Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice And Benedick (Act I  Scene I) From William ShakespeareS Much Ado About Nothing Engraving 19Th  Century Poster Print by (18 x 24): Posters & Prints







“I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he love me” – Beatrice (1.1.115)






The juxtapositions between Hero and Beatrice (and Benedict and Claudio) continues to be seen in Acts II and III. In fact, much of Act II is dominated by Beatrice’s talking but underlined by Hero’s silence. Shakespeare continues to remind the audience of the crassness of Beatrice’s constant wit and lecturing when even she begins to remark that she will likely remain a spinster because of her behavior. Early in Act II, during the dancing scene, Beatrice accidentally puts down Benedict to his (masked) face, not realizing it was him. She does, however, seem to admit that there was some sort of romantic history between the two at some point. Later in the same act, she says, “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!'” (2.1.287). She is admitting that she will have to remain home and without a husband. When Don Pedro jokingly offers to marry her, she retorts and dismisses him. While I am not arguing that she accepts the proposal of any man who offers, it is her attitude towards the idea of marriage, as a woman of her time, that leads to her breaking of norms and the desire of others to reign her back into those norms.


But while what is said is what is important to note between Beatrice and Benedict, when it comes to Hero and Claudio it is what is left unsaid that needs to be noticed. The two are basically silent towards each other in both Acts II and III. In fact, their marriage is planned more or less without any input from either of the two. Even after the two are confirmed for each other, they still do not speak in any sort of intimate manner. The apparent lack of communication also does not help when Claudio is led to believe that Hero may be committing infidelities by having someone speak to her on her balcony. Little does Claudio realize that it is actually Margaret on the balcony, not Hero. There is a constant silence present between the two, at one point Claudio even referring to the silence as the “perfectest herald of joy” (2.1.267), even when the silence had not really led to any joy to speak of.


It seems that one of the most important things that Shakespeare has pointed out so far is that communication is vital to the behavior of the characters involved. With Claudio and Hero, there had been almost no communication. Claudio asked for help from Don Pedro to trick Hero to fall in love instead of developing a proper emotional connection to her. Once they are set to be married, Claudio still does not engage Hero. Finally, once Claudio is led to believe that Hero may be committing infidelity, he not only decides that he will not discuss it with her but instead shame her at the wedding. At the same time, the issue with Beatrice and Benedict is also one of communication, in this case, miscommunication. The two seem afraid to discuss their personal feelings, and instead decide to belittle and tease each other, to the point where there is a recognizable tension every time they are interacting. This gives other parties involved, such as Don Pedro and Leonato, the opportunity to deceive Beatrice and Benedict into confessing love for each other, and then being pressured into that love even if it is not actually genuine. As we all know, communication goes a long way in relationship, and in Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare has shown the dangers of lack of communication and improper communication, showing how these two errors can lead to lies and deception by other parties involved.

The beginning of Act 2, Scene 1 depicts an accurate representation of the male characters throughout the remainder of Act 2 and into Act 3. In particular, Count John’s “melancholy disposition” stands in contrast and is directly compared to Signor Benedick’s “tattling” nature (Arden, 44). As Beatrice states that her ideal version of a husband would fall somewhere in-between these two talking-extremes, an overarching archetype is established for these characters, though, one questions if her feelings about Benedick are entirely truthful.


Don Jonh’s cold-blooded nature is revealed similarly in his attempts to stop the courtship of Claudio and Hero at the masked event, as well as agreeing to the Borachio’s divisive plan (60, 86). While Don John’s actions in these two acts directly concede with Beatrice’s prediction/archetype, Benedick defies this idea after thinking that Beatrice loves him. He states “shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No, the world must be peopled/ When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married (112). This excerpt shows that, unlike Don John, Benedick is able to overcome a previously archetypal quality and is able to transform himself.

One of the most powerful moments in act 2 is Benedick’s response and feelings to the thing Beatrice said to him, thinking he was someone else. Even though the two continuously go back and forth at one another, when Benedick hears what Beatrice says about him when he is not around, truly upsets him. Benedick claims that “She speaks poniards, and every word stabs. If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her; she would infect to the north star. I would not marry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed.” It is clear how much the words hurt Benedick as he compared them to poniards (small daggers) and claims that just her breath would kill all life. Yet, the first thing he mentions after that is that he would not marry her even if she was as good as paradise. It is interesting that marriage seems to always come up for Benedick when he thinks about Beatrice.

