In the play “Much Ado about Nothing”, the author has presented Beatrice as quite a strong and independent woman through her conversation with Benedick. She is shameless and often does not care how her words affect others. Her carelessness sometimes turns into rudeness, for example when she says, “…he is the pirnce’s jester, a very dull fool,” but she says her words playfully so she’d never get into trouble for being rude.
Beatrice clearly enjoys playing with language and forming insults for Bendick. Although she is sarcastic at times and teases Benndick, she seems to have another side, with kinder feelings, which she never shows. During the repartee, she is quick-witted and cleverly insults Benedick. E.G. “…and his oly gift is devising impossible slanders.” She uses her talant with words as a cover for her vulnerability so she always comes across as tough even when she is sad. This shows she is careful with her feelings and to whom she shows them to, proving that she cares what people think of her.
Benedick also cares what Beatrice thinks of him because he pretends to be someone else in order to hear what she has to say about him. This dramatic irony is effective because as soon as Benedick sees the conversation is going to be about him, he pretends to be someone else because he cares about Beatrice’s thoughts. The fact that he doesn’t say much suggests that he is really listening and taking in her words. From the text, one can’t really tell much about the characters’ thoughts, feelings and relationships but the film version is very good at showing these.
In the film, one can clearly see how deeply Bendick is affected by what Beatrice says about him, especially in his eyes, when he starts joking in the beginning and later on puts his hand to his mask awkwardly. There is an individual shot of Benedick here and it really makes the viewer feel sympathetic. Kenneth Branagh is the actor who plays Benedick in the film. His facial expression is very realistic and hides his wounded pride.
On the other hand, Emma Thompson, who plays Beatrice does a good ‘matter of fact’ style voice mocking Branagh and has a very cheeky grin showing she enjoys insulting him. The line, “I am sure you know him well enough,” suggests she knows it is him under the mask. Benedick is really quite good with words too, but he can’t seem to find them around Beatrice. When he tries to worry Beatrice by saying that he’d tell Benedick, she shows her ‘whatever’ attitude by saying “Do, he’d just throw a tantrum about it.” This leaves Benedick quite hurt.
In the film, during their verbal joust, Beatrice and Benedick stand out because everything around them is fuzzed out. In this way the viewer is made to concentrate on the main characters rather than being disturbed by the surroundings. Their argument stands out because everything around them is calm and relaxed and then there’s the 2 of them arguing, Beatrice showing she’s in control and Benedick showing he is sensitive.
In lines 154-256 in the play, Beatrice is presented very differently. We are shown a more sensitive and vulnerable side of her. She shows a lot more of her true inner thoughts and feeling particularly about love. When she describes how Benedick once “lent her his heart and she gave him a double one for his single one…” she hints at how they may have had something going on in the past but it is clearly over. This could be the reason for her rudeness towards Benedick. When she speaks with Don Pedro it is almost like the reader meets a new person because the mask is off now and it’s just Beatrice without her weapon of words. She initially continues to hide behind her skilful language when she tells Don Pedro that “she wouldn’t go to bed with Benedick or have his children or else she’ll be the mother of fools”. Then she shows she cares about others E.G. Hero and Claudio when she prompts their lines and kisses because she wants them to have love and be happy. Afterwards, when Claudio calls her cousin, Beatrice gets quite a shock because she has never been close enough to anyone outside her family so no ‘stranger’ has ever called her cousin.
Beatrice seems to degrade herself by saying she is sunburnt and will therefore get no husband. At this point her open white dress becomes effective because the white brings out her tanned chest and the fact that its open makes her tan even more visible. Beatrice does not realise that she is actually quite attrctive and charming and that men should like her for who she is not what she looks like. The phrase “cry for a husband…” suggests she doesn’t think she’ll get picked as a wife. Meanwhile she has besotted Don Pedro. This tells us she can be charming or insulting but she chooses toughness but perhaps now she is tired of playing hard to get. During their flirting, there is talk of finding her a husband. This shows she may be ready to tie the knot. Don Pedro offers to find her one and offers himself but does so jokingly because he knows Beatrice will always refuse marriage. Beatrice proves herself shameless again by refusing. This tells us she is not afraid to reject people but in afraid of rejection because she jokes herself out of love due to her self-doubt. This is supported by her ‘melancholiness’ just as Leonato described her.
