In ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Act 2 Scene 1, the main plots are issued to the audience preparing us for the rest of the play. This scene is very important and influential as it not only gives us clues and an idea of what’s to come but also informs us on the characters. It gives the audience their first taste of what the characters are really like and hints to the reasons of their dramatic change in personality further in the story.
The three main characters I have chosen to analyse are Beatrice, Benedick and Don Pedro.
Beatrice is very significant to the scene she helps the audience understand about that patriarchal society she lives in and the place of women in Elizabethan England.
She is a very determined woman and herself is against the stereotypical view man held against women.
‘thus goes everyone to the world but I, and I am sunburnt, I may sit in a corner and cry Heigh ho for a husband’
Her language is very sharp and witty. She will not let anyone bring her down about what she believes. Even so, she has to deal with many problems and stand up to others to protect her own views
Through most of the scene, she is seen as the voice of Hero.
I think from a personal point of view although Beatrice loves Hero she finds her difficult to live with because they are so different in personality.
Hero plays along so well with the stereotypical woman, she is also so quiet and confident with her life while Beatrice finds she always needs to hide her emotions that are packed into her own life. She is because of this challenged a lot by Leonato who simply echo’s the males role in their patriarchal society.
‘Daughter, remember what I told you, if the prince do solicit you in that kind you know your answer’
It seems that Leonato has already made Hero’s decision for her, he shows how a father had the legal right to dispose of his daughters as he wished.
Beatrice battles for her cousins happiness aswell as her own. This gives the audience a chance of a glimpse into their family relationship and how this could encourage decisions further in the play. Shakespeare purposely creates such diversity between the characters to emphasise the relationship between them. So their behaviour influences each others character change.
Some of the main parts in the scene are when Beatrice and Benedick are deep into their ‘merry war’.
In Act 2 Scene 1 Shakespeare notably brings masking into the play, as masking was a great and favourite entertainment in large Elizabethan households.
In the film, Branagh also had a chance to express his characters personality through the masks. Hero was shown as pure and virtuous through her white costume and mask while Beatrice had a cat mask. This portrayed her feisty and cunning mind, which half way through her and Benedick’s arguments, managed to bring Benedick’s clownish mask to a stand still.
However, because both characters seem so tense with each other the audience starts to interpret there must be something other than anger between them.
Beatrice seems to be developing a positive image of love.
‘He lent it me a while’
Beatrice’s reply to Don Pedro when told she has lost the heart of Benedick. This implies there may have been love between them, this time she cannot hide her bitterness and disappointment in this loss.
Beatrice also becomes the focus at the end of the scene, because of the plan to make her and Benedick fall in love. The audience now have a rough idea on the outcome and are left with the excitement of what really is to come.
Because of Beatrice’s strong willpower, it is bewildering how she has completely transformed further in the play.
‘Benedick, love on, I will requite thee’
Act 2 Scene 1 has given the audience an opportunity to comprehend what could happen later in the play but also has given Beatrice such a distinct individuality between other members of the play it is hilarious to watch her sudden change in character.
Benedick, the second character I chose to study has had the same affect, the character that is disclosed of him further on has altered so rapidly it looks as though he has been looking for love all his life. His new entity is such a great contrast to his old that everything he says and does leaves the audience in hysterics.
‘When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married’
He is backtracking his own words, everything he said would be so ridiculously funny, and therefore his comical charisma remains despite his changing views.
In Act 2 Scene 1 Benedick and Beatrice would constantly be in the spot light. In Branagh’s film they literally were. Branagh’s lighting effects helped reflect the themes involved. Such things as candles would convey romance, love, and bright light show the liveliness.
This excitement was also expressed by the music to help create the right mood and atmosphere to elaborate the theme going on. Lively music was heard wherever there was the comedy of Beatrice’s and Benedick’s bickering.
However, in the scene Benedick came out quite self-conscious. When he got insulted by Beatrice he was hurt badly, it seemed to be his deepest anxiesty. In some ways, this could be true. Elizabethan aristocrats were exceptionally touchy about personal honour and reputation.
‘I will be revenged as I may’
His stubbornness and arrogance leaves the audience with this key quote, which encourages the audience to think about the consequences.
Benedick continues to show his sardonic sense of humour when he says some abusive things about Beatrice.
‘If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her’
He is saying that if her breath were as appalling as her doings all around her would die. Although he is coming through quite scornful, Shakespeare puts the sentence effectively together to make it amusing for the audience. The things that are said are not bluntly true, but are suggestions about if something happened that the consequences would be disastrous, in this case for the crowd side-splittingly funny.
