Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing
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The character of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing shows different sides of her throughout the play. She is said to have developed but in actual fact it’s just the situation that causes her to act differently, not her character developing. Although Beatrice acts different, she doesn’t change because she is still feisty, cynical, witty, and sharp. At some times in the play she shows a calmer side to her but, this doesn’t mean she has changed, the audience just sees a different side to her in multiple scenes – in one scene she could be having a ‘merry war’ with Benedick and in another she could be playing the fool.
In act 1 scene 1 we are told that is a ‘kind of merry war’ between Benedick and Beatrice. In this scene the audience is shown a sharp tongued Beatrice who shows wit in her words. She insults Benedick calling him a ‘pernicious suitor’ and shows the audience one of her many sides – this is the first impression of her character for the audience. Benedick calls her ‘lady disdain’ and this enables the audience to see exactly how one of the other characters per sees her at first and from this the audience’s perception of Beatrice begins to change because ‘disdain’, meaning to look upon with scorn – makes the audience think of how this could be and exactly what type of person Beatrice is. The audience now sees Beatrice as a strong female character; but as the play goes on the audience’s perception could change even more as the situation changes throughout the play.
At the start of act 3 scene 1 Hero says that ‘Nature never framed a woman’s heart of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice.’ This single phrase defines Beatrice’s character as a whole as she is very tough and proud in the way she speaks and acts towards other characters. Also in act 3 scene 1 Hero says that ‘Disdain and scorn’ are ‘sparkling in her eyes.’ These words are very powerful because they explain fully how her character is seen through the eyes of the other characters in the play, including Hero. From these words the audience now knows that everything that is seen through Beatrice’s eyes are ‘sparkling’ with ‘disdain and scorn’.
So the audience now knows how sweet little Hero the different characteristics Beatrice shows. Everyone around Beatrice knows her as ‘disdain’ because now Hero and Benedick have both called her ‘disdain’ at different parts in the play, showing that the character of Beatrice can’t have developed if in 2 different scenes people around her are calling her ‘disdain’ or saying that ‘She cannot love.’ This is true as Beatrice doesn’t act any different as to when we first meet her in her ‘merry way’ in act 1 scene 3. Now we the audience see her being fooled, this opens up yet another part of her character because, after insulting Benedick like that, the audience would expect her to be very sharp and on point but she’s just let Hero and Ursula make a total fool of her, showing her vulnerability and her weakness . Once again her actions are dependent on the situation.
In act 3 scene 1 a more romantic, sensitive and pensive side of Beatrice’s character is revealed to the audience as the situation changes. She is alone; it is a soliloquy and the audience senses doubt in Beatrice or incredulity when she begins her soliloquy with three rhetorical questions. She speaks of ‘fire’ in her ‘ears’ and this shows the audience a completely different side to her, but that is only because she thinks that Benedick likes her-she is not sure. Once again her change in character is dependent on the situation she is in; if she didn’t think that Benedick loves her she would not all of a sudden have love and affection for Benedick. Now Beatrice finally knows how other characters see her and because of this realisation she decides to ‘farewell’ to ‘Contempt,’ and ‘adieu’ to ‘maiden pride.’ She makes it sound like she is ready to change and be this whole new person the audience has never seen before and she tells Benedick to ‘love on’ as she will ‘requite’ him; but she is just saying it because of the situation and how she is feeling, or is she genuinely going to change and develop into a different character?
She doesn’t change one bit; she just shows the audience another new face. Now in act 4 scene 1 the situation surrounding Beatrice is causing her to act differently-this time she is showing a more manipulative, fierce to her character. Now that her cousin Hero has been disgraced in public, Beatrice wants revenge on Claudio. She knows that she can’t do it as she is just a woman so she manipulates Benedick so he can do it for her. She says ‘It is a man’s office, but not yours.’ She knows that if she makes Benedick think he is not right for the job, he will instantly want to do it just to prove himself to her. This shows that Beatrice can easily adapt her character to the situation. In this scene Beatrice acts exactly like the character of Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare play of Macbeth.
In act 1 scene 7 Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth to kill Duncan and she says to him ‘And live a coward in thine own esteem.’ She says that just to make him do what she wants because she knows that Macbeth would not want to live the rest of his life as a coward; exactly the same reason why Beatrice tells Benedick that ‘it’s a side man’s office’ but not his. To get her own way! After realising that Benedick will not what she want him to, she does the same thing Lady Macbeth does in act 1 scene 5 when Lady Macbeth wants the ‘spirits that tend on mortal thoughts’ to ‘unsex’ her so she can take revenge herself, but in this scene Beatrice wishes she ‘were a man’ so she can ‘eat his heart in the market place.’ These are not the words that we would hear from Beatrice if she has developed. She sounds exactly the same as she did at the start of the play, but this time she is sharper and even feistier than before and this is all because of the situation she has found herself in – again.
At the end of the play Beatrice goes right back to playing around with Benedick and showing her witty side that we first saw at the beginning of the play. The situation she is in this time is the same situation she was in at the beginning of the play in act 1 scene 1 – having a confrontation with Benedick, is causing her to act this way; almost has if her and Benedick have to keep up a reputation of being insolent to each other every time they meet in front of a the other characters. After saying that she was going to change, she hasn’t. She is acting the same way she was at the start of the play – abusive; saying that she loves Benedick because she heard that he was ‘in a consumption.’ She is showing no signs or a characteristic that this play has caused her to develop has a character. As the play comes to an end the audience would expect to see some sign that the play has taught her a thing or two about life and how to be a better person; but Beatrice being Beatrice she does not show that she has learnt anything, she just continues acting the same way she has done throughout the whole play. Even at the end of the play everything in Beatrice’s eyes are still ‘sparkling’ with ‘disdain and scorn.’
So, Beatrice doesn’t change or develop, the audience just thinks she does because she is not just a 1-Dimensional character; she has many faces (a bit like a cube.) Beatrice’s character changes to reveal a new one side to her many faces, but not to change. As I said before, how the audience sees Beatrice changes even more because she reveals the other parts of her character because the situation she gets in is ever-changing. With Beatrice no matter what situation she gets in elements of that strong independent woman still shows. In act 2 scene 1 Beatrice clearly states that she will not marry ‘till God make men of some other metal than earth.’ She want to be independent and she is determined that that is how she is going to stay. Although Beatrice ends up getting married to her former worst enemy, she makes no significant change that can lead me to say that she has changed or developed throughout the play. The audience still sees her has sharp, witty and fierce. To conclude Beatrice doesn’t actually change throughout Much Ado About Nothing (she only gets married.) It’s the situation around her that causes her to act differently and shows the audience the different parts that make up her character – Beatrice.