Love, Hate & Marriage:
An Analytical Essay on the Relationship of Beatrice & Benedick
Intro To Shakespeare
In William Shakespeare's comedy "Much Ado About Nothing", the characters
Beatrice and Benedick are involved in what could only be called a "love/hate"
relationship. The play is a classic example of this type of relationship, and allows us
to view one from the outside looking in. This gives us the chance to analyse the type
of relationship that at one time or another we all have been, or will be, involved in.
Both Beatrice and Benedick are strong-willed, intelligent characters, who fear
that falling in love will lead to a loss of freedom and eventually heartbreak. This causes
them to deny their love for each other and it is only through the machinations of other
characters in the play that their true feelings emerge. When these feelings are finally
acknowledged, both characters are changed, but the changes are subtle. They are
neither drastic nor monumental. Both remain who they were before, but now they the
two are one. They gain everything and lose nothing. Whether or not their love would
have bloomed without the help of their friends, we will never know.
In the beginning of the play, Beatrice and Benedick do not seem to like each
other very much, if at all. This can be seen in Act I; Scene I, (line 121-131):
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.
Were the reader to judge the relationship between the characters solely by the above
lines, they would come to the conclusion that these characters much disliked, if not
hated each other. This is most likely not the case. In today's world, with its knowledge
of psychology, we are aware that this behaviour is most likely a cover-up for other
feelings. In fact, many relationships begin with the parties involved denying attraction
to each other for various reasons. Others may see it, but those involved deny it so
vehemently that it seems to indicate dislike, if not actual hate.
Beatrice's opinion of Benedick is easy to see in the first act, she seems to
strongly dislike him for some reason and does not hesitate to tell all who will listen.
Regardless of her opinion, we can gather that Benedick is, in actuality, a decent man
from the other characters in the play. An example of this can be seen in Act I; Scene
I, (lines 31 & 40):
Messenger: O, he's returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.
Messenger: He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
The lines of the messenger, someone who in all probability does not know Benedick
very well, lead us to believe that he (Benedick) is a respected man who treats others
fairly. That Beatrice says otherwise is purely an act of denial on her part. She sees
what she has convinced herself is there and that's all there is to it.
At this point in the play, both Beatrice and Benedick are sure that they want to
spend their lives unmarried. This is shown by Beatrice in Act II; Scene I, (lines 51-57):
LEONATO: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
BEATRICE: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not
grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust? to make an account
of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none: Adam's sons are my
brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.
and by Benedick, (lines 223-230):
BENEDICK: That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I
likewise give her most humble thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my
forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me.
Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust
none; and the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.
By the end of the play, both their feelings on whether they love, who they love, and
marriage, will change. For better or worse, we do not know, but assume better.
In the middle of the play, Beatrice and Benedick are "tricked" into admitting
their love for each other. This "trick" is carried out by the other characters in the play.
In the case of both Beatrice and Benedick, this is accomplished by arranging for them
to overhear a conversation pertaining to the love one has for the other. For Benedick,
the conversation was between Leonato and Claudio in Act II; Scene iii, (lines 89-100):
DON PEDRO:...Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me of to-day, that your
niece Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?
CLAUDIO: O, ay: stalk on. stalk on; the fowl sits. I did never think that lady would
have loved any man.
LEONATO: No, nor I neither; but most wonderful that she should so dote on Signior
Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviors seemed ever to abhor.
LEONATO: By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it but that she loves
him with an enraged affection: it is past the infinite of thought.
With Beatrice, this is accomplished in Act III; Scene I, (lines 24-28):
HERO: ...No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful; I know her spirits are as coy and
wild As haggerds of the rock.
URSULA: But are you sure That Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?
HERO: So says the prince and my new-trothed lord.
The fact that the other characters in the play arranged this "trick" leads the reader to
believe that they are more aware of the true nature of the relationship between Beatrice
and Benedick than they themselves are. This is most likely due to the fact that they
(Beatrice & Benedick) are so caught up in bickering and denial that they cannot see
their relationship for what it truly is. It takes their friends and family to force them to
realize that for them, all they show is the opposite of what they feel.
At the end of the play, both characters have admitted their love for each other,
Act II; Scene iii and are to be wed. Their views on both love and marriage have
changed as much as their opinions/thoughts of each other. They both readily admit their
love for each other, and yet still hold on to the strength they showed in the earlier parts
of the play. The way that they speak to each other has changed but little, they still
throw quick jibes and quasi-insults back and forth almost quicker than the reader can
follow. What has changed is the underlying feeling of their banter. Where before it
was spoken with disdain, now it is spoken with affection. A good example of this can
be found in Act V; Scene ii (Lines 50-61) when they are discussing each others first
realization of love for the other:
BENEDICK: ...And, I pray thee now, tell me for which of my bad parts didst thou first
fall in love with me?
BEATRICE: For them all together; which maintained so politic a state of evil that
they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them. But for which of my good
parts did you first suffer love for me?
BENEDICK: Suffer love! a good epithet! I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee
against my will.
BEATRICE: In spite of your heart, I think; alas, poor heart! If you spite it for my
sake, I will spite it for yours; for I will never love that which my friend hates.
BENEDICK: Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.
While this conversation may seem somewhat insulting, the two characters are opening
up to each other, and learning how to love and share with each other. This does not
mean they will change who and what they are, only that they will share their feelings
and thoughts, for better or ill.
In conclusion it should be noted that not both Beatrice and Benedick's fears
concerning love and marriage were unfounded. Even after admitting that they love each
other, they are still fundamentally the same people that they were before. They are
happier, even though they still "spar" verbally (even at the alter), and their freedom
does not seem to be suffering in any way. What started out as what seemed to be hatred
has turned to love. Too bad that is not always the case.