Much Ado About Nothing
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How is Benedick’s attitude to love and marriage presented by Shakespeare in Act 2 Scene 3, lines 181-213 and how does this differ from Act 1 Scene 1, lines 119-182? Shakespeare’s play, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ has a similar plot to a modern romantic comedy: the lovers fall apart from an obscure twist (generally deception for being unfaithful or disloyal to your partner), but later on, all of those problems would be resolved when the villain admits to his crime or gets discovered. This confession would bring the lovers back together again, in which the comedy would have ended. Romantic comedies would also use very similar devices such as puns, play on words, repetition, elements of surprise, stupidity or hyperbole.
These devices were all used in the play, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, which helped emphasise parts of the play or make it seem more humorous. The title ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ also suggests to us that the actors have been quarrelling for no particular reason; we will expect a great amount of misunderstanding which follows the plot of a romantic comedy. ‘Nothing’ (from the play’s title) has a double meaning, which sounded very similar in the Elizabethan and Jacobethan reign. Both Benedick and Claudio talk about ‘Noting’ (observing) Hero, Leonato’s daughter which is also seen in other parts of the play. There are a lot of ‘notings’ as well as ‘nothings’.
In Act 1 Scene 1, Benedick has strong feelings about his misogyny which are immediately showed after Claudio admitting his love to young Hero. In the quotation, ‘Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad brow? Or do you play the flouting Jack, to tell us Cupid is a good harefinder and Vulcan a rare carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take you, to go in the song?’ (Act 1 Scene 1 lines 135-138) is where Benedick is questioning Claudio’s love for Hero. The sentence from the quotation, ‘Or do you play the flouting Jack, to tell us Cupid is a good harefinder and Vulcan a rare carpenter?
Come, in what key shall a man take you, to go in the song?’ tells us that Benedick is finding this all as an amusement so he pretends to think that Claudio is mocking him by marking bizarre remarks. He also uses a series of questions to show his disbelief of Claudio’s confession and his change of attitude to women. The word ‘case’ also emphasises that Benedick also speaks of Hero as possession which he can hide away whenever he desired. This shows us clearly that in the play, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, women lived in a patriarchal society, even in the Elizabethan and Jacobethan period: women lived in a male-dominated society. This makes the character seem very dedicated to his beliefs, but expresses his opinions to other people in a witty way.
The quotation, ‘Is’t come to this? In faith, hath not the world one man, but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a bachelor of three score again? Go to, i’faith, and thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away Sundays. Look, Don Pedro is returned to see you. ’ (Act 1 Scene 1 lines 146-150), tells us that Benedick thinks that marriage is a trap; it is servile and boring. He thinks that every wife is going to cheat on their husband one time in their life, so this tells us that women were normally mistrusted. Benedick thinks that spending every bit of spare time around your wife is a waste of time, when you can actually enjoy life of a bachelor. ‘Sigh away Sundays’ is used because Sundays were known as the only day of free time in the Elizabethan and Jacobethan period. This was where the townsmen met for church in the morning, gossiped, played games and enjoyed drinking a couple pints of ale.
So, unfortunately, if you were married all the spare time would have evolved round your wife. In Branagh’s version of Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick strains from disbelief, anger rising, while nearly spitting out the words from his disgust. He smacks Claudio, in anger, for leaving the bachelors as his pitch and volume getting higher for each and every word. Benedick continues to talk with disgust while Claudio is silently smirking at his words. Benedick’s facial expressions and gestures helps the audience understand exactly how he is feeling towards the matter. It also might be a bit humorous because from how Benedick is addressing his gestures to Claudio. He also seems a bit aggressive at times, which may seem as a demand to stop loving. This helps us, as an audience, to understand the Much Ado About Nothing’s script. Not only because the language is less complex, but how the facial expressions and gestures help us understand the emotions the characters are feeling.
‘I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter. There’s her cousin, and she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you have no intent to turn husband, have you?’(Act 1 Scene 1 lines 140-144) tells us that Benedick is emotionally attracted to Beatrice. This is the first piece of evidence shown by Benedick for loving Beatrice. He even compliments her comparing her to the beauty of May and December; however, this compliment was followed by an insult: ‘possessed with fury.’ This suggests that she is controlled and ruled by her fury. I think that Benedick had let his compliment slip out, but slyly covered it by pretending nothing had happened. Therefore, Benedick knows deep inside, he is in love with Beatrice, but unfortunately doesn’t want to reveal it, so he denies his way out of it. This makes the audience wonder what would happen if Benedick fell in love with Beatrice and how badly he would fall. This creates suspense which urges the reader to continue watching or reading the play.
