At the beginning of the scene, Benedick thinks it is foolish to be in love. He uses pompous phrases like, ‘I do much wonder, that…’ and ‘I have known when…’ to show his smug disapproval and superiority over the love struck Claudio. He thinks he is better than Claudio because he will never let himself fall in love.
Benedick uses contrast to emphasise how much Claudio has changed from being a normal military man, now that he has fallen in love.
‘…there was no music with him but the drum and the fife, and now…the tabor and the pipe.’
He contrasts the ‘drum and the fife’ with ‘the tabor and the pipe’ suggesting that now Claudio would rather listen to love songs than military music. This contrast highlights the extent to which Claudio has been changed by love, from the hard military man involved in violence and fighting, to the light hearted softness of being in love. They are two extremes, with which Benedick highlights that he will not be changed.
Benedick uses a lexical field in describing his immunity to female charms.
‘…one woman is fair, yet I am well,’ and ‘…fair, or ill never look on her:’
The use of a lexical field emphasises the point that Benedick feels that he can resist all female charms. It is as if he is boasting to himself by going over and over what most men cannot do, which is to resist love.
Benedick describes his ideal woman showing his wit by punning on the word ‘grace’
‘…but till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace.’
The gifts of the three graces were beauty, virtue, and wisdom and Benedick puns on the word grace meaning ‘goodwill’. Benedick is saying that until he finds all these qualities in one woman none will come in his ‘goodwill’. He is describing his ideal woman, or may be even exclaiming that no one is good enough for him, because no woman can possess all these qualities that he desires.
This whole soliloquy is ironic because later in the scene Benedick will find that he has fallen in love and that there is a woman who is good enough for him. He will go back on all his views and change as a person too.
‘…love me? Why it must be requited.’
He decides Beatrice’s love for him must be returned. The language used in the second part of his soliloquy is more gentle, understanding and quiet minded than before. It is as if he is considering what he should do, no longer boasting or criticising.
Benedick uses an oxymoron to describe being in love.
‘…horribly in love…’
The two contrasting words create conflict and therefore interest, maybe highlighting that Benedick feels that he is going to display all the ‘horrible’ characteristics of the love struck Claudio. This therefore suggests that he has not actually changed his views about love, but cannot change the fact that he has fallen in love.
Benedick uses a lot of food imagery to convince himself of his changing views,
‘A man loves the meat in his youth, that he cannot endure in his age.’
He is saying that people’s preferences change, as they get older. He tries to justify the change from his misogynistic view. By using an example like food to relate to, he tries to make the audience as well as himself see it is realistic that views and preferences change.
When Beatrice summons Benedick to dinner we see a great change in Benedick. At the beginning of the scene he criticised Claudio for changing but in fact Benedick is changed in the same way. Firstly he calls Beatrice ‘fair’ and thanks her, which is of contrast to the way he would have treated her before. He then twists Beatrice’s message of ‘if it had been painful I would not have come’ to mean that she took ‘pleasure’ in bringing the message. Furthermore after Beatrice leaves he ponders trying to find ‘double meanings’ in Beatrice’s words that could mean love and pleasantries. This displays dramatic irony as we as the audience have the knowledge that Beatrice does not actually know that Benedick knows that she likes him.
I think we do actually see a great change in Benedick in the course of this scene, as he changes his misogynistic view. He accepts that he is in love with Beatrice and is actually joyful at this. He changes as a person and stops the bitter banter with Beatrice in exchange for pleasantries.