The conversation held between Beatrice and Benedict is shocking because it is contradictory to the persona they both have been presenting since the start of the play. Even before Benedict has arrived in Messina, Beatrice is insulting him to the messenger. She asks the messenger things about Benedict like: ‘how many hath he killed?’ She insults his skill as a soldier and his valour on the battlefield. She says ‘I promise to eat all of his killing’ as an insult to his ability as a competent soldier. When Benedict arrives in Messina, He and Beatrice have a ‘battle of wits’ in which both insult each other until Don Pedro and Leonato lead Beatrice and the others out of the room leaving Benedict with Claudio.
Benedict and Beatrice, throughout the play, both talk of how they would never marry or love. Benedict first says this is in Act I, Scene I where he states that ‘I will live a Bachelor’. At the start of the play Benedict has no desire to get married or even to fall in love with any woman. When Don Pedro says that Benedict looks pale with love, Benedict replies ‘With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord, not with love’ again sticking with his idea that he will never fall in love or marry.
Beatrice first says she doesn’t want to be loved during her ‘battle of wits’ with Benedict where she says: ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow then hear a man swear he loves me’.
Both are convinced otherwise when they ‘overhear’ other characters talking about how the other is in love with them. Benedict hears Don Pedro Leonato and Claudio speak of how Beatrice was in love with Benedict but wouldn’t ever say it to him. Beatrice hears the same from Hero and Ursula about Benedict.
After Claudio is tricked into leaving Hero in the middle of their wedding Benedict stays behind with Hero, Leonato, Beatrice and the Friar instead of leaving with Claudio and Don Pedro. This is not what you would expect him to do as he is one of their friends. But he gets into a conversation with Beatrice in the Arbour and she asks him to prove his love to her by killing Claudio. Benedict is shocked at her asking him to do this but she remains adamant that if he will not kill for her then he does not truly love her. Benedict gives in and says he will challenge Claudio to a duel. The way Benedict so quickly agrees to fight his friend to the death makes you think about the relationship between Beatrice and Benedict. The character of Beatrice is cast as the complete opposite to Hero and therefore her relationship is opposite also. Where Hero is played as the young naï¿½ve child of a rich father, Beatrice is played as a witty, stubborn, often rude young woman who seems to have had a more then tranquil upbringing. Hero is played as the typical wife of that time: there for her husbands bidding and not much more. But Beatrice fights against all that is the norm for that time. She is the dominant partner in the relationship between herself and Benedict.
The conversation itself is very important as it is a turning point in the relationship between Beatrice and Benedict. It is the first time they have openly said that they love each other and is therefore the time when their characters change. Benedict has turned from the proud, noble soldier into a man at the whim of Beatrice. Beatrice herself probably uses Benedict’s love to help her cousin Hero. When she asks Benedict to kill Claudio it is such a shocking statement that even Benedict doesn’t agree to it. His initial statement shows his love for his friends is possibly more then that for Beatrice. The statement itself makes it seem like Benedict is mocking her order; like he thinks she might be joking. The ‘Ha!’ is what makes it sound like he is mocking her order but the: ‘not for the wide world’ is what shows his love for Claudio. When she turns and says ‘there is no love in you; nay I pray you let me go’ Benedict is upset that he may have hurt her feelings by mocking her order, he tries to make up for it by saying he will challenge Claudio.
The conversation is shocking and important because it marks several things. It marks the first time Beatrice and Benedict first truly say they love each other ad it also marks the turning of both their characters. Benedict though he loves Beatrice he will not kill Claudio whom he also loves and he thinks he might have upset her by doing this, so he makes up for it by saying he will challenge him to a duel. This is marking the point when Benedict’s love for his friends and his love for his woman clash in conflict and it finishes with his love for Beatrice emerging the victor.