Write about the ways in which Shakespeare presents the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and compare it with the ways in which relationships are presented in ‘Sonnet 130’, ‘Sonnet 43’ and ‘Salome’.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare presents an interesting relationship between the characters of Beatrice and Benedick. We can compare their relationships with the poems ‘Sonnet 130’, ‘Sonnet 43’ and ‘Salome’ and the relationships presented in them. Although Shakespeare includes a conventional relationship between Hero and Claudio, he also decides to involve a different affair between Beatrice and Benedick.
One of these moments where we can begin to understand their relationship is during the First Meeting. In Act 1 Scene 1, Benedick uses imagery of a bird to mock Beatrice. On line 126, Benedick says to Beatrice “Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher”. Benedick could be mocking Beatrice by suggesting that she can’t say anything original and only copies what others say, therefore relating to the imagery of a parrot. However, the word ‘rare’ shows that Benedick recognises the unique characteristics of Beatrice and that she is standing out from the crowd, consequently hinting his disguised love for her. Additionally, this quotation also relates to the context of time as women, in those days, could be punished for talking too much. Benedick could be taking advantage of the conventions of time to put Beatrice in her place in their relationship with each other. The parrot imagery can also relate to a poem called Sonnet 130. This is because, in Sonnet 130, the poet says “I love to hear her speak, yet well i know, That music hath a far more pleasing sound;”.
We can link the first phrase of Sonnet 130 with Benedicks quote of a ‘rare’ parrot-teacher. By including the word rare before the imagery of a bird, suggests that although Beatrice may talk too much, Benedick still enjoys listening to her speak hence relating to Sonnet 130 “I love to hear her speak”. As well as this, the second line of Sonnet 130 “that music hath far more a pleasing sound” links to why Benedick uses the imagery of a bird to mock Beatrice in the first place. As he includes the phrase ‘parrot-teacher’, it indicates that even though he enjoys listening to her speak, perhaps as she speaks too much, means that there are better things to be heard. Overall, within the First Meeting of Beatrice and benedick, Shakespeare begins an interesting relationship causing the audience to be intrigued and persuaded to keep watching. Shakespeare proceeds with their relationship in Scene 1 Act 11 at the Masked Ball. Here, Benedick and Beatrice are presented as hostile towards one another as Benedick is masked, unable to reveal his identity, as Beatrice is basically insulting him while pretending that she doesn’t know who he really is. She says that Benedick will “break a comparison or two on me, which peradventure not marked, or not laughed at, strikes him into melancholy, and then there’s a partridge wing saved, for the fool will eat no supper that night.” She is making the case that benedick is so weak-minded that no one will laugh at his jokes.
Then Benedick will be so upset that no one listens to his witty comparisons that he loses his appetite and is unable even to eat a partridge wing, which would be a small meal anyway. But perhaps the idea of consuming food could be changed to create a more interesting insight of Beatrice’s insult. Beatrice could also be saying that Benedick is weak but has lost his appetite not for food but for life because he is regarded so low by his friends. It could also be a reference to Benedick losing his sexual appetite. In Beatrice’s quote, she uses a powerful metaphor to insult Benedick’s manhood. This would be particularly astonishing given the context of time: women were expected to say less than men. However, in this scene Beatrice is particularly outspoken by saying something which is immensely rude; this is completely going against the conventions of time.
Beatrice would also be living up to the expectation at the time as women were more sexual than men and would be prone to having affairs and ultimately cuckolding men. We could compare Benedick and Beatrice relationship throughout the Masked Ball with the poem ‘Salome’. Salome presents someone who is confessing to something that they are guilty of. One line says ‘cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.’ This indicates that the person is wanting to lose their appetite for sex whereas within Beatrice’s insult towards Benedick, it refers to a possibility of Benedick losing his sexual appetite without wanting to. Furthermore, we could link when Beatrice says ‘for the fool will eat no supper tonight’ to another quote from Salome: ‘was his head on a platter’. Perhaps when Beatrice says that Benedick will have no supper, she could really mean that he is the supper.