In Act 2 Scene 3, Benedick’s attitude to love and marriage has changed. This immediately is showed in his soliloquy, which is where Benedick finds out about Beatrice’s ‘love’ for him. In the quotation, ‘I did never think to marry, I must not seem proud, happy are they that hear their detractions, and can put them to mending: they say the lady is fair,’ tis a truth, I can bear them witness. And virtuous, ‘tis so, I cannot reprove it. And wise, but for loving me…’ (Act 2 Scene 3 lines 186-190) shows us the immediate change because before, he was definite that he would remain a bachelor. Whereas now, he decides that his faults could be amended. He is using pitying Beatrice as an excuse to show his inner feelings. Before Benedick was scornful and ironic but now he has become sincere and nifty. He thinks it is okay, to change your mind about things. ‘I did never think to marry, I must not seem proud, happy are they that hear their detractions, and can put them to mending’ tells us that he thinks he can change his mind and no one would notice, even after all the mocking Claudio received for confessing his love for Hero.
The quotation, ‘The lady is fair…and virtuous… and wise…’ is where Benedick shows his admiration for Beatrice; he acts like Beatrice is the most desirable woman, even though she is ‘possessed from fury.’ Benedick also compliments her without an insult. This shows us the immediate change of his attitude to love and marriage, just after hearing that Beatrice loved her a few minutes ago and Don Pedro flattering Benedick and listing his good attributes to make him feel worthy for Beatrice. This makes the audience feel that Benedick is quite impractical but it may also seem quite humorous from how he has changed and how he is blaming something else for his change of attitude, not his true love for Beatrice.
In Branagh’s version, Benedick seems to use hand gestures to express his over exaggerated emotions. He shakes his head in disbelief but knows it is true because even Leonato and Hero were mentioned. His pitch rises as he feels more and more sympathy to Beatrice. When he gets to ‘I must not seem proud’, his facial expression changes and he rolled his eyes; he seems to be mad with himself for teasing Beatrice. This helps the audience understand how Benedick is feeling and also makes them wonder what happen if Benedick and Beatrice got together and how Claudio, Leonato, Ursula, Hero and Don Pedro would react.
The quotation, ‘I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me because I have railed so long against marriage, but doth not the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth, that he cannot endure his age. Shall quirps and sentences, and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour? No! The world must be peopled.’ (Act 2 Scene 3 lines 192-194) is where Benedick has realised that now he will be the one who is mocked about being in love so he uses many excuses to hide the fact that he is truly in love with Beatrice. He asks many rhetorical questions to emphasise his points, which may entertain the audience.
‘I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me because I have railed so l against marriage, but doth not the appetite alter?’ is where Benedick is saying that people may tease him here and there, but wonders if it really does matter because everyone’s opinions change. This shows his explanations may not work out because everyone knows that Benedick love Beatrice, but has a different way of approaching it.
‘No! The world must be peopled’ is another excuse Benedick uses. He might be referring that women were only used to produce offspring. He might be saying that he is only in love with Beatrice to produce offspring.
This also links back to the Elizabethan times, even in the wedding vows, the priest asks the husband if he would take the wife as his possession so many women were pressurised to satisfy their sexual needs.
Benedick may also be saying that their relationship together is only there because the world needs more of the younger generation. This is very bizarre because even in the Elizabethan or Jacobethan times, they had enough people in younger generation.
In Branagh’s version of the film, Benedick uses hand gestures to express his emotions. At first, he is very expressive and descriptive but changes into seriousness when he reaches to the line ‘Shall quirps and sentences…’ Then, he almost shouted out ‘No! The world must be peopled.’ It seems like he is trying to convince himself that his excuses are actually correct, so that it would be easier to convince the others.
His changes in mood would entertain the audience, but will at the same time, Benedick would help them because it helps us understand what is happening and we can guess what will happen next.
Overall, I think that Benedick loved Beatrice all the way, but sadly, didn’t want to show it because Beatrice might mock him. This maybe because she is not a typical Elizabethan women—she is fearless, loud and truthful, which is not at all like Hero.
I think that it was all a misunderstanding because Benedick thought Beatrice hated him and so did Beatrice. They didn’t express their emotions and it all seemed to be locked away, except when they were joking about each other. They gave the impression that they hated each other but deep inside, but it was exactly the opposite.