The opening scene of the play begins with Beatrices harsh words towards Benedick. This immediately draws your attention towards the pair. It begins to make you create questions in your head. Why doesnt she like him? Where is he now? How does her know her? Has he done something? As Beatrice snipes behind Benedicks back, it could mean that she truly does dislike him, but by telling Hero and Leonato these feelings it makes them believe that perhaps these feelings are a cover-up.
When the messenger asks Beatrice if the gentlemen, meaning Benedick is not in her books, she replies: No, and he were, I would burn my study. Possibly these insults are slightly too over the top and outrageous, or she does have a strong detest? We learn that Benedick has been away fighting and has recently returned. Beatrice makes fun of Benedick being a soldier: I promised to eat all of his killing. She obviously does not think highly of Benedick and so mocks him. She thinks of him as a coward, and as she says she would: eat all of his killing, she does not think he is brave enough to kill, or be a valiant soldier.
By Hero and Leontatos reactions we are taught that Beatrice is an extremely witty and outspoken lady: Is she not a modest young lady? I assume that they respect her slightly and think highly of her. Leonato comments on her cheeriness: she hath often dreamed of unhappiness, and waked herself with laughing. Meaning that her spirit is so joyful that she even wakes up laughing after bad dreams, nothing can deter her. Don Pedro observes her also: By my troth a pleasant spirited lady, All the men think greatly of her, she is funny, content, honest, and strong-willed.
When Benedick enters, all they seem to do still is fling insults at each other. Benedick being equally as bad as Beatrice: my dear Lady Disdain! implying that Beatrice is full of herself and looks down upon others: you are a rare parrot-teacher. Signifying that Beatrice squawks so much that she could teach parrots to talk. I think that their insults between each other are quite comic, as they are offensive but are perhaps only said to cover their feelings and emotions underneath. Beatrice says: I know of you old. Which confirms our suspicions that they had a liaison in the past. Later on in the play she confirms this point again: he lent it me a while, referring to her heart: I have lost it Meaning that she has lost all love for Benedick that she once had, and that she has no feeling towards him.
The point is stressed that neither of them want marriage: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me. Beatrice and Benedick again slightly exaggerate the point that neither of them wants any love in their lives, I think they sort of coax each other on, and end up having an arms race with each other, trying to beat the other one on how much they detest love, marriage, and each other.
The other characters in the play feel strongly that Beatrice should find a man, and settle down. They feel she needs somebody who can tame her. Despite her protests against marriage, they are adamant that Benedick will be her perfect husband. Therefore they begin to conjure a plan. Leonato, Claudio and Don Pedro decide to pretend to Benedick that Beatrice is completely in love with him. This is a good idea, as it could reveal their true feelings about each other that were hidden in the first act. It may also tilt Benedick more to change his opinion of Beatrice if he knew she loved him.
They make an effort to do their bests to talk about all of Beatrices strong qualities: she is exceeding wise, and: shes an excellent sweet ladyshe is virtuous. The plan works exactly how Leonato, Claudio and Don Pedro hoped and Benedick immediately seems to be in love, all the past feelings of hate and detestation towards Beatrice seem to have disappeared. At first he questions what he hears: I should think this a gull, but that white-bearded fellow speaks it, Meaning he is uncertain about what he hears but as he trusts Leonato, he is less suspicious as is his eyes Leonato is a wise, old man. Having overcome these doubts, he is ecstatic at the prospect of Beatrice loving him and doubts the matter no further. This shows a slight naivety in his character, which could be seen as a weakness. He may also feel guilty about his snappiness with Beatrice earlier on in the play, and be willing to prove to Leonato and Claudio that he is a gentleman that Beatrice deserves. To this point he has appeared as quite a powerful character through out the play.
When Beatrice comes to fetch him for supper: against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner, he misinterprets her snappiness: There is a double meaning in that, Beatrice does not seem kindly towards Benedick yet, but Benedick appears not to have noticed because hes now no longer expecting insults from her. This is an amusing insight into relationships; we see and hear what we expect, and can be blind to the truth.
Ursula and Hero then play the same trick on Beatrice, fooling her that Benedick loves her, which he now actually does. When talking about Benedick they compliment Benedick in as many ways as possible: how wise, how noble, young rarely featured, Due to the impression you get of Beatrices character throughout the beginning of the play, you would expect her to be less gullible than Benedick was and more apprehensive: What fire is in my ears? You can interpret this in two ways. One, see it as a rhetorical question, and how her ears are burning in shame at her hatred she had towards Benedick. Or how disbelieving she is about the matter, and how it burns her ears to hear such lies. Point one seems to be confirmed though, later on in her talk: If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee, She could still have uncertainties hence the if, but she admits, even if its just to herself that she would love him back if what she hears was true. Beatrice seems to fall for their trick as easily as Benedick did, and seems happy about the matter. This reinforces my initial thoughts that they had hidden feelings all along and that they had tried to keep their feelings concealed from each other.