This theme comes up again later on after Hero and Claudio have their marriage arranged. Benedick asks May I be so converted and see with these eyes(someone in love)? I cannot tell; I think not.” He always claims that marriage is not for him and he prefers not to be “locked up”, but when speaking to himself it is clear the thought is more present than he lets off. He goes on to list all of the things a woman must have before he even considers her as his wife. It seems that he may be just protecting himself from being hurt if he admits that Beatrice is the woman he is in love with.

Act II scene I highlighted the juxtaposition between Don John and Don Pedro. As brothers, their actions oppose each other, Don John portrayed as the villian and Don Pedro as the hero or nice one. Don John loves to cause drama and ruin relationships, while Don Pedro loves to bring people together, like a matchmaker. Although their actions differ from each other, they both love creating schemes that revolve around relationships. Don John creates plans to end relationships, like the marriage of Hero and Claudio, and Don Pedro is now working on plans to bring Benedick and Beatrice together. 


Act III developed Heros character. I was surprised to learn she was included in convincing Beatrice to marry Benedick. In the earlier acts, although she is friends with Don Pedro and Claudio, I would not have suspected her to be part of Don Pedros elaborate plan to convince Beatrice she is in love with Benedick. I imagined her character to be shy and stay out of schemes and the drama. This also made me aware of her oblivious tendencies as she was unaware of the plan that convinced her to marry Claudio. This act also shows you how she is loyal and loves her cousin Beatrice, even though she is part of the secret plan.

After reading Acts II and III (the first time) I was initially still confused about the plot and exactly who is who, but after reading again and listening to a recording on youtube, I am definitely more appreciative of the art of audio/listening. I never considered myself as an auditory learner, but being able to recognize voices is helping me better understand what is going on in this play.

Relating the podcast back to Acts II and III, one particular event I found myself close reading was when Benedick was essentially venting to Don Pedro about how he would/could never marry Beatrice. Following the steps on how to close read:

  • What is being said or shown?
    • Benedick is listing, very dramatically, all the reasons why he could never marry Beatrice, even going as far to say, “ifher breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her” (she is destructive to everything and everyone)
  • How is it being said or shown?
    • This particular rant of Benedick’s is written in verse, so we know it is important to the play.
  • Why is it being said or shown that way?
    • As the podcast describes, the why naturally follows the how of step 2. The weepy tones of Benedick’s rant makes me think he is not only trying to convince Don Pedro of all of the reasons why Beatrice is bad for him, but he is also trying to convince himself. A forbidden love of sorts, but I also think Beatrice and Benedick are kind of perfect for each other since they never. stop. talking.
  • Bonus: Why is this relevant to me?
    • We know Shakespeare is known for his universal lessons but I not exactly sure why this scene is relevant to me. I am leaning towards a lesson on forbidden love and commentary on gender roles because of how often we see into Benedick’s inner feelings, but I’m not exactly sure.

Overall, I think I am starting to get a better grip on exactly what is happening in the play and I credit this to listening while following along with the text. I am very curious to see how much more I will understand (hopefully) when I see the visual component of this play.

After establishing the sarcastic banter Benedick and Beatrice share in the first act, their similar tendencies shone through in the second and third. Beatrice’s affection for benedick becomes clearer at the dance, which works against her image as an “unfeminine” character/foil to Hero’s femininity. It is going to be interesting to see how Shakespear develops Beatrice’s character; working to maintain her image as a strong-witted, outspoken woman, while at the same time forcing/fitting her into the role of love-interest.

Something that I found very interesting during this reading was the changing relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. Specifically, I was surprised by Beatrice’s response to hearing that Benedick is in love with her. Throughout Act I, as well as in the beginning of Act II, she comes off as a headstrong, independent woman who does not waver when people disagree with her. She claims that she will never have a husband, “Not till God make men of some other metal than Earth” (Act II, Scene 1, 59-60). She also declares that instead of marrying, she will go to Hell’s gates, be sent up to Heaven and find, “where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long” (Act II, Scene 1, 48-49). Up until this point, Beatrice has been very  sure about what she wants in her life. She joins in the men’s conversations, which brands her as “un-feminine” and so far has stayed very confident in her independence.

However, we see that shift when she overhears that Benedick is in love with her. Once she learns that she has a reputation of being arrogant and self absorbed, she begins to feel bad, “Can this be true? Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much? Contempt, farewell, and maiden pride, adieu!” (Act III, Scene 1, 113-115). She decides that she will love Benedick if he continues to love her, and she will be nicer to him in an attempt to spare his feelings. This seems like a dramatic shift from her fierce independence and unwavering opinions. I think it will be interesting to see how their relationship progresses as they are both under the impression that one is in love with the other.