Their ‘merry war’ reaches its peak when the rest of the group approach in the scene.
‘Oh God, sir, here’s a dish I love not, I cannot endure my Lady Tongue’
This image is rather ironic, as Benedick raves on about matters proportionally more than she does, so it is quite half-witted of him to criticize her about it.
So untrue to his words because in Act 3 Scene 2 everything from how he speaks to how he dresses changes to win Beatrice’s heart. The audience would have without doubt been excepting this. Benedick’s hurt gave away his true feelings. He must have liked Beatrice a lot to be so deeply wounded by her remarks.
Beatrice and Benedick have made us understand that marriage is the only realistic option even for characters like them.
Don Pedro is my final character I chose to study, and he had a quite contrasting theme involved with his developments.
Throughout the scene, he is seen as the matchmaker. He is crucial to the scene as he creates the main plots.
He has a very manipulating and controlling nature. He brings Claudio and Hero together in an act of kind-heartedness and then towards the end constructs some entertainment for everyone by setting up a plan to bring Beatrice and Benedick together.
‘I we can do this, cupid is no longer and archer, his glory shall be our for we are the only love Gods’
Don Pedro sees himself as very powerful and capable to do anything, he uses his power to create positive endings. His brother Don John has completely the other thing in mind.
He has been revealed as a very evil character in the scene and this is important because the audience for the first time are experiencing what he is like.
‘ I pray you dissuade him from her, she is no equal for his birth; you may do the part of an honest man’
The prime thing he does is to try to ruin a relationship between Claudio and Hero by persuading Claudio to believe Don Pedro has taken Hero for himself. He does not care about even shaming his brother he only wants hatred between everyone because his own life is so small and value less he loathes everyone.
Branagh uses dramatic devices in his film to emphasize this. The music, costume and lighting in that scene change according to the mood. Don John was filmed under loud intense music that reflected his anger, and behind flame at one point. This bright red and yellow light could symbolise demons or devils, it’s a dark bloody colour.
When masking, Don John was deliberately put together with a red mask, which could also represent satanic thoughts.
This Juxtaposition of mixed emotions, the seriousness of Don John and light heartedness of Don Pedro helps make the scene more moving, thrilling and realistic.
Don Pedro looks like he just wants to make everyone else happy, but I think the audience starts to realise he may need to sort out his own life additionally.
‘Will you have me lady?’
This can be seen as a nonchalant compliment or as a serious proposal.
To the audience his motives are not clearly understood but it can be sure he thinks Beatrice has a ‘merry heart’. Shakespeare could have intentionally planned such a loving character for Don Pedro because of the effect he received from the audience, further in the play.
‘I will join thee to disgrace her’
Don Pedro’s cruel words are something that was completely unexpected and what the audience was not prepared for. He had such a strong and powerful persona that it is unbelievable he turned so two-faced.
Although Don Pedro does look very cruel, he only in the end foolishly believes what he sees, however Claudio believes without hesitation what he hears.
‘ I will not think it’- Don Pedro
‘ May this be so?’- Claudio
Anyone could have fallen for Don John’s trap if seeing, but Claudio has been gullible and tolerant from the start.
‘And trust no agent: for beauty is a witch, Against whose charms faith melteth into blood:’
He speaks in verse because of his bereaved disposition and he wants to further indicate his character and love for Hero.
He is represented this way by Branagh in the film. His soliloquy, which I just quoted from, is backed by slow disconsolate music showing his bitter and dismal self. He jumped to the wrong conclusion even about his friends.
Claudio also wore a cherub mask. This child like mask brings out his innocence and inner child. His naivety suggests that he maybe does not trust all the people around him.
Don Pedro’s change in character was unpredictable; it’s recognizable that this was planned by Shakespeare because of the impressive response from the audience that was achieved.
Overall, there was a different theme involved in his development that in Beatrice and Benedick. While Beatrice’s and Benedick’s character progress involved love and comedy tied together Don Pedro’s had more to do with romance deceit and tragedy.
To conclude, this scene has been dramatic because of its necessary and substantial content. The audience first experience what the characters are like so it is easy to conceive why the characters personas change so much. The themes are brought out so they get a chance to deduce the main plots that will be involved in the play and the sub-plots that lead to them. All these influence Act 2 scene 1 and help it progress to create the rest of the dramatic and impressive play.