The wedding day between Claudio and Hero is disastrous. Benedicks closest friends accuse Hero, Beatrices closest friend, of being a prostitute. This really tests the love in Beatrice and Benedicks relationship, and takes it to another level. As soon as Hero is accused, Beatrice automatically leaps to her defence, and although everyone is against them she stands her ground, confirming her dedicated character. This puts poor Benedick in an awkward position. Should he side with Claudio, Don John and Leonato? Or the woman he is in love with, Beatrice? I think this is the most vital challenge that they face in their relationship; one way he supports his friends, but loses his woman, and the other he stands by his woman but loses his friends.
After the wedding guests have left and the incident has calmed down, Benedick goes to find Beatrice, and finds her weeping on her own. By weeping, it shows a new aspect of her personality, vulnerability. However, there could be two reasons for her weakness. She could be weeping down to the unfairness of the situation, or to try and manipulate Benedick into what she wants him to do next. The crying probably makes Benedick warm to her, now her shield is broken, but comes with a sensibility to look after her and protect her. He starts by stating his views clearly: I do believe your fair cousin is wronged, This verifies that he does side with Beatrice, and by this action, it brings them far closer, and I think this is when they feel their true love for each other. But Beatrice is either still dreadfully upset, or wants to really push his boundaries of love. Benedick swears to Beatrice that she loves him, but Beatrice spitefully wants more: Do not swear and eat it, This implies that she does not trust or believe Benedick: There is no love in you, This makes Benedick more determined to prove he loves her. Come bid me to do anything for thee, I think this is the position that Beatrice wanted to engineer from the beginning. She sums up exactly what she wants him to do in the next two words: kill Claudio, This really puts Benedick to the test. He immediately protests: Not for the wide world, and then maybe remembering his promise, he tries to talk her out of it: Hear me Beatrice, But Beatrice feels strongly for revenge and sees this as a sign of Benedick not loving her. So in an act of weakness he agrees: I will challenge him, I think this shows Benedick crumbling; he is willing to stoop to the depths of murder, just to prove to Beatrice, who is still in a rage over the wedding, that he loves her. It sways any doubts that Beatrice may have had regarding the depth of Benedicks love for her.
In this scene of the play you notice changes in both of the characters; Benedicks weak-will had collapsed but with it he has proven his love for Beatrice. You see Beatrices quick thinking and brains shine, her manipulating skills perfected. Rising to the challenge of a near impossible situation, they have reached another level in their relationship, and their love has grown stronger with it.
In act 5, scene 2, you see the effects of their closeness. Benedick is trying hard to become a chivalrous, courtly lover. He tries his best to compose a poem for Beatrice but fails miserably: How pitiful I deserve, I think he feels frustrated as he adores Beatrice with all his heart, but feels that he has no way of showing it. He asks Margaret for help, in an act of desperation: helping me to the speech of Beatrice. But she scorns him, and refuses to help him: marry, I can not show it in rhyme,
He scorns his poetry: I can find out no rhyme to lady, but baby, an innocent rhyme, He has shown he can be a tough man for her, but feels he needs to show some of his talent in his artistic, and civil side. Unfortunately, he has none. He wants to impress her and not disappoint her. I dont think this will affect their relationship though as they are incredibly close now. This point is proved as when Beatrice arrives they talk in a much more casual prose to each other rather than the more formal verse. They are now completely comfortable in each others company and have also become closer as friends.
At the very end of the play, Beatrice and Benedick finally decide to declare their love more formally by getting married. During the ceremony they speak in verse with each other for the occasion. This shows that they are both serious about marriage and truly want it. It is not jut a fling or a joke between them anymore, they are adults and want to show that they are sincere now, and want everyone to know it. Their love has developed throughout the play as a result of working together to overcome the many obstacles in their path.
I think that neither character has changed that dramatically in person during the play, Beatrice is still as strong-willed and witty as she was at the beginning, although we have seen more of her sensitive and loving side. And Benedick has proven he is a man, and a soldier. He has showed signs of weakness, but has covered them up. I think that both of these personalities were within from the beginning to the end; it just took each other to bring out each others qualities. I think that their marriage will be quite strong. They have shown that their love for each other is stronger than any problems. So I do think there marriage will work, and even if they do quarrel, they will still be there for each other, and sort it out.