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An exploration of the nature of the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick and what it contributes to Much Ado About Nothing * * * The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is a major contributor to several key oppositional themes in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It echoes themes of the difference between appearance and reality, love and hate, men and women, and deception and misunderstanding. In addition to this, their relationship contributes to the play's theme of double meanings, or multiple layers of meaning. It also provides humour and interest throughout the play, giving a secure background against which the gradually rising drama, the climax, and the resolution of the Hero-and-Claudio plot is played out. Beatrice and Benedick are at first presented as being in a constant "merry war" with each other - although in fact it is more Beatrice attacking Benedick than the two attacking each other. Indeed, the very first thing she says to Benedick is a provocative comment that "nobody marks" him. This is why Shakespeare quickly establishes her in Act 1 scene I of the play as a woman defiant against the contemporary convention of women being meek, submissive and modest. Hero's adherence to this convention is emphasised by the contrast of her and Beatrice. Not only does this stark contrast exaggerate Hero's character, it also amplifies that of Beatrice - something which will be important for the later development of her relationship with Benedick. ...read more.


Beatrice is determined not to marry and be "overmastered with a piece of valiant dust"; Benedick seems to firmly believe that marriage will make an "oyster" out of him, depriving him of what he is so proud of - his wit. And yet, the topic of love and marriage always seems to find its way into their conversations with each other and with other characters in the play. This is perhaps what prompts Don Pedro to propose the undertaking of "one of Hercules' labours" in Act 2 scene i: to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other. The audience will probably notice that none of the other characters are reacting at all cynically. This is either another hint that Beatrice and Benedick already do love each other - as the other characters' lack of scepticism could be due to their premature awareness of Beatrice and Benedick's real feelings - or merely a further contribution to the play's theme of human folly - because Leonato, Hero and Claudio will accept anything Don Pedro the prince suggests. However, in the following scene Don Pedro's plan seems to work as he, Claudio and Leonato stage a conversation in which they claim that Beatrice is in love with Benedick, fabricate instances of Beatrice fighting with her feelings, and wonder at how it could be so, given their rudeness to each other. ...read more.


exchange, because in all of their previous conversations they addressed each other with the polite word "you" - despite all of their previous conversations being exchanges of insults (thereby giving them a sarcastic quality). Their integrity and respect is made more visible in this scene through the sudden change from the other characters' blank verse, to the pure prose in Beatrice and Benedick's conversation: the Friar, Leonato and Claudio are still composed, inhibited despite the melodrama of the situation, whilst Beatrice and Benedick's conversation is more focused on its own content. The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick contributes a playful sort of energy and vitality to Much Ado About Nothing which helps to make the play a comedy. This light-heartedness is shown in their battle of wits at the beginning of the play, and it even continues until the end when they mock each other and deny their mutual love. But this time their skirmish, instead of having undertones of bitterness, is a paradoxical expression of their deep love for each other. In order for Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing not to be a trivial, generic drama, he needed for the plot to be more complex than the Claudio-and-Hero plot would be on its own. The Beatrice and Benedick subplot fills this vacancy so excellently - enriching the play with additional drama, interest, comedy and originality - that it is often confused as the main story within the play. ...read more.

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