self deception. Shakespeare uses a lot of figurative language in his plays this helps to show the characters is feeling and it helps to convey emotional intensity.
Beatrice and Benedick’s playful relationship is in contrast to the more romantic and serious relationship between Claudio and Hero. Hero and Claudio’s relationship provides the romantic plot line in the comedy, and they tend to speak in verse. However through the use of language, Shakespeare presents them as being more artificial and sentimental in the way they view love. Three quarters of the play is written in prose, similar in structure to the English spoken today.
The use of prose in the play shows the down to earth approach of the verbal play fighting between Beatrice and Benedick. Beatrice and Benedick use a lot of prose and most of the plays comedy depends on this. An example of this is in Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 218, Benedick says, “If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot me.” Here he is saying if he ever falls in love (with Beatrice) then Don Pedro should hang him in a wicker basket, which the Elizabethans’ used for target practice and kill him, like they would kill a cat. In ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ the use if imagery provides insight into the characters and stirs the audiences imagination. An example of it is when Claudio says, “O ay; stalk on, stalk on, the fowl sits.” [Act 2 Scene 3 Lines 90]
Claudio says this to Don Pedro and Leonato, he is using a metaphor for hunting, and is saying move quietly, they prey does not suspect, and gives the impression that Benedick is their prey, and they are stalking him, getting ready to shoot. This also creates Dramatic Irony as the audience is given information that the characters on stage do not have which creates a sense of anticipation. When Shakespeare wrote ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, society’s values and traditions were different from what they are now.
In Elizabethan times it was common for, parents and friends to act as matchmakers. They selected the husband, performed careful examination of his economic prospects, and they brought the couple together to find out if there were any strong feelings of dislike between them, in order to ensure that the couple would get along in marriage. In ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ this type of arranged relationship is shown between Hero and Claudio. In Elizabethan times parents did not advocate ‘forced’ marriages because they knew that the best marriages were the ones that were equally consensual and desired by both parties. In the play Hero was happy to marry Claudio, and she accepted the arrangement.