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How is Benedick presented in the scenes leading up to this point?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare present Benedick at these points in the play? (Act II Scene III - 7-28, 181-213; and scenes leading up to this point) In these two extracts, Shakespeare provides two very different presentations of Benedick. The first: misogynistic, marriage-fearing Benedick which he projects to his audience. Second: the warm-hearted, love-sick Benedick who, despite his fiery demeanour, is very much in love with Beatrice. In the first part, Benedick soliloquises about the man who "dedicates his behaviours to love" is a fool, and the irony of becoming the "argument of his own scorn." This pre-empts the drastic change in Benedick's behaviour later in the scene. Already we see a confident flurry of long, complex declaratives, signalling a kind of gusto to Benedick's emotions: he clearly feels strongly about this issue. However, the fact that he must say these things to himself may serve to highlight his insecurity with himself. It is quite obvious from earlier points in the play that Benedick is wholly uncomfortable with his feelings towards Beatrice and tries (unsuccessfully) to hide these feelings. ...read more.

Middle

Once again, Benedick launches into an excitable monologues, consisting of a few very long declaratives. This certainly displays a lot of excitement on his part, and the fact that he uses an interrogative, a rhetorical question ("love me?"), shows a disbelieving sense of glee and does much to counteract the pessimistic Benedick from a few lines earlier. In conjunction with his earlier soliloquy, Benedick attempts to dismiss his earlier ideas, stating that "a man loves the meat in his youth, that he cannot endure in his age." He seems to think that it is acceptable that he can change his views drastically over the space of a few minutes without any sort of continual repercussions. His metaphor serves as a hyperbolic piece of irony, the imagery not befitting the very short space of time that Benedick is describing. As Beatrice enters, we see Benedick misinterpreting her words in a very optimistic manner. He believes that her words truly confirm her feelings for him and fails to see the absurdity of his thoughts. The transformation, if you will, is complete. ...read more.

Conclusion

Quite clearly, the other characters see through this, and this is what leads them to trick him later. Another aspect of Benedick's personality, his insecurity, also seems to stem from Beatrice. At the party scene, he shows exasperation at her description of him as a "jester" and "dull as a great thaw." Benedick clearly cares about Beatrice's opinion of him, no matter what his exterior may suggest. His short monologue at the end of that scene is once again one where interrogatives are used in order for Benedick to reassure himself. Benedick is seen to have a sharp-tongued speaking style interspersed with witty metaphors and riddles. This singles Benedick out of someone with a high level of intelligence, but it also immediately identifies him as a counterpart to Beatrice. His militant anti-marriage stance is mirrored by hers, and his words of advice to Claudio convey his emotions in flowery prose, perhaps suggesting a reluctance to disclose any true information about himself. Overall, Benedick is presented as someone who is heavily influenced by Beatrice, and it seems that it is her actions that shape his personality, and define him as a character. Obviously, this is consistent with the narrative, and goes a long way to explain Benedick's sudden change of heart in Act 2 Scene 3. ...read more.

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