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Relationship between Benedick and Beatrice Essay Sample

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Relationship between Benedick and Beatrice Essay Sample

With close reference to the chracters’ use of language, analyse how the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice moves from “merry war” to “honourable marriage”. Is this a marriage that will last, do you think?

In Much Ado About Nothing we see “Signor Mountanto” and “Lady Disdain” move from a “skirmish of wit” to a state of “honourable marriage”: a complete and ironic reversal and complete irony of Benedick’s and Beatrice’s previous is achieved by the end of the play. At the beginning of the play we are immediately shown the merry war and indeed, the first confrontation between the two is shown in the first Act of the first scene. Benedick and Beatrice undergo a change in their attitudes to one another that is so sudden that it is comical in the middle of the play. However, they never lose their charm that is shown throughout the whole play, ending with Benedick making a proposal to Beatrice. This therefore creates a clearly compatible couple and a marriage between them to last. Much of the play is based on the idea of Noting: indeed this relates to a pun in the title, as in Shakespeare’s time “Nothing” would have been pronounced “noting”. A lot of this play is based on noting: indeed, Benedick and Beatrice only come together when they note what is discussed by other characters in the play. Don John’s plot hinges on the misnoting of what the Princes see at Hero’s bedroom window.

In the beginning of the play we see a “merry war” between Benedick and Beatrice. When Beatrice enters at the beginning of the play she makes an immediate impact: rather than following the very conventional ways and actions as Hero does, she acts in a very unladylike manner. When Beatrice talks to the messenger she insults Benedick, saying “he waits his faith but as the fashion of his hat”, to the mere messenger who is only trying to politely describe the service of Benedick during the wars: the complete opposite of a conventional Elizabethan lady whom is embodied by her cousin, who is right next to her. Benedick, also, immediately appears unconventional in his attitude towards Beatrice, certainly not a conventional courtly manner of speaking to ladies. An Aggressive perhaps even childish interruption like “you are a rare parrot teacher” is the complete antithesis of any courtly attitude that would be more normal for speaking to ladies at the time of the play. Direct language like this is very down-to-Earth, embodying Benedick’s persona.

We are given an immediate and secure impression of Benedick and Beatrice from the outset of the play; and are given an impression of their “merry war”; something perhaps a little more sour and nasty than we expect: Nicknames such as “Lady disdain” for Beatrice and such references as “the Benedict” being a disease are not the courtly and polite manners which were expected by nobles at the time. Along with the contrast with the more conventional Claudio and Hero, the unusual Benedick and the unusual Beatrice both are immediately striking characters to an Elizabethan audience. Clearly, the other characters must be used to the “merry war” going on between Beatrice and Benedick. Leonato is already very aware at the beginning of the play explaining the “skirmish of wit” to the messenger, and that the two characters argue in such an uncourtly and unconventional fashion without attracting any comment or reaction from the other characters suggests that they are already aware of the “merry war” and have got used to it. Whilst we already see a long-term rivalry between Benedick and Beatrice already making their later get together ironic, the “merry war” becomes less merry and a little more sinister at the beginning of Act two.

Beatrice makes some very strong and direct insults such as “dull fool” towards Benedick at the party, knowing full well that he cannot reply at the time. These insults given by Beatrice are a lot stronger than before, and Benedick is left in a very uneasy position. He goes on a long rant to Don Pedro about Beatrice: in fact, he makes the point that “she misused me past the endurance of a block” three separate times using slightly different images. This language suggests that he is so angry at Beatrice’s mistreatment that he quickly starts throwing out complaints, accounting for making this point three times. Therefore in Act two scene one the “merry war” becomes a little less merry and a little more sinister and brutal. It is all the more surprising and ironic then that Beatrice and Benedick end up together at the end of the play.