Last class we talked about the importance of the switch between poetry and prose, because it signifies to the audience that the subject matter of the play has changed. As Benedick and Beatrice are conned into thinking that the other cares for them, the shifts between poetry and prose are noticeable, because Benedick’s monologue is in prose, yet Beatrice’s submission to love is recorded in poetry. I noted the changes, but I feel like there are a few ideas that Shakespear could be alluding to with this shift. My initial instinct was to assume that he was saying that Beatrice’s submission to a man is a larger plot point than Benedick’s submission to a woman. Within Act I we learned that Benedick is a changeable soul, especially when it comes to women, because he is a known ladies man, while Beatrice has solidly resisted the advances of men. She is so resolved that she turned down the proposal of a Prince, in favor of her freedom. Perhaps Beatrice giving into her crush is the larger plot point because it is more out of character. 

My secondary theory about the shift from poetry to prose is that Shakespeare is trying to clue us into the veracity of their emotions. Benedick’s monologue about marriage clashes with his earlier rants in Act I about not wanting to be a cuckold, and it could seem less sincere or less of a permanent change, especially since his words are in prose. Meanwhile Beatrice speaks of love in poetry, which could be a clue to the audience that her affections are more permanent or are more sincere. This also could be an opportunity for Shakespeare to build constructs and themes about femininity and masculinity within the play. We did not get to see both sides of Hero and Claudio’s courtship, but with Beatrice and Benedick the audience is seeing the “courtship” process a little more fully, which is an ideal time to make social or political commentary about gender roles or constructs. 

After having spent the two podcast sessions on tone/diction and close reading, I felt much better equipped to tackle Act II and Act III.

We discussed in class how unique Beatrice was in the way she speaks her mind, a bit uncommon during Shakespeare’s time. With this information, I have paid close attention to Beatrice and her bold comments. One line of Beatrice’s that stood out to me said, “ I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.” (Page 55, Line 320). This came after her Uncle Lenato was making comments claiming she needed to change the way she spoke if she wanted to find a husband. I find her response somewhat powerful because she is not willing to change who she is.

I felt these two acts had big character developments. Beginning with one relationship, the Prince and Hero are set to wed. But with this, we were able to see Don John grow into a more villainous character as he plots to trick the Prince into believing Hero is unfaithful. Additionally, we continue to see the flirty banter between Beatrice and Benedick. Their interest in one another is extremely present and you can see this relationship must be going somewhere. Plus, Hero finally starts getting some lines, although I am still not quite sure what to think of her.

One of the things I found interesting in Act II was the continued lack of actual interaction between Claudio and Hero. Don Pedro’s plan to woo Hero himself and then pass her along to Claudio in Act I seemed ill-conceived and clearly displayed some problematic gender norms. But even after the plan miraculously works, Hero and Claudio still fail to even speak to each other. Claudio is clearly extremely excited as displayed by his inability to muster any words except for “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy if I could say how much. – Lady, as you are mine, I am yours. I give away myself for you and dote upon the exchange,” (Act 2, sc. 1, lines 300-304). However, Hero fails to even reply to Claudio after his profession of love, as Beatrice replies on her behalf, saying “My cousin (Hero) tells him in his ear that he is in her heart,” (Act 2, sc. 1, lines 308-309). This reinforces some of the very questionable gender norms that we saw in Act I, as Hero is constantly spoken for and her own opinions rarely taken into consideration.

Over the course of these two Acts, I also found the deception of Beatrice and Benedick to be incredibly interesting. While both of them seem to be quite gullible to both believe the overheard conversations, it also seems clear that Beatrice and Benedick each have preexisting feelings for the other, as we had come to expect in Act I. While they both feel some level of pride for thinking that the other is desperately in love with the other, both Benedick and Beatrice show a level of sensitivity and compassion for the other, as they are worried about the supposed anguish that the other is feeling. The complete change in attitude by Benedick is especially surprising, as he immediately admits that Beatrice is “fair; ’tis a truth, I can bear them witness. And virtuous; ’tis so, I cannot reprove it,” (Act II, sc. III, lines 233-235). This immediate turn around in attitude towards Beatrice further displays that Benedick already had these feelings about Beatrice.