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Beatrice and Benedick are amongst the main characters of the play and their idealistic love is one of the vital elements that makes this play so successful. Their characteristics are the fundamental source of comedy in the play.
Benedick is a stubborn person, never listens to other people suggestions and always ends his conversations with a ”jade’s trick”, which is why he’s so certain that marriage is not worth it. He thinks marriage reduces the quality of a man’s life. Beatrice is a very soft-hearted lady, but does not show this. It’s only when she gets tricked by her friends that she shows her true Self. However, all this changes when they both eaves drop on their friends organised conversations.
As soon as one examines their first back-and-fourth dialogue, it becomes obvious that Beatrice always responds to, or comments upon, what Benedick has said. When Benedick tries to talk to Don Pedro, while he has already moved somewhere else, Beatrice says, ” I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you.” This is her opening phrase and she starts the exchange of witty insults. There was actually no logical reason for her to comment upon what Benedick has said, therefore, this shows that Beatrice always tries to humiliate Benedick whenever she’s got the chance.
Beatrice also uses Benedick’s own words as her own linguistic weapon, and tries to direct his words towards him. ”God keep your ladyship still in that mind, so some gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate scratched face,” says Benedick in their conversation. Beatrice then returns, ”Scratching could not make it worse, an’twere such a face as yours were.” This quick come back of Beatrice makes her wittier than Benedick, as it’s harder to turn somebody’s own words against them. Benedick himself continues that she’s a ”rare parrot-teacher.”
They surprisingly behave very similar towards each other, not only towards each other, but also behave similar towards other characters in many ways. They both have the same point of view on love and marriage. For them, marriage is nothing but trouble and worries, which was very rare and bizarre at the time. Their first conversation in the play shows only hatred towards each other, even though they both have similar points of view on marriage. In the conversation Benedick says,”….and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.” Beatrice then replies, ”….I thank God and my cold blood I am of your humour for that”. This shows that Beatrice is actually admitting that they both have identical believes.
Their constant hatred, and the focus on their relationship in the first scene, makes the audience think that they are the main characters of the play. Even though they hate each other so much; Shakespeare has build a plot that makes the audience think that somehow, they will fall in love with each other somewhere throughout the play; as the audience will soon find out that they are actually deceiving themselves, which can be seen through their battles of conversations.
As already stated before, everything between Beatrice and Benedick changes by only one ease dropping session. It’s fascinating how quickly and easily Benedick and Beatrice are deceived by their friends. Their remarkable ease of acceptance shows how easily Beatrice and Benedick open themselves to the vulnerability of love. It’s as if a small spark has ignited their long-lost love for each other.
Benedick gets deceived by Leanato, Don Pedro and Claudio by purposely letting Benedick eavesdrop on their conversation. They go about telling how much Beatrice loves Benedick, which is obviously all a lie. However, Benedick falls right into their trap. It’s only that Leanato accompanies their deception plan that makes him convince that everything they are saying is true. Benedick himself says,” I should think this a gull, but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it.”
After Don Pedro, Claudio and Leanato leave for dinner, Benedick starts his soliloquy. The audience is about to hear his true feelings for Beatrice. This is the moment they’ve been waiting for and is probably the most thrilling part of the play. After all the wit and deception between them, this certainly adds some tension to the play. In his soliloquy, the main sentence that shows he loves Beatrice is when he says, ”Love me? Why, it must be requited.” In other words, because Beatrice loves him he says that he must return the love.
The alienation between Benedick and Beatrice starts from the beginning of the play, so they must have had a past relationship, otherwise the play would end with many questions unanswered. Shakespeare only faintly shows some sort of a past relationship between them and Beatrice is the only character to reveal any evidence of a past relationship between herself and Benedick. In the opening scene of the play (act one scene one) Beatrice is the first to mention benedick by saying, ”I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the wars or no?” This shows that she has interest in Benedick and Signifies that she already knows him well by calling him ”Mountanto”.
Later on, one will see that Beatrice’s act of hatred towards Benedick is due to him abandoning her by going to war. This is unfolded by Beatrice when she says that benedick ”set up his bills here in Messina and challenged cupid at the flight; and my uncle’s fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for cupid.” Here Beatrice describes a battle of love between herself and benedick that she has lost. This shows that they ones loved each other and were probably about to marry. But then Benedick has gone to battle and left here heart shattered.
Beatrice and benedick are ordinary people, but with an extraordinarily complex relationship. It all
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