Benedick and Beatrice have different tricks played on them in the Orchard and react differently, although reaching the same conclusions, therefore making it necessary to consider and compare the two separately. Benedick reacts very suddenly to what he hears: he accepts it beginning a totally sudden and immediate change. The first thing he utters after hearing the conversation is “This can be no trick”. Shakespeare makes this stand out and be very clear: not only does he sum up Benedick’s entire speech at the beginning; but these are all monosyllabic words. Having five monosyllabic words right at the beginning of a speech really makes these five words stand out from the rest giving a clear separation of that part of the speech. This adds extra emphasis, and therefore extra comic effect to these words. The first thing he utters is so sure and so conclusive, yet so ironic, that it is comical. In four words Benedick has changed from someone who explains that if he marries “hang me in a bottle like a cat” to someone who is completely sure about the love of Beatrice and consequently decides to love her. Benedick does not consider the implications or possibilities; he simply jumps into his conclusions.

However, Benedick still retains his unconventional charm and persona; and he still remains an antithesis to the highly romantic Claudio. His language is extremely direct and very much to the point he is making. It is certainly not romantic language filled with metaphors and imagery like Claudio’s is: adverbs such as “horribly” when describing the way he will love Beatrice are certainly not the kind of adverbs that typical romantic couples would use when describing each other as so many negative conurbations are associated with it. Whilst Benedick undergoes a complete reversal from his previously steadfast views on marriage and Beatrice, he still retains his previous personality traits: he is certainly by no means made into a romantic person. An ordered and rational argument for loving Beatrice, direct statements with no consideration and the use of perhaps inappropriate adjectives such as “horribly” are certainly not the kind of talk that conventional Elizabethan romantic couples would use. This cements Beatrice and Benedick firmly in an audience’s mind as unconventional.

Beatrice, however, does not share Benedick’s immediacy and confidence in what she has overheard. She honestly questions the validity of what she hears, and leads into her conclusion, that she will require Benedick’s love, much more slowly and less surely. Whilst this does suggest a less sudden attitude change, it does suggest some vulnerability in her, without the same confidence and strength that Benedick has. It is here, perhaps, that we see Beatrice’s true personality, no longer covered by the mask of “Lady Disdain”. Beatrice does not maintain her previous charm and confidence in the same way that Benedick still does. However, she still has this element too her: “I will requite thee” is certainly an example of very direct language which Beatrice uses.

Beatrice seems, whilst not on the level of Hero and Claudio, at this point a lot more romantic than Benedick. Whilst Benedick remains completely confident and direct, Beatrice lapses in her confident personality which we see earlier in the play. Beatrice speaks in verse whilst Benedick speaks in prose: whilst prose is very Earthly, verse is a much more artistic and romantic form of speaking, something which we see the much more romantic Claudio employ regularly. The sudden change in Beatrice, and the lapse in her previously strong persona, really emphasises how much Beatrice suddenly comes to love Benedick.

Whilst Benedick and Beatrice suddenly fall in love with each other, their relationship is put through a crisis: Claudio’s shaming of Hero. Beatrice is absolutely distraught by the shaming of Hero: she becomes extremely aggressive towards the whole situation, refusing Benedick’s aid initially, and referring to Claudio promises to “eat his heart in the marketplace”. In sheer desperation she appeals to God; “God that I were a man”. Appealing to someone not earthly at all, rather than confronting her problems herself, is not something that we see Beatrice doing before suggesting that she really is upset and really does feel helpless. This, therefore, provides the perfect opportunity for Benedick to impress Beatrice. In Act four, we perhaps see Benedick a little more distant to his friends and closer to Beatrice. He does not go along with the shaming of Hero, and nor does he leave with the rest of the princes choosing, instead, to stay and try to aid the situation.

His choice to stay with Beatrice rather than go with his friends suggests a turn around: he is no longer involved with his military friends and the bachelor world of courtly male conduct but is involved with Beatrice, the opposite to where his allegiances lay at the beginning of the play. In Act four, Benedick immediately shows genuine compassion for Beatrice, the first thing he says when he and Beatrice are alone after the wedding scene is “Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?”. This suggests immediate passion along with tenderness and sincerity: earlier in the play we might have expected Benedick to be uncaring and sarcastic, which he certainly is not at this point. Even when initially his offers of help are refused by Beatrice, he carries on rather than get angry, doing his utmost to comfort Beatrice. When she says that it is “not yours” referencing to his duty to help her, he does not reject Beatrice or leave her to cool down. He simply accepts it and carries on doing his utmost to help her. Benedick really is genuine, building and building throughout the conversation references to how much he loves her, when he says “Come bid me do anything”.

