Beatrice and Benedick are two of the most critical peoplein this play, and they hold many of the comedic points.
Also, their idealisticlove is what makes the play so successful even though they aren’t the maincharacters. As we know him, Benedick is a stubborn male figure who is againstunrequited love at the beginning of the play. He never listens to otherpeople’s suggestions or conversations and always ends in a “JadesTrick” quoting Beatrice in Act one. Thinking marriage will ruin thequality of a man’s life; this is why Benedick is against the thought or breathof marriage. Beatrice has a similar view towards the marriage life as well; hercharacter is a soft-hearted lady but does not show this type of demeanor at alltowards others.
During Act One Scene one there is an exchange between Benedickand Beatrice. There is a Back-and-Forth dialogue between the two charactersexchanging witty insults and insulting one another. There is no logical reasonfor this exchange between the two characters, but it shows there might be asmall history between them or a spark that the readers might not know about.
Beatrice uses her linguistic weapon every chance she gets to insult or demineBenedick, directing his word toward him like a knife. But somehow it ispossible and almost comfortable for them to be witty towards one another duringthis exchange. Even though it is tough to turn someone’s words and phrasesagainst them in the blink of an eye, it just seemed like a comfortable flow forthese two characters. The characters throughout the play have very similarviews toward one another, even though we see an intense hatred.
They have thesame views on marriage, and on love itself making their beliefs the same. Tothem, marriage is just worries mixed with a lot of troubles, which is a veryweird and bizarre thought for this time period learning women are “Marriedor To Be Married.” Making the situation even more curious becauseeverything seems to change during the characters ease dropping session on theirfriends. Benedick gets tricked by Claudio, Don Pedro, and Leonato purposelyletting him spy on their conversation about how much Beatrice loves Benedick,apparently, it’s all a cover-up and lie. Leonato is confirming the plan bysaying that everything the men say is true as Benedick listens.
There openlyacceptance of love for each other here shows how a past spark had to be thereto affirm this. In this scene, as the men leave for dinner, Benedick starts hislove speech for Beatrice. At this moment during the play we get to hereBenedick’s true feelings for Beatrice, becoming the most thrilling moment andthe one we as the readers were waiting for the entire play. After all thehidden background and deception between them that we don’t know this moment isa focal point for these two characters. TheUnfriendliness we see between Benedick and Beatrice at the beginning of theplay shows that they have had a past relationship somewhere before this playsome kind of ghost connection that the readers just have to imagine. Otherwise,this play would have many unanswered questions and wonders on why Shakespeareunfolded them this way. Shakespeare only gives the audience a faint hint thatBenedict and Beatrice have known each other in their past.
During Act One SceneOne “You always end with a jade’s trick. I know you of old.” ThisSignifying that she must have known him in the past very well. But whathappened to make them separate or their relationship come to an end to presentthis sort of hatred toward one another? So, to begin myresearch I decide to start with the wooing of this period that took place.Realizing that Beatrice is an anomaly during this play having no parents andliving with her uncle, she automatically goes against the social norms of thistime period.
She falls outside of the regular traditions like we see in Hero’scharacter even though the Misogynistic space is very strong in this play.Beatrice gives off a more experienced character in love and a strongerpersonality by showing off her female power with Benedick at the beginning. So that made me think that maybe something inthe wooing technique could’ve made this tension between them creating thecurrent situation. The wooing during this time is not like the traditionalmethods we use today. Of course, we see the use of letters and poetry toportray their feelings like in Much Ado but Elizabethan times were very muchdifferent than the way Shakespeare portrays love for Benedick and Beatrice.During this period Elizabethan marriages were all about politics and gaining ahigher power, not really about the concept of love.