In the film, Emma Thompson portrays Beatrice very well. She shows deep emotions through tone and expression. Although she appears cautious at the rejection, she has confidence at most other points despite it all being about off limit subjects. The actress does a very good ‘taken aback’ expression when being called “a harpy”. I think it may have been because she realises it could go as a compliment, not necessarily an insult. When it comes to Don Pedro, she wants it, but can’t admit it because of her self pride. She runs away from her emotions. It seems she has rehearsed her answer in rejection quite a lot because she all of a sudden comes over very sincere keeping her head down and looking thoughtful.
The music becomes quite sad during the rejection just like when Leonato describes Beatrice as being “melancholy but never sad”. This is a good description because Beatrice is fun to be around even jolly at times, but she is always single because she “scares them away”.
Benedick, on the other hand, reacts differently after his conversation with Beatrice. He is upset, surprised, angry and looking for sympathy. This is shown when he starts to bother Claudio and the line 155 to 159 in the play backs up that Benedick doesn’t think Beatrice considers others. She thinks the world revolves around her. He is surprised that she doesn’t know it was him and he is hurt aby some of the things she calls him. When Don Pedro tells him of Beatrice’s rumouring, he really takes it to heart showing he cares about her and trusts Don Pedro. He follows with a childish tantrum about he has been abused by Beatrice. It is not in poetry but in prose – just on big block of speech without pauses. This shows he is ranting and just trying to get it all out. In a way, Bennedick is really over reacting but because we now see a different side to him, we can tell he has taken Beatrice’s words very deeply and remembers them. They are important to him. He is quite sensitive around Beatrice and therefore can’t be as good with words as he usually is.
In Benedick’s monologue, there are many similes, comparisons and imageries such as “… misused me past the endurance of a block…” implying that even a block of wood without feelings and emotions would be offended. When Benedick compares himself to “a man at a mark” with all the poniards stabbing him, he could be dying at Beatrice’s harsh comments or her lack of love for him. Benedick shows he is considering marriage and love by saying “I would not marry her…” and then portraying Beatrice as Eve with him as Adam. No one had mentioned marriage yet and if he was so offended by her, why bring up such a topic? Then realising this, Benedick quickly changes the topic showing he may be a little embarrassed by his affection. He says he’d sin on purpose to get to hell because Beatrice would not be there and therefore it would be quieter. This could imply that he thinks she should go to heaven even after being very rude to him.
When Beatrice approaches him, Benedick begins to beg to get sent away. He says hyperboles and uses much exaggerated sarcasm telling us how much he can’t bear to stay near this “Harpy”. This is a cleverly chosen insult because it offends Beatrice but also calls her beautiful. The author could have chosen a more offensive insult but chooses Harpy. When he says,” I cannot endure my Lady Tongue…” he compares Beatrice’s tongue to a weapon and will do anything but speak with her because she has wounded him already.
In the film, Branagh does a very good portrayal of Benedick. When he speaks angrily, he anunciates really well, especially on the plosive sounds. His facial expressions are exceptionally good throughout the rant. He looks and sounds really desperate when he wants to get sent away and just spits out the word ‘Harpy’. The way he just glances at Beatrice when he says this is really good because he doesn’t feel she even deserves a proper look and doesn’t want to listen, speak or look at her.
I think the musicians very cleverly kept up with Benedick during his rant by playing upbeat music. The music during the kiss and then Beatrice and Don Pedro’s conversation was Disney-magic-like and this really connected with the star dance under which Beatrice was born and also the magic moment of the kiss. The cameraman shows the characters from an angle to emphasize the depth and exaggeration of the situation. He uses quick individual shots of the character to make the viewer feel the feelings of the character and this helps the viewers to empathize. The clothes that the women wear are all white and mostly the same. This shows unity and purity among them and in Beatrice’s case, really brings out her tan.
The author of the play, William Shakespeare has presented the characters very skilfully and successfully in these sections.