However, when asked to kill Claudio, Benedick denies the request. This presents Benedick with a difficult situation, as such meaningless actions are exactly what Beatrice hates, in her opinion eroding into manhood, making it “melted into curtsies”. Beatrice really does feel strongly about Claudio wronging her cousin, even saying that since she cannot help she “will die… with grieving”. Benedick really does gain her trust, therefore, by offering to challenge Claudio, taking control of the situation and advising Beatrice so simply go and “comfort your cousin”, allowing him to solve the situation, saving Hero’s honour: something Beatrice is helpless to do herself. It is perhaps at this point that Benedick truly loses the mark of “Signor Mountanto” and becomes caring and thoughtful, and where Beatrice loses the mask of “Lady Disdain” and gives into her love of Benedick.

We now finally see Benedick and Beatrice freely professing their love confidently to all, and it is plain to see how much they adore one another. Despite all the changes and events they have gone through, they still retain their same personality. They simply refuse to be conventional lovers like Claudio and Hero: they still engage in witty conflicts, their “skirmish of wit” by no means ends. Poking fun at each other, such as where Benedick and Beatrice sarcastically pretend they do not love one another: “you were almost sick for me… you were wellnigh dead for me” is something that conventional romantic couples like Claudio and Hero would never do! Whilst Benedick clearly loves Beatrice so much that he tells his long-time friend Don Pedro that “I must discontinue your company”, abandoning his friends for Beatrice, he still does not become a romantic person.

He attempts to write a sonnet in Act five scene two to profess his love in a traditional romantic way, but he fails miserably, admitting that he “cannot woo in festival terms”. Although he loves Beatrice, his languages remains very direct and we do not see him drift into using romantic speech. Beatrice too retains her old ways and teases Benedick pretending to pity his “poor heart” when really she absolutely adores him. Even when courting, Benedick and Beatrice cannot stop arguing, much like earlier in the play. However, there is no longer an aggressive element to their arguing as there was earlier in the play. Whilst Benedick and Beatrice have had their views and feelings to each other completely and totally transformed, they still retain every bit of their personality that they had earlier in the play.

Shakespeare gives the impression that Benedick and Beatrice are truthful to one another. Verse, as traditionally used by romantics such as Hero and Claudio, suggests that the characters are hiding something from one another, making an effort not to use normal speech. There is no such hiding or falsity with Benedick and Beatrice: they are very honest with each other and very comfortable in each others company. They never hide their feelings using verse and poetry, using only prose, giving them an impression of being completely truthful with each other, hiding or falsify nothing. They are so confident in their love that they parody their former selves, realising how mistaken they were with their attitudes to one another earlier in their play. That they can take their former roles and parody them suggests again that they accept their situation and falsify nothing.

An honest relationship with a genuinely suited couple, who even turned around complete distrust and some hatred from earlier in the play, definitely suggests a healthy relationship and marriage to last. Shakespeare gives an impression of them being very equal: there is no dominant partner, unlike the traditional case where Claudio, the male, is heavily dominant over Hero. They both poke fun at each other and mock each other, suggesting a balance and unity. Neither is constrained by the other, so they can be honest and therefore build a marriage to last.

They show no fear of mocking each other in public and no embarrassment: they are so confident in themselves and regard each other so highly that they are not worried about what others in public might think from their unconventional behaviour: their relationship is open for the whole world to see. They even put on the very visual showcase of a kiss near the end of the play, a symbol of true love on show clearly for the whole household, and the audience to see. It at this kiss that an audience can definitively acknowledge Benedick and Beatrice as lovers and how different a situation this is from the beginning of the play. Therefore I believe that this is definitely a marriage to last.

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