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‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

Question – Trace the developments and changes in Benedick’s character in

the play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Focus partially on the

striking difference in his attitude to love and marriage in Act II

Scene iii.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was written by William Shakespeare during the prime of his career. The play was written around 1598-1599, and is said to be one of Shakespeare’s most amusing comedies. Even though, the play is a comedy, it also has a dark plot, which is the rivalry between the brothers Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon and Don John, the bastard. Don John is linked with all evil in the play, and is the cause of Hero’s faked death. The secondary plot is the change in relationship between Benedick and Beatrice; this is the joyful part of the play, as it ends with love and marriage.

Benedick, a young lord of Padua returns from a victorious battle, with Don Pedro, Claudio, a young lord from Florence and other soldiers by his side.

The whole city of Messina gets ready to congratulate Don Pedro and his men. When the soldiers arrive, they catch up with the household, however Benedick starts an ongoing verbal dispute with Beatrice:

Benedick: ‘What my dear lady Distain! Are you yet living?’

Beatrice: A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours’

[Act I Scene i]

This clearly shows there is dislike between them. As the play goes on Benedick and Beatrice seem more content to be with each other, yet this is hard to see at the beginning of the play.

Benedick has an interesting attitude towards love. In the beginning of the play and just before the trick, Benedick was almost positive that he would never fall in love and get married but instead, live the rest of his life as a bachelor.

‘But that I will have a recheat winded in my fore-

Head, or hang my bungle in an invisible baldrick, all women

Shall pardon me… I will do myself the right to trust none.’

[Act I Scene i]

This shows that Benedick will neither openly invite the attention of mocking cynics to his cuckoldry, nor will he conceal it. This means that he will not marry and become either a confessed cuckold or one who hides the fact.

Benedick has a strong relationship with Claudio, and is like an older brother to him, specifically when Benedick gives a long speech to Claudio, about marriage and what he thinks about Hero. Claudio does not take his advice, as he decides to marry anyway but respects Benedicks’ honesty and loyalty.

Don Pedro is also very close to Benedick, and thinks he is a ‘favoured’ and ‘worthy’ soldier, who is a true man to his name. Don Pedro, knowing that Benedick and Beatrice should be together, comes up with a clever and devious plan to try and make them to see that they are meant for each

other, he has the backing of Leanato, Hero and Benedick’s good friend Claudio.

Benedick thinks of Claudio as a person who is some what confused and weak because of his interactions and signs of affection toward Hero:

‘I do much wonder…how much another man is a fool when he dedicates

his behaviour to love… Such a man is Claudio.’

[Act II Scene iii]

Calling Claudio a fool is a clear indication that Benedick thinks Claudio is being weak and is going to ruin his freedom and life by tying the knot with Hero. This also shows how Benedick feels about love; he believes that any man that falls in love is a fool, illustrating his negative attitudes towards love and marriage. Benedick continues to talk about the changes in Claudio since he met Hero:

‘No music with him but the drum

and the fife… rather hear the tabor and the pipe.’

[Act II Scene iii].

Benedick knew a more manly and courageous Claudio but now find that his head is clouded with the feeling of love towards Hero. Benedick is saying that before Claudio fell in lover he used to listen to military music but now he listens to enchanting and entertaining music, emphasising his change in character after he fell in love. Benedick continues litter his thoughts on the subject of Claudio; ‘He turned orthography.’

[Act II Scene iii].

Showing that before Claudio fell in love he spoke with intention but now that he’s fallen in love he speaks in a more flamboyant and elaborate way.

Claudio, Don Pedro, Leonato, Ursula, and Hero set up a trick which is to be played on Benedick and Beatrice in an attempt to bring them together and to make them realise that they are meant to be with each other. Don Pedro thinks that Beatrice would be the perfect wife for Benedick, so Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato together decide that they will bring Benedick and Beatrice into a ‘Mount of Affection’. Don Pedro and Leonato wittingly go to the orchard and start to audaciously discuss how extremely in love Beatrice is with Benedick. Both, Don Pedro and Leonato know that Benedick is in the orchard and is listening to what they are saying so they continue o talk about Beatrice’s love for Benedick. The same trick is also played on Beatrice with Hero and Ursula discussing how Benedick has fallen in love with Beatrice.