Matrimony was not theconducted by the future couple but in the end, they had to fully come to acceptthe mutual alliance. The final choice was by far more than the acceptance ofthe coupled and family but the whole community was structured on stablecommunities and households. The Father was the one that went on the search forthe future bride’s partner them having no say in who their mate is treating thedaughter as an object or tool. The fathers also were the ones to walk thedaughters down the aisle, hence some of the reason Beatrice falls away from thesocial code. Throughout this period money, social class and alliance governedand regulated this system. Marriage in the European pattern was differed to tenyears or more after puberty usually and this occurred from the top of thesocial scale all the way down to the bottom. Also among the genders the women’saverage age for first getting married was around the age of mid-twenties whilethe men during this period were just a few years older. A wide range ofpractices and legal actions were put together to support the ideas of latemarriages during this time.
By 1604 a Canon law was placed to forbid any priestto wed anyone under the age of twenty-one without the parents’ consent to thisaction or face suspension. The process of waiting to be wed was too much forsome so the “Fleet Marriages started to take place”. It was namedthis because of the Fleet Prison in London offered this action. As a prison itcalled itself free of the independent of the church marriage strictures andthese rapid marriages could legally be carried out. Because for a couple to bewed in Shakespeare’s England first you had to have the blessing of the churchfollowed either by obtaining a license which took a month to be accepted or byannouncing the couple’s names and intent three consecutive Sundays. Englishmanalso in this period were obsessed about the continuation of family andbloodlines. The pride of a long ancestry and family was a sort of pride, makinga man’s social identity.
To a man a women’s Chasity was important showing awomen’s social value. It was believed that men had to control a women’slascivious behavior to preserve this Chasity. The female’s sexuality and themale’s regulation over this provided the understood reproductive process ofthis time. 1,2 Oneof my theories about Benedick and Beatrice, in their unique past relationship,is where Beatrice has no parents and the only lineage she has is her Uncle andHero. This might explain how she fell outside of this norm, making it difficultfor her to have a social standing among the other people in her society. Considering this during these times thefather deals with most of the relationship choosing for the daughter andBeatrice doesn’t have this. But since Shakespeare moves past a lot of thesesocial norms and challenges them within his plays I think this missing part wedon’t know goes deeper emotionally.
I think the two have fallen in love beforeboth bearing scars from this. But I also believe this has something to do withthe fact when Benedict went to war. So,I continued my research deeper by looking for in context clues and languagesused within the play. I think that Shakespeare wanted us to acknowledge therewas a pre-history to this mysterious love, as a lady, Beatrice is fullyprepared for a relationship with Benedick.
While Benedick wholeheartedlypledged his love for Beatrice, and she was fully ready to return his emotionsin return. However, Benedick was not prepared for a relationship, thus leavingand going to war leaving Beatrice in emotional confusion. This is why she grewcautious of men in general and opposed the opposite sex. The primaryevidence I have gained was at the beginning of the play when Benedick returnshome from the war, Beatrice asks the Messenger, “I pray you, is SignorMontanto returned from the war, or no? (1.1.25-26)” Signor Montanto is areference she uses for Benedick himself.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, itexplains that Montanto means, “Montant” in English and its definitionmeans, “and upward blow, thrust or direct cut upwards.” So, the wayMontant is said, I presume that Beatrice sees Benedick as a manly macho manthat is proud and joyful of dealing blows to others. Whether it be on thebattlefield of war or in his dealing with the matters of the heart and women.It is what she says within the next few lines that give us a connection betweenthis also. “He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid atthe flight; and my uncle’s fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupidand challenged him at the bird-bolt (1.1.32-37).” I took these words as Benedickusing bills to let everyone know he is ready to challenge Cupid in a contest ofarrow versus arrow.
Challenging Cupid to a fight shooting long distance arrows;I think Beatrice here wants us to believe that Benedick is using his ego hereto claim he can shoot better than Cupid as Military macho man. He is morecapable than Cupid himself to wound any women to fall in love with him, evenBeatrice herself in this case. 3,4, and 5 Beatrice then usesthe comeback by saying my “uncle’s fool” accepted the challenge. Inreturn, Benedick challenging this Bird Bolt gives some in context clues byusing specific languages, but here I think when she says the “uncle’sfool” she is referring to herself in this context. Because her uncle istaking care of her and Beatrice believes she did act foolishly with Cupid’sarrow once at the same time. I think Beatrice as a woman here, supports Cupidin this way because he uses a less macho weapon than Benedick himself. A”bird-bolt” according to the Oxford English Dictionary it states thatthis is a blunt wooden object used during the middle English. So, I thinkBeatrice here is implying that she has caused injury to herself by sayingBenedick wounded her more than she injured Benedick in this situation.