Before the trick was played on Benedick it seems that there is rarely a single moment when Benedick and Beatrice are not arguing. According to Benedick, Beatrice is a lady with a quick wit and a big mouth:

‘I would my hoarse had the speed of your tongue.’

[Act I Scene i]

It is clear that Benedick thinks that Beatrice does not use her one mouth in proportion with her eyes and ears as she talks twice as much, and twice as fast as she listens and observes things. Benedick retorts in kind with ‘hoarse’, showing that both Benedick and Beatrice want the last word, this emphasises there argumentative attitudes towards each other.

During the masked ball, Benedick asks Beatrice, what she thinks of him, believing she doesn’t know who he is. She replies; ‘Why he is the prince’s jester.’ [Act II Scene i] Benedick is offended by this and wants Beatrice to think well of him; this shows that he does have feelings for her. By calling him a jester she is presenting him the name of a clown. She also feels that he has an extremely dull character and personality. Beatrice is c

ertain that she will never want to find love and get married; she goes on to say that no man will be

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perfect for her:

‘He hath a beard is more than a youth

he hath no beard is less than a man’

[Act II Scene i]

Here, Beatrice is saying that a man with a beard is too much of a youth for her and a man without a beard is not yet a man, showing that there is no man who will ever be perfect for her. The reader is made to think that Beatrice dislikes Benedick and has no interest in him yet at the beginning of the play Beatrice asks where he is:

‘I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the

wars or no.’

[Act I Scene i]

It is possible to see the question Beatrice asks is not directly approached because she addresses Benedick as ‘Signor Mountanto’. Showing that she wants to know where he is but is perhaps scared of facing up to her feeling and also she may be afraid of being mocked by everyone because of the history of loathing they share.

Benedick goes on to talk about women in general, it slowly becomes clear that he will never want to marry:

‘Till all graces be in one woman, one woman will not come

in my grace.’

[Act II Scene iii]

It is almost impossible for one woman to have all the qualities Benedick asks for. Which shows that if a woman had all these qualities, only then will he be interested in her, but it is impossible for a woman to have all these qualities showing that there will never be a perfect woman for Benedick.

Benedick’s reflections on the curious effects of falling in love are ironic in view of the trap in store for him. Some dramatic irony follows in the conspirators’ conversation, where Benedick hears both truths and untruths about Beatrice, and learns some truths about himself. He makes virtue of his turn-about by claiming to show pity on the lady, by renouncing pride, and by acknowledging Beatrice’s virtues. Benedick cites a proverb exemplifying change, the fulfilling of social obligations, and a pretty twist of intent with ‘die a bachelor’ and ‘Live till I were married’ as a defence against mockery and a justification of a change of heart.

Benedick’s and Beatrice’s perceptions of each other soon begin to change. Benedick begins to believe in love. When Benedick first heard that Beatrice had feelings for him, he was surprised but slowly started to believe it. He was confident that this was no lie as her trusted Hero and knew that she could never lie:

‘Love me? Why it must be requited…

But for loving me’ [Act II Scene iii]

It is possible to see how confused and shocked Benedick was. On many occasions he repeatedly asked himself whether or not Beatrice really loved him. In the beginning of the play, Benedick did not like the concept of marriage at all but a while after the trick was played on him he had almost fallen in love with Beatrice. It is possible to see the vast change in Benedick’s attitude towards women here. When Beatrice calls him into dinner he claims that there are ‘Marks of love in her’. It is possible to see that Beatrice is attracted to Benedick but she doesn’t want to show her feeling and hides them by being rude and harsh, unsurprisingly.

After Don Pedro’s master plan to get Benedick and Beatrice together, there seem to be many changes in Benedick’s attitude. For example, his attitude towards love and bachelorhood totally changed; ‘I must not seem proud.’ and ‘I did never think to marry.’

[Act II Scene iii]

Incredibly, Benedick is changing his mind about marriage, but still doesn’t want to share his thoughts with anyone else. The fact that he has been against marriage for so long has made him a target from the other characters’ witty remarks. If the above quote is compared to something Benedick said earlier like ‘I will live a bachelor’ [Act I Scene i] it is possible to see Benedick’s attitude towards love and marriage has completely changed as before the trick Benedick did not want to marry or fall in love but after the trick now that he hears that Beatrice likes him, his views have completely changed as now he wants to fall in love and is thinking of marriage.

After the trick Benedick has taken a huge interest in using cosmetics and perfumes:

‘Rubs himself with civet…Paints himself’

[Act iii Scene ii]

Here Benedick uses perfume and cosmetics which are things that he may have never used before. This shows that he has taken a huge interest in the way he looks and presents himself, which may lead us to think he has fallen in love with Beatrice.

Benedick’s change in attitude towards Beatrice was the most dramatic of changes. Shakespeare shows that the character of Benedick has completely changed in his attitude towards Beatrice, by using words and phrases like ‘love’, ‘fair lady’ and ‘affection’. [Act II Scene iii.] There is a complete change in vocabulary in Benedick’s speeches at this point of the play compared to the beginning of the play. Beatrice calls Benedick in for dinner, ‘against her will’. At this point she is possibly ready for a verbal duel, however the reply she gets from Benedick shocks and confuses her; ‘Fair Beatrice.’ [Act II Scene iii] She, of course, is just as abrupt and rude as usual. Benedick is hooked just as the plotters intended.

Claudio and Hero’s wedding party gather in the church. Benedick and Beatrice for the first time really share their feelings for each other. When Benedick offers to do anything he possibly can for Beatrice. It is here where Benedick and Beatrice confess their love for each other.

BENEDICK: ‘I do love nothing in the world so well as you.’

BEATRICE: ‘I lobe nothing as well as you.’

[Act IV Scene i]

For the first time Benedick and Beatrice announce there love for one another showing that they really do love each other and that both of their attitudes towards love have gone from not wanting love to wanting love. It is here where Beatrice wants to see how much Benedick really does love her by asking him to do a big favour:

BEDEICK: ‘Come bid do anything for thee’

BEATRICE: ‘Kill Claudio.’

[Act IV Scene i]

Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio by challenging him to duel. As Benedick is very close to Claudio, Benedick refuses to kill Claudio, Beatrice has an outburst of anger and wishes she were a man, so that she could deal with Claudio herself. As Beatrice storms out Benedick accepts the challenge. At this point it is clear their relationship has stepped up to another level, proving that they will do absolutely anything for each another.

Later, when everyone finds out that the wedding fiasco was a conniving plan plotted by Don John, Benedick forgives Claudio. As in all comedies there is a happy ending when Hero returns from her ‘faked death’. Claudio asks Hero for her hand in marriage, and she accepts. As for Benedick and Beatrice, they continue to pretend that they dislike each other:

Benedick: ‘Do not you love me?’

Beatrice: ‘Why no.’

[Act V Scene iv]

It is clear that they love each other but they still find it difficult to admit it. Benedick and Beatrice are persuaded that they love each other and proof of this has been found in what each of them have written to one another, but not sent. Benedick tells Don Pedro and Claudio that he is going to get married to Beatrice jokes or no jokes and that’s that:

‘A college of wit-

Crackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost though

Think that I care satire or an epigram.’

[Act V Scene iv]

It is clear that now, Benedick does not care if anyone mocks him about finding love and getting married and that he is willing to take the risk of being mocked if it means spending the rest of his life as a married man, with Beatrice.

To conclude, at the beginning of the play Benedick did not want to fall in love and marry, as he did not want to be mocked by his fellow friends, ‘I will liver a bachelor’, [Act I Scene i], showing that at the beginning of the play, before the trick Benedick had no intentions at all to get married, but after the trick was played on him and he found out that Benedick liked him his views about marriage and love began to change:

‘I do love nothing in the world so well as you.’

[Act IV Scene i]

Showing that after the trick was played on Benedick and he realise that Beatrice liked him he started fall in love himself and didn’t care if anybody mocked him anymore as long as he was with Beatrice:

A college of wit-

Crackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost though

Think that I care satire or an epigram.’

[Act V Scene iv]

Now that Beatrice has informed Benedick of her love for him, he does not care about me teased by his friends. It is possible to see from previous two quotes that Benedicks attitude towards love has vastly changed, as before the trick was played on him, he didn’t like the concept of love and marriage but after the trick was played on him, he fell in love and get married to Beatrice.

Personally, I think that both Beatrice and Benedick both liked each other form the start but they needed to here it from each other, this was impossible because of their stubborn ways, so their friends, Claudio, Don Pedro, Leonato, Ursula, and Hero had to take the first step for Benedick and Beatrice and play a trick on them. After hearing that they both liked each other, they began to change their perceptions from negative to positive views, of love, marriage and more importantly, each other.

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