Sheprobably feels it might not have even hurt him at all, but in these sentencesand wordplay, Beatrice cleverly explains it all. Indirectly here she implies tothe readers in this play that once Benedick at some point has made Beatriceknowledgeable about love, while Beatrice herself could not influence the sameeffect on Benedicks’ heart. 3,4, and 5 A little laterBeatrice says `Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new swornbrother. (1.1 57-58)” The men in this society have their own misogynisticspace, brothers in arms in this case. The men stick together, and if it comesdown to it, loyalty among men is stronger than a womans.
I think Beatrice hereis suggesting in her eyes Benedick is a disloyal person because he hasabandoned her in the past for the war and male companions. Beatrice here seemsto be speaking of a self-involvement or someone who has experienced this beforefrom Benedick. Maybe after pledging loyalty to her after he was disloyal insome way, had a change of heart, or cold feet decided to withdraw his contract.Seeking out male companionship to fill what he had run away from inBeatrice.
Leaving Beatrice with a stronghatred of all men and love until (1.1.107-108), were Beatrice says to Benedickthis phrase: “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear heloves me.” If a dog barks at you in any way, you will know where to stand,but if a man declares his love for you, he will let you down. Beatrice a littlelater goes into further detail of this while further arguing with Benedictduring act one. “I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and sogood a continuer. But keep your way, o’ God’s name.
I have done (1.1115-117).” Beatrice retorting later ‘You always end with a jade’s trick. Iknow you of old’ (1.1 118). Beatrice here is referring back to the earlierpre-history contact they both have shared. ‘You always end with a jade’strick’? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a Jade is a bad-tempereddisreputable woman or an old or worn-out horse.
Saying this is like insinuatingBenedick is a jade’s trick, a stubborn horse and ill-tempered at that. Beatriceapparently reminds Benedick that at a former time during their lives he refuseda promise when at the time he needed to do this the most. Having thissuggestion here is another way to show what Benedick did in the past.Indicating he had led her on to trust him that he wanted a real relationship,later withdrawing when it came time and hurting her dearly only to preserve hisfreedom.
3,4, and 5 During thispassage, “Indeed, my lord, he lent it me a while, and I gave him use forit, a double heart for his single one. Marry, once before he won it of me withfalse dice. Therefore, your grace may well say I have lost it (2.1242-245)”, Beatrice goes on to say just how Benedick gave her his heartonly to take it back again. The readers are becoming aware that he seemed torenounce his love for her. The double heart is a reference to at a point thetwo characters held each other’s love but he won her heart with false dice orfake pretenses.
So, Benedick in his own kept his heart and hers because sheloved him even though he pretended to like her. Unlike Benedick, her intentionswere true leaving her unable to take back her own heart. 3,4, and 5 If you look at theemotional speech in context by Beatrice, Shakespeare by suggestion makes aheart-wrenching background for these two outstanding characters. It gives thereaders an insightful look at the mindset of young men and women in love forthis period. Benedick imagined, or pretended, that he was more than ready for aromantic relationship, but in the change of events, before the beginning of theplay we know wanted to maintain his individuality and misogynistic space.Unlike Beatrice who was fully committed to the idea of love and promisingherself to him, but could not distance herself from Benedick.
There is atransformation in both of the characters, Benedick by retreating from therelationship taking a well-intended step towards independence. While Beatricerepressed the anger, and let time stand still not moving on after the hurt shewithstood. Of course, in the play, we later see that Benedick yet has a lovefor Beatrice, which is a comfort to the readers of this play.
Them coming backtogether even though they have had a complicated relationship throughout thestory. At least we get to see Benedick moving away from the male space createdto Beatrice’s feminine one, re-stitching the shattered pieces he left behindonce before. 3,